Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

Suzhou

February 11, 2009

I spent my last full day in China in the city of Suzhou, 45 minutes west of Shanghai by express train.

Suzhou was founded some 2,500 years ago as the capital of the state of Wu, during China’s “Spring and Autumn Period” (when separate kingdoms formed as the Zhou Dynasty gradually lost control, leading in turn to the Warring States Period).  Suzhou remained the cultural center of the region until Shanghai overshadowed it in the last century or so.  Today, a visitor might be tempted to call Suzhou a town rather than a city, as it doesn’t have any high rises, but it has over two million residents.

The Grand Canal passes through Suzhou, and the city is crisscrossed with many smaller canals.  Marco Polo called Suzhou the Venice of the East, and although it isn’t nearly so magnificent today, it still has charming spots.

Suzhou Canal-W

The canals vary in size and character.  This one is cleaner, if perhaps less interesting.

Suzhou Canal-C

Another small canal.

Suzhou Canal-N

But as picturesque as its canals can be, they aren’t what brought me to Suzhou.  The city’s real draw is its collection of old gardens.

Like Yuyuan in Shanghai, Suzhou’s gardens were urban homes landscaped into private paradises and sanctuaries.  At one time, Suzhou had over 200 gardens.  Unfortunately, far fewer remain today, but nine of the best preserved gardens are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.  I managed to visit five of these.

The first garden I saw was the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

Suzhou Prince Zhong's Residence

This is not the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

On accident, I entered Suzhou Museum, which is right next door.  I had known that the museum was next to the garden, but I was tricked because the museum has two entrances – one for the museum proper and another for Prince Zhong’s Residence, an old mansion that’s now part of the museum.  I soon realized my mistake, but only after I’d bought a ticket and entered.  Still, two good things came out of screwing up.

One was that the residence is a fascinating historic site, although the English signage was limited. Prince Zhong was a rebel commander in the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).  I’d never heard of the rebellion, but apparently its leader claimed to be the younger brother of Christ.

And so the residence has a chapel.

Suzhou Prince Zhong's Residence Chapel

The Taiping Rebellion took place following the First Opium War, whose humiliating outcome left many Chinese people disaffected with the imperial government.  The rebellion gained many supporters and escalated into a brutal civil war that killed over 20 million people.  You’d think that would warrant mention in a history class, but then again, I don’t think I learned any Chinese history before college.

The second good thing about accidentally entering Suzhou Museum was that the main museum building was brand new and had really nice, clean, modern bathrooms.  That’s not something you can take for granted.

Anyhow, my time was limited, so after taking a very quick look at the most interesting parts of the museum and enjoying the beautifully sanitary restroom, I moved on to my intended destination.

At all the gardens I visited, the crowds were heavy – it was the Saturday following a national holiday after all – and the best views were constantly blocked by domestic tour groups.  There were occasional lulls in the flow of people, and I took pictures when I could, but the breaks didn’t necessarily happen when I was in a good place for a shot, and my digital camera still had the problem of randomly flipping its image (which began in Hong Kong and which I didn’t fix until I was back in Japan), so I don’t have many good pictures.  I’ll share what I can.

This is the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden

It presents a nice example of the borrowed scenery technique, using the pagoda.

I bought a book on the gardens of Suzhou while I was in the city, and it says that the Humble Administrator’s Garden was built in 1530.  The book then goes on to note that the garden was later divided into three sections with different owners for each part.  Before being reunited centuries later, the different sections experienced very different treatment.  The central part mostly kept the original Ming Dynasty aesthetic, the western section changed to reflect late Qing Dynasty style, and the eastern section was in ruins before getting a renovation in the 1950s that didn’t really adhere to any classical style.

Maddeningly, the book never explains any of these styles.  It just says that such and such a garden is an exemplar of such and such an era’s style and then leaves it at that.  And since I haven’t found much information elsewhere, I can’t offer any illumination. Bah.

The next garden I visited was the Lion Grove, built around 1340.

Suzhou Lion Garden Lion

Rock collecting was a popular pursuit among Chinese literati and the owner must have been thrilled to find this lion-like formation.  I don’t know if the rock inspired the garden or if it was added later, but apparently the garden’s builder was a Buddhist monk, and Lion Grove was the name of a mountain monastery.

The garden’s most famous feature is its sprawling artificial hill, which was meant to evoke the mountain home of the original Lion Grove.

Suzhou Lion Garden Rocks

This is just a part of the maze-like rockery, which has nine paths and 11 caves.  Those numbers have some sort of religious symbolism, but I don’t know what that is.


After seeing the Lion Grove, I stopped for lunch.

I ate at Deyuelou (得月楼), a 400-year-old restaurant.  My food was fine, but nothing impressive, and the restaurant’s huge, modern building wasn’t particularly atmospheric.  Still, I don’t dismiss Deyuelou, since it’s really meant for large groups sharing a variety of dishes.  And I did eat something that I’d never eaten before and may never encounter again:  I had a soup that included fried caterpillar fungus.  It wasn’t bad.


From lunch, I moved on to the Master of Nets Garden, built in the 18th century on the site of a 12th century garden.

Suzhou Master of Nets Garden Flowers

The name, my book tells me, is a tribute to another garden, the Fisherman’s Garden.

The love of unusual rocks was present here, as in all the gardens I saw.

Suzhou Master of Nets Garden Rock

This particular rock supposedly produces a ringing tone when struck.  I didn’t test it myself, but a Chinese kid whacked at it with a plastic bottle for a while with no results (while his parents watched, utterly unconcerned).

This is the Surging Wave Pavilion, one of the oldest gardens in the city.

Suzhou Wave Garden

Built in 1044, the Surging Wave Pavilion is rare in that is surrounded by water, rather than having a large pond in the middle.  Apparently, this was the usual layout for gardens in southern Chinese “water towns” like Suzhou, before the pond arrangement became the norm.

The last garden I visited was the Garden for Lingering (or “Lingering Garden” as the official translation goes).

Suzhou Lingering Garden Door

The site began as the East Garden in 1593 and changed names several times before becoming the Garden for Lingering in 1876.

It had my favorite rocks among the many in all the gardens.

Suzhou Lingering Garden Mountains

I think that these  evoke mountains in a much more graceful and attractive fashion than the Lion Grove’s huge mass of rocks.


So as I said, I had a hard time taking pictures.  I was mostly limited to shots of walls and corners in the gardens, which are fine in and of themselves, but only give a vague idea of what the gardens were like.  Oh well.

The next morning, I visited the Shanghai Museum.  It’s free, which was nice, but to prevent overcrowding, visitors are admitted at a slow, controlled pace, which made for a long line outside.  After the museum, it was time to make my way to the airport and catch my flight back to Japan.

For one last fun experience in China, I rode the maglev to Pudong Airport.  The German-built Shanghai Maglev was the first commercially implemented, high speed maglev train.  Each compartment has a speedometer, and the top speed displayed was 431 km/h (about 268 mph).  Whee!

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Shanghai

January 22, 2009

With three days left in my trip through China, I left Beijing for Shanghai.

Shanghai, located near the mouth of the Yangtze River, is a metropolis of over 18 million people and has been the economic center of mainland China since the 19th century.

I had wanted to take an overnight train to Shanghai like I did from Xi’an to Beijing, but tickets were sold out.  The reason, as I discovered later, was that my date of arrival was Tomb Sweeping Day, an old holiday that just last year became a national holiday in the PRC.  On Tomb Sweeping Day, 15 days before the spring equinox, families gather and pay their respects at their ancestors’ graves.  Thus, millions of people were traveling to visit family, and the trains were full.  Fortunately, I was able to stay an extra night at my hotel in Beijing and buy a plane ticket to Shanghai for the next morning.  This change in plans shortened my time in Shanghai, but the city only has a few attractions other than the city itself, so losing the morning wasn’t terrible.

I spent my first and only afternoon in Shanghai at Yuyuan (“Yu Garden”).

Shanghai Yuyuan Gate

This an inner gate, not the main entrance, by the way.

The wealthy son of a high-ranking Ming official built Yuyuan in 1559 as a private garden to please his aging father.  Over the following centuries the garden changed hands many times, fell in and out of disrepair, was occupied by various armies, and even spent several years during the Boxer Rebellion as the headquarters of the Small Swords Society, a separate rebel group that seized control of Shanghai.  Yuyuan is now a national monument, owned by the Shanghai government.

Alas, since I had unwittingly chosen to visit Yuyuan on a national holiday, the place was packed.  Working around the crowds and trying to take pictures over people’s heads, I couldn’t manage any decent photos, but here’s some of what I ended up with.

Dragon walls.

Shanghai Yuyuan Dragons

I really wanted to take this from a better angle – it would have been a great shot with the tree to the left and the wall in full view –  but I eventually gave up on fighting the crowd and moved on.  It was driving me crazy though.  In general, I try to enjoy the places I visit and just take some pictures along the way, rather than putting photography first, but it’s frustrating when a great scene is right there and you can’t capture it.  Oh well.

A handsome building next to a carp pond.

Shanghai Yuyuan Koi

Like most classical Chinese gardens, Yuyuan is actually an intricately landscaped residence (well, former residence now), as opposed to being strictly a garden.  Also in keeping with the traditional style, it has more rocks and water than plants.

The inside of another building.

Shanghai Yuyuan Room

An engraving.  (Or cast metal?)

Shanghai Yuyuan Relief

The stone around it was scraped up.  Signs of an attempt to pry it out, perhaps?  I’m sure the garden has been looted several times in its history, so it’s certainly possible.

Flowers!

Shanghai Yuyuan Flowers

There weren’t many in the garden, even considering that spring was just beginning.  Still, Yuyuan was beautiful.

Shanghai Yuyuan Skyscraper

After seeing the garden, I wandered around the city.

Not far from the garden is the Bund, Shanghai’s old financial center.

Shanghai Bund Night

The Bund has a lot of neat buildings dating from the early 20th century.

On the other side of the river is Pudong, the new financial district.

Shanghai Pudong Night

I had dinner on the Bund, at a British/American-style bar and grill in the basement of the old Nissin building (Nissin was a Japanese shipping company).  There was nothing historic or special about the restaurant, but it felt fitting.

The Forbidden City

December 7, 2008

In my third and final day in Beijing, I visited the Forbidden City.  I had intended to see some other places too, but the palace isn’t called a city for nothing, and in the end I spent most of the day there.  This picture from Wikipedia, gives a feel for the size of the complex (nearly 180 acres).

Beijing Forbidden City Panorama

Some history.

The Forbidden City was built in the early 15th century and was the imperial palace for 14 emperors of the Ming dynasty and all 10 emperors of the Qing dynasty.  The last emperor abdicated in 1912, but continued living in the Inner Court until he was kicked out in 1924.  The Forbidden City was then renamed the Palace Museum (the website doesn’t display properly in Firefox, fyi).

The Forbidden City is directly north of Tiananmen Square.

Beijing Tiananmen

The symbolism of Mao’s portrait at the gate to the former seat of power in China doesn’t need any explanation.

Past Tiananmen (“Gate of Heavenly Peace”) is a large courtyard for reviewing troops.  It still serves that purpose, and a couple hundred soldiers were being reviewed when I passed through.  I wasn’t sure if photos would be allowed, so I didn’t take any, deciding to play it safe and not risk losing my camera or memory card.

The gate at the west end of the courtyard leads to the former Imperial Shrine of State, now a park in honor of Sun Yat-sen.  The eastern gate leads to the former Imperial Ancestral Shrine, now the “Working People’s Cultural Hall.”

At the north end of the courtyard is the Meridian Gate, the main entrance to the Forbidden City.

Beijing Forbidden City Meridian Gate


A digression.

The English name, Meridian Gate, confused me for a while.  The name plate on the gate says 午門, in which the first character is the horse sign of the zodiac (just plain “horse” is written 馬) and the second character means gate.  A meridian, meanwhile, is a circle passing through the Earth’s poles, or a pathway of qi/chi in acupuncture, or, in some US dialects, a median strip in a road.

Then I remembered that the horse sign also means noon.  In Japanese, “noon” is usually written with another character entirely, but am and pm are “before 午” and “after 午.”  And in astronomy, a meridian is a circle that not only passes through the Earth’s poles, but also passes through the observer’s zenith, and noon of course is when the sun is at it’s zenith.  Indeed, if I were better read, I’d have known that meridian used to be commonly used to mean zenith, especially in the figurative sense.  Checking a dictionary later made things clear cut:  The word meridian originally meant noon.

So now “午門 = Meridian Gate” makes sense, but why is it called that in the first place?  Fortunately, that’s easily explained.  In addition to being associated with noon, the horse sign of the zodiac is also associated with the southern direction, and this is the southern gate.


Beyond the Meridian Gate is another vast courtyard.  An artificial stream runs through it, probably for reasons of feng shui.  At the north end of the courtyard is the Gate of Supreme Harmony.  The emperors sure liked grandiose names, eh?

This is the northwest corner of the courtyard, with bridges and one of the small gates that flank the big one.

Beijing Forbidden City Bridge

In the old days, most people had to use the side gates; the big gate was for the emperor.

I think this lion is in front of the central gate.

Beijing Forbidden City Lion

To the right of the lion you can see a carved ramp of sorts.  This is a close view.

Beijing Forbidden City Dragon Path

Dragon paths like this climb the center of the stairs that lead to each of the major ceremonial halls and gates.  The emperor was carried over them in a litter.

Beyond the Gate of Supreme Harmony lies yet another vast courtyard.

Beijing Forbidden City Main Hall

The building at the end of the courtyard is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the symbolic center of the empire and the largest building in the Forbidden City.  It was used for grand ceremonies of state.  Unfortunately, it was being renovated when I was there, so visitors couldn’t enter or even peek inside.

Most of the other buildings were open, though, and I went in all that I could.

Some of the side halls were displaying palace artifacts.  This is a musical instrument.

Beijing Forbidden City Pipes

You’ll notice that it’s terribly dusty.  The other instruments on show were even worse.

Beijing Forbidden City Instruments

When Japan invaded China in the 1930s, thousands of crates filled with records and art from the Forbidden City were moved elsewhere for safekeeping.  Shortly after the end of World War II, much of the best of that treasure trove ended up in Taiwan and when the government of the Republic of China moved to Taiwan and mainland China became the People’s Republic, that artwork stayed on the island.  Now it forms the core collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

If the Palace Museum in Beijing (ie the Forbidden City) is treating its relics like this, maybe it’s for the best that Taiwan has the good stuff in a proper museum.  That said, other exhibits at the Forbidden City were treated with appropriate care – the clock collection is quite nice – but the state of this clutch of musical instruments was simply appalling.

At least the buildings themselves were being seen to.

Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Central Harmony and then the Hall of Preserving Harmony. These three halls share a stone platform that raises them to roof height compared to the rest of the City.

Beijing Forbidden City Roofs

All this “harmony” business in the names was the doing of the Qing dynasty, by the way.   The Qing emperors were Manchu, not Han Chinese, and they not only renamed many of the palace buildings, but also added Manchu translations to most of the name plates.

Beijing Forbidden City Sign

This plate is for the Palace of Heavenly Purity, which is the next building in line north of the Hall of Preserving Harmony, but which belongs to the Inner Court, not the Outer.

The Outer Court is the southern half of the Forbidden City.  It comprises the formal halls and large plazas where public ceremonies of state were held.  The Inner Court is the dense, northern half of the City, where the imperial family lived and where the emperor conducted most daily affairs.

The satellite view from Google Maps lays things out nicely.

You can zoom in quite a bit more.

Continuing north from the Palace of Heavenly Purity past two more halls leads to the small Imperial Garden.  This patch of greenery was very welcome after seeing nothing but stone through most of the Forbidden City, but even the garden is more stone than anything else.  I don’t have any good pictures of the inside of the garden, but this is the gate.

Beijing Forbidden City Garden Gate

The gate has a pair of guardian statues that are more charming than imposing.  A dragon is on the left.

Beijing Forbidden City Dragon

And an elephant is on the right.

Beijing Forbidden City Elephant

Living quarters make up most of the rest of the Inner Court.  Several buildings in the northeast corner have been converted into museums (or sub-museums, I suppose) with exhibits of bronze, pottery, paintings and so on, plus the clocks I mentioned earlier.  Many of the northwest buildings retain their old furnishings and have information on the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi.  There was a certain amount of Communist slant in the presentations on the empress, but she did do a lot to earn her condemnation.  My favorite example of her extravagance is one of her more minor offenses:   She wore a new pair of silk socks every day, burning them after use.

Rounding out the rest of the Forbidden City, the southwest and southeast corners contain the Hall of Military Eminence and the Hall of Literary Glory, respectively.  Unfortunately, these sections were closed to the public.


That’s all for now.  A few more pictures from the Forbidden City and some final impressions of Beijing to come later.

Yokohama

March 16, 2008

Rather abruptly, it’s spring here in Kobe. Temperatures are at least ten degrees higher than last week, birds are chirping, and the non-evergreen plants are showing signs of life again. Unfortunately, spring has also brought several days when the air is filled with yellow dust from northwest China. Blah.

