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Journal Entry:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 18:16:51

Asia 2016: 8 - Nagoya to Mizusawa, Japan

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Japan is a delightfully male oriented country. Hotel luggage handlers, even when they are women, always asked if they could help with my suitcase, but not Marilynn's. Men get on and off elevators first and men are first through doorways. Our hotel had separate rooms for the bathtub and shower, the toilet, and the two basin washing area. When the toilet door is opened, the lid and seat of the toilet immediately move into the raised position to convenience men. This drove Marilynn nuts. The first sound from Marilynn this morning was an anguished wail followed by a sting of curses. I thought it was all quite civilized!

We planned a leisurely dinner in the hotel last night, but all restaurants were booked so we chose Italian from the wide choice in the attached shopping mall. This morning we were shut out again, as there was a long line for the one hotel restaurant that was opened. I'm glad we didn't prepay breakfast!! Room service is not an option as they have none. Two strikes against a hotel that otherwise does things well.

We walked through the mall where everything was closed, to the train station waiting room snack bar where we had sandwiches and juice while watching Japan duel with Germany in Olympic table tennis. Our first train today was a one hour run and the second a little over 2 hours, both on a Shinkensen, so we moved quickly with few stops. The seating on both these trains was three on one side and two on the other, so I take it we have second class tickets. On the second Marilynn and I were in the middle seat in different rows.

The last run was on a local train to Mizusawa Station where we took a taxi the short distance to the Hotel Route-Inn. The town and hotel looked nice, lots of restaurants and shopping. The two people at reception quickly checked us in, but being only 1 PM the room was not ready. They stored our suitcases while we walked back to the station for a train to Hiraizumi to see the world heritage Buddhist Temple complexes. The train was there in 20 minutes at a cost of $3 each.

There are two temple sites here, Motsu-ji Temple and the much larger Chuson-ji Temple. We started with the smaller, where the temple was beautiful but not as large. There are a lot of ruins of the original complex from 850 AD, but which was destroyed centuries ago. Both temples were part of a city devoted to peace and the principals of Buddhism established in 1100 by the first of three Fujiwara Lords who moved here.

There is a circle route bus which for $1.50 drops passengers off at all important sites. We took the bus to the bottom of the hill leading to the Chuson-ji Temple. The climb, although on a road, was steep and a fair distance, but we agreed that seeing the golden Chuson-ji Temple was worth the climb. All generations of the Fugiwara Lords are buried here. A new building was constructed over the temple to protect it from the weather, although it had stood outside on its own for centuries without deteriorating. It is done in gold with a lot of inset mother of pearl. There are a number of statues, including Buddha inside the temple. It is an amazing work of art. In addition there were several other temples with beautiful alters on a different trail back down.

One of the most famous Buddhist statues, Ichiji Kinrin Bucho-son, was on display for the first time in a long while. It is unusual, being carved from wood and given lifelike skin tones. In the years after 1100 the lord spent lavishly on works of art, temples and other buildings. He brought in a famed sculptor and artist from Kyoto to do much of the work. He was so pleased that he paid him several kilograms of gold, 50 swift horses, 100 eagle feathers, over 60 seal pelts and 3 boatloads of silk. When Unkei, the artist, joked that he would have preferred refined silk, another 3 boatloads of refined silk were shipped. The people of Kyoto could not believe that such wealth could exist in the north of Japan.

On the way down the trail it started to shower, increasing to a light rain by the bottom, where we found we had missed the last circle bus of the day. A regular bus stop was pointed out to us some distance down the road, so we walked there, now soaked. Some Japanese came along and deciphered the posted bus schedule for today, which said the next bus would be in an hour. Being cold and wet, we went off in search of a taxi, with no luck until one stopped in front of a shop where we were sheltering from the rain. It had passengers, but the shop keeper went out to extracted a promise that the driver would come back for us in 5 or 10 minutes.

At the station the train has just pulled in, so the train fellow gestured for us to get on right away and pay when we got there. They had done the same thing going the other way when the train was already in the station. Back in our town we found a good restaurant near the station where beer and wine accompanied good food. The sidewalks on the main street of Mizusawa are covered, so we walked back to the hotel, stopping at a 7/11 across the street for breakfast food, as our train in the morning leaves at 7:07. When we walked into the hotel the key and our luggage were waiting for us, so we were fast getting to our small, clean and well equipped room for the night.