Showing posts from March, 2010

Trip to Japan - Part five Old and New

Japan is a wonderful contrast between the old and the brand spanking new. They value their history and culture and so ancient buildings are preserved where possible. Temples and shrines fall into the old category. The main two religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. They have a saying that you are born Shinto and die Buddhist. This is because the Shinto religion deals very pragmatically with life but not very well with death. The Buddhist idea of returning lifetimes as lessons on the way to achieving enlightenment is a much nicer prospect and so most religious Japanese combine the two religions. And they co-exist very happily together. Once a month the Buddhist temple at Toji has a flea market. It was heady with the scents of incense as well as dried fish and strange cooking smells. And also reminiscent of many of the markets that I used to trade at myself. Some things are universal. It is here that BillyChristina and her friends go to look for second hand kimono

Trip to Japan - Part Four Gardening and Shopping

Here I go again, pairing two topics that don't seem to go together at all... but in a way this one does. There is not very much room left in Japan for gardening. I don't know about the rest of Japan but the area where we were (Osaka-Kyoto) was totally built up, the houses and shops reach right up to the base of the mountains with only a few open spaces dedicated to special purposes in between. Here is the bamboo grove at the public park in Hirokata. The park is well used, lack of space has made the people put great value on these public areas. We came across people picniking beneath the cherry trees... it was a tad chilly mind you! Lots of houses had the tiniest of gardens yet they managed to cram in an awful lot of plants... I should imagine they look fabulous when in bloom. Their trees were all carefully manicured to allow sunlight down to the ground and even the tiniest space is used to grow stuff. You can easily see the difference between a very wealthy household

Trip to Japan - Part Three Trains and Toilets

Now you may think this a weird combination but somehow I felt they went together. First...The trains. The trains are very important in Japan. BillyChristina said the people define themselves by which trainline they are on. She said we are 'Keihan' people... Hirakateshi which is the town nearest to her university is on the Keihan train line. Here we are on the train after a long day sight seeing. Understanding the trains is key to getting around... it took us a couple of days to figure it out. It might have taken longer if we hadn't got our guide with us! Most of the information is in Kanji and English but the English didn't exactly jump out at you and you do need the system to be explained. It is basically the same as the London underground. The different trainlines have names and also are colour coded. You also have a choice of trains... some are express trains that only stop at a few stations and other's are local trains that stop at every single statio