Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bringing The Toys To Life, Kawaguchi-ko

There are a handful of museums that dot Kawaguchi-ko and one of the more interesting and quirky places is a toy museum. It's a private collection, a display of the passion of one person who never stopped amassing toys. A mother's nightmare.

One impressive display was a nice collection of old metal diorama-like toys that ran through some sort of mechanical action. Flying saucers, galloping horses, happy folks moving about, over and over.

With apologies again to David Leventhal in bringing these toys to life. Here's a patient mermaid, stuck listening to a droning diver.

A farmer with his loving lass. A galloping patriot.

A happy couple, motoring after their wedding day.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Resting At The Ryokan

A true visit to Japan isn't complete without a stay at a traditional Ryokan-style hotel. We had our Ryokan experience at the Fuji Five Lakes district, a perfect place to relax and immerse ourselves in the ways of Japanese living.

Our ryokan room. Tatami mats, a low table, some pillow chairs. The bedding in the background  is a couple of futons, sheets and duvet-style blankets. It's stored during the day.

While there's a bathroom in each room, bathing takes place at the communal onsen, one of the real treats of staying at a ryokan. Men and women have separate, elaborate bathing areas with a full compliment of shower areas, multiple soaking tubs and perhaps a steam room. Think spa where you also get clean at the same time.

Dinner is also an elaborate affair, details in another post. But you don't need to get gussied up to dine. Here's Sarah, about to eat dinner, sporting the lovely yukata robe given to us during our stay. You get to lounge around the whole hotel in the super-comfy robe - in your room, at dinner, at the onsen, even for a stroll outside, if you wish. The dining area had a village recreation vibe to it. Love the ryokan!

Some of the private dining rooms had enough room for bigger parties, reunions. Just remember to remove your slippers!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Up, Up Away On The Kachi Kachi Ropeway

At Kawaguchi-ko, there's a nice cable car/ropeway that'll whisk you to the top of Mt Tenjo where the views back down to the lake are wonderful. It's a touristy attraction, but riding the cable car beats walking, at least the uphill part.

The entrance, with a peek at the attraction's theme (more details in the next post). James' sister Emily, happily waiting for our air chariot.

The place is a favorite for little students, all hat color coded for easy wrangling. Cute.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Kachi Kachi Yama

The cable car/ropeway that takes you up Mt Tenjo at Kawaguchi-ko has a little theme to it. It's the famous Japanese kids' tale called Kachi-Kachi Yama that's fabled to take place on the mountain. Somehow the story of a Hanibal Lechter-like evil raccoon against some Charles Bronson-like revenge-dripping rabbit is a children's tale in Japan. It's a tough country.

Here's the rabbit, hell-bent on revenge, about to set fire to the kindling backpack the evil raccoon is carrying. Fire!

Time for a tiny break to act all friendly and greet the cable car visitors. "Don't mind me, I'm just a violent vigilante bunny!" OK, back to work, time for a vicious beat down. Check out the raccoon's eyes, flooding tears.

One final act of misery, getting hog-tied and strung up. This lovely image is there to greet you when you use the restroom. Hey, if it's a kid's fable and you use cartoon figures, you can get away with anything, right?  

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Purchasing Mt Fuji

When you go see Mt Fuji and take in its beauty, don't worry about the memory disappearing. The image of the solitary, snowcapped mountain isn't just imbedded in your mind, it's plastered on every souvenir imaginable. And then some.

Here's a typical display in one of the many tourist hotels near Mt Fuji. Bring the mountain to the masses.

The image of Mt Fuji is on all the packaging. What's inside, who knows? How about a Mt Fuji-shaped chocolate crunch, little snow cakes ready for eating.

Not into food? Don't forget some sort of onsen (communal bath) herbs. That's you, the happy couple on the packaging, enjoying a soak and the view. Or maybe the Missus would like a piece of Mt Fuji glass jewelry?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mt Fuji In Our Sights

You can't go to Japan without seeing Mt Fuji. Of course, everyone told us how we'd go to the place to see Mt Fuji, but wouldn't actually get to, you know, see Mt Fuji. It seems the mountain is shy, most of the time shrouded in clouds and mist. Roll the dice, squint and hope for the best.

We got the best!

Sarah, going all native in her yukata, enjoying the view. A tighter look at the mighty Mt Fuji. Beautiful.

Mt Fuji seems like a benevolent spirit or giant guardian as it looms over various locales, such as this train station. Check out the special Mt Fuji train.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Getting Your Ganesh On

We take a little break from re-counting our travels in Japan for India's annual celebration of Hindu God Ganesh. Known as Ganesha Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi, the holiday is a 10-day festival (which started last Wednesday) devoted to the Elephant-headed God, remover of obstacles, revered among Hindus.

As we explained in last year's post about the holiday, clay models of Ganesh in a variety of sizes and poses are made for the celebration. After you've celebrated your Ganesh, you're meant to parade your clay likeness of him through the streets and then to a body of water to cast him off for his trip home. Here we explore the rituals from picking out your Ganesh to casting him off.

Soaking up some divine light at a market.

You can grab your Ganesh near many of the temples around town. The markets are similar to the places that pop up back home selling Christmas trees during the holidays. A family tradition, dad bringing his daughter, so she can select a special Ganesh.

Two women, their selections made, now start making the Ganeshes their own.

From basic clay versions that get thrown in the water to riots of color, Ganesh comes in any style and size. Once you've nabbed yours, maybe you go shopping for a little dress up stuff like say, a garland?

Now it's time to take the kids and head to the water. Plop Ganesh down, light a little pooja, say a prayer and then have one of your boys do the honor of sending Ganesh into the sea.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Temple, Kawaguchi-ko

Temples with beautiful grounds are all over Japan, certainly in concentration in Kyoto. While in the Mt Fuji Five Lakes area, we stumbled upon this gem.

The temple with the usual serene setting.

The landscaped grounds and a well-worn statue.
A stoic statue detail and a landscape look.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Kawaguchi-ko, Japan

Wanna get away from the bustle of Tokyo for a bit and soak up some nice lake scenery? Hop a bus for Kawaguchi-ko, a laid back resort village in the Mt Fuji Five Lakes area.

Get to the top of one of the lakeside mountains for a nice view.

Hit the trails for a scenic hike down the hill. Or skip the hill, head to the lake and get the fishing pole working.

Japan is so clean, the hardest core graffiti you might see is beautiful Japanese characters carved into moss. A man and dog, waiting, but not for each other.
Sarah and a new topiary friend.


Friday, 21 September 2012

Japanese Cemetery

So much of Japan is based on maximizing land -- and cemeteries are no exception. People are generally cremated and added to a family plot to conserve room. Headstones are understated with little room for grand mausoleums.

A typical cemetery scene, multiple rows of stones.

There's certainly room for each family to make a personal expression through stone choice. Graves are further customized with the addition of prayer sticks.

The patina builds up, adding gravitas to the graves.