Last Wednesday was the graduation ceremony at the junior high school. The first and second year students still have a week and a half of classes, though. On the same day, the board of education sent out notice of school placements. I’ll be staying at the same school for my last term.

This news is a month old, but I’ll mention it anyway: I passed the level two JLPT. So I have “mastered grammar to a relatively high level, [know] around 1,000 kanji and 6,000 words, and [have] the ability to converse, read, and write about matters of a general nature.” Still can’t read the blasted newspaper without consulting a dictionary every sentence, though.

Speaking of old news, the conference at Yokohama two weeks ago was in fact worthwhile. Most of the speakers were former JETs, and it was really interesting to hear them talk about where their lives took them after they left the program.

Before and after the conference, I had a little time to explore Yokohama.

Its Chinatown – Chūkagai, literally “China Street” – is purportedly the largest in Japan.

Yokohama Chinatown

Another JET said, “It feels just like Taiwan. Except that it’s clean.”

I also visited Sankei-en, a garden built a hundred years ago by a silk tycoon. More interesting than the garden itself is that the owner had almost a dozen historic buildings moved to the garden.

This one – a 1623 construction of unusual design- was taken from the grounds of Ni-jō, the former shogunal castle in Kyoto.

Yokohama Sankei-en Choshukaku

This is inside a villa built in 1649 by relatives of the shogun.

Yokohama Sankei-en Rinshunkaku

And this isn’t the best picture, but the building shown here was taken from Daitoku-ji. It was built in 1591 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to celebrate the long life of his mother.

Yokohama Sankei-en Oido

Hideyoshi unified Japan at the end of the Warring States period and led invasions of Korea in the 1590s. He died in 1598, and as the country started to fall apart again, Tokugawa Ieyasu took control and established stable rule with the Tokugawa Shogunate.

That’s all for now.

Kanazawa

January 10, 2008

The side of Japan’s main island that faces the Sea of Japan is less populated than the side that faces the Pacific Ocean, and it’s rather off the beaten path. I’ve only made two trips over the mountains to the other side. One was to Matsue, a couple weeks ago, and the other was to Kanazawa, at the end of August (image from http://www.japan-guide.com).

Kanazawa Map

The city of Kanazawa has an unusual history. During the warring states period, a group of monks and peasants ousted the lord of the area and established a “Peasant’s Kingdom.” They successfully ruled themselves for about one hundred years, from the late 15th century to the late 16th century, until Japan’s reunification under the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Under the new lord sent by the shogun, Kanazawa, already wealthy from its considerable agricultural output, became a major producer of gold leaf, and it developed into an important center of art and craftsmanship. Around the end of the 17th century, the shogunate made gold leaf a government monopoly, and its manufacture was restricted to Edo (which became Tokyo). Kanazawa however, continued to make gold leaf in secret, and after the Meiji Restoration it resumed open production. Kanazawa craftsmen created the first mechanized gold leaf press/hammer and today, Kanazawa accounts for more than 95% of Japan’s gold leaf production.

One symbol of Kanazawa’s wealth and culture is Kenroku-en, an expansive garden adjacent to Kanazawa Castle. Kenroku-en was originally the lord’s garden, but it was opened to the public in 1874. This long-legged lantern is the garden’s most iconic feature.

Kanazawa Kenroku-en Lantern

A teahouse.

Kanazawa Kenroku-en Boat

Not many flowers were blooming in late August, but the garden was filled with wild birds.

Kanazawa Kenroku-en Heron

Appropriately enough, the heron – a symbol of longevity – was resting on an island meant to represent the legendary Horai, the island of immortals.

In addition to the garden, the highlights of my visit were Seison-kaku and the former Nomura residence.

Seison-kaku was the villa of the lord’s wife. It’s gorgeous and has some fascinating European touches, like stained glass from Holland and some rooms with vividly painted walls. No pictures allowed, but you can see a little at the website.

Moving down the ladder of social hierarchy, the Nomuras were the lords’ chief retainers, and their old residence is a beautiful example of a high-ranking samurai’s house. It’s not mansion-sized, but the building is handsome, the garden is very good, and every sliding door is a work of art employing Kanazawa gold.

This is a typical room.

Kanazawa Nomura Tokonoma

Tatami matting, bare walls, and an alcove displaying calligraphy and flowers.

The aforementioned doors had protective covers, making it hard to take pictures without glare and reflections, but this shot isn’t too bad.

Kanazawa Nomura Fusuma

A suit of armor was on display in the entryway.

Kanazawa Nomura Armor

Additional treasures were shown in a small, single-room museum attached to the house (in the place of an old storehouse, I think).

Things like these swords . . .

Kanazawa Nomura Swords

. . . and this lacquered box.

Kanazawa Nomura Box

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Next time: Thailand.

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Addendum:

Trees in Japanese gardens are often pruned into bonsai-like shapes, and sometimes they been made to grow too horizontally to support their own weight.  Poles are used to keep such trees from breaking or falling over. This pine at Kenroku-en is probably the most extreme example I’ve seen.

Kanazawa Kenroku-en Pine

Home with the Flu

December 6, 2007

I’ve been really busy lately. I took the level two Japanese Language Proficiency Test last weekend. 9:45am-2:40pm. Holy crap, that was hard. I have no idea if I passed, but I’ll find out in February. School, meanwhile, has been crazy. To give one example: There is a elementary school next door to my current junior high school. A couple weeks ago, one of our 8th graders brought an air gun to school and shot an elementary school student. Now seriously, that’s not okay.

Speaking of the elementary school, it seems that I’ll be teaching classes there every Thursday. I did that last week, which is probably why I’m now sick with the flu. Taking sick leave here is a hassle, by the way. We have twenty days of sick leave, but we can’t just use them as we like. One day of leave requires a receipt from a doctor’s visit or from a pharmacy. For more than one day (like my current case), you need an official, sealed doctor’s note, which costs about $30. What a racket.

Upside: I have time to write a post for my poor, neglected blog.

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The last stop in my big summer trip was in Nagoya, the home of Toyota. I don’t really have much of interest to say though. Well, I don’t want to say nothing, so here’s one thing.

Nagoya Atsuta-jinguu Kusunoki

This camphor tree was planted around 1,200 years ago by the monk Kūkai (better known by his posthumous name, Kōbō Daishi), who was the creator of Shingon Buddhism. He founded dozens of temples, including one I saw in Fukuoka. This tree isn’t at a temple, though, it’s at Atsuta Shrine, which is said to house the sword that is one of the three imperial regalia. The real sword was probably lost a long time ago, but they have a museum that includes an impressive collection of swords received as offerings.

Alright, that’s it for Nagoya.

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The weekend before last, I made a trip to Matsue, a city near the Sea of Japan (map pilfered from http://www.japan-guide.com).

Matsue Map

Matsue is a nice place, although a bit short on attractions in and of itself. My reason for making the journey was to see the Adachi Museum of Art and Izumo Grand Shrine, an hour to the east and west, respectively.

The Adachi Museum was built in 1970 by Adachi Zenko, then 71, a self-made businessman with a large collection of 20th century Japanese art (FYI, the museum’s English website says 1980, but that’s a typo). The art is quite good, but the museum is more famous for its garden.

Adachi Museum Garden

The design of the garden often feels like a painting, and a few windows in the museum explicitly create that effect.

Adachi Museum Picture Window

The white gravel usually represents water, but this section looked like some strange desert landscape.

Adachi Museum Pines

The museum was my first stop in the area, but when I moved on to Matsue itself, heavy rain moved in, so that was it for the day.

The next morning I headed for Izumo.

Izumo is known as “the home of the gods” and tradition has it that in October all the gods of Japan gather in Izumo, so for the rest of the country October is the month without gods (except for the god Ebisu, who is deaf and doesn’t hear the summons).

Izumo Taisha

The shrine’s history says that the original main hall was much taller than the current structure and the recent unearthing of the remains of huge pillars supports this. Supposedly it looked something like this.

Izumo Taisha Original

At shrines, you can get “omikuji,” which are slips of paper with your fortune written on them. They don’t predict events, rather they simply say things like “great luck” or “bad luck.” If you get a bad fortune, you are supposed to tie it to a tree.

Izumo Omikuji

After looking around Izumo, I returned to Matsue.

Matsue Castle.

Matsue Castle

Sunset over Lake Shinji.

Matsue Shinji-ko Sunset

And this is in the wrong place chronologically, but for one last picture, here’s the bullet train arriving in Kobe.

Kobe Shinkansen