Today I woke up to another kanseki-style breakfast at my ryokan. By the time I left the hotel, I was bursting. The funny thing with Japanese food is that it’s all so light. If I had eaten that much in America, I’m positive 50% of it would be grease and I would feel awful. But here, I started walking and it all digested and I was hungry again by noon.
This morning I met with a volunteer guide who would show me around Takayama. I had been wondering for a few days why people would volunteer to take people around the city. My guide Miko told me that it’s because they like to practice their English. Miko had a full time position as a Takayama government official, and she said that the more English she spoke, the more useful she had the potential to be which led to promotions and raises. Miko had a plan for the day. First she wanted to take me to Kokubunji Temple, then tour the Jinyamae morning market, and since she was only available to tour during the morning, end at Takayama Jinya. So we set off, her leading the way to Kokubunji Temple. Kokubunji Temple doesn’t have any special story behind it, its pretty similar to every other temple in Japan, however, it has a three-story pagoda and a 1200 year old tree in the courtyard.
Next it was on to the market. The morning market is pretty much like a farmer’s market, except it occurs every day from 6 am until noon. The market spans an area about 4 blocks by 4 blocks. There were shops which set up stands as well as local farmers. It was very interesting as most of the things that were for sale, I had never seen, nor did I have the slightest concept of what they were. There were exotic fruits, vegetables, and plenty of different soybean products. I was able to sample a lot of the things which was quite fun.
Next, we walked to Takayama Jinya. This was very interesting as the Tokugawa Shogunate used as a government office until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The front of the office is ordained with the Tokugawa crest, three hollyhock leaves facing inward in a circle on a purple background.
Just inside is a large meeting room. The first part of the room is reserved for the shogun and only his top most officials. In this room, the tatami mats which compose the floor are very ornate and the decorations are beautiful. The next room is reserved for his lower ranking officers. The tatami are less ornate and the interior is very plain. The final room is for any peasants that may be accompanying his party. The tatami have no decoration and there are no chairs or stools for them to sit on. The rest of the building has special rooms dedicated to very specific purposes, such as preparing documents for the shogun to see, collecting taxes, and deciding domain borders. The final room was the interrogation chamber, which was really the torture chamber. One of the most commonly used tortures was to make the person being interrogated kneel over a spiked board. If they refused to answer, they would make them hold a fifty pound slab of rock. This process would keep going until the person gave in.
This was all that Miko had planned for our tour of the day. The next thing she suggested that I do is go to the Hida no Sato Folk Village. Since this was a bus ride away and it was around 11:30, Miko wished me farewell and we said our goodbyes. The folk village was an outdoor museum which was a close replica of what a typical Japanese peasant village would have looked like. However, this village had a few houses which were built in the Edo period and moved there for preservation’s sake.
During the Edo period, every villager was assigned a specific task. Each house in the village had a reenactor on display performing how the villagers did these tasks in the Edo period. One house was a weaver, one was a woodcutter, another was a leather cutter. However, those who worked with leather and animal hides were of the very lowest caste called the eta, and the leather cutter’s house was at the very back of the village isolated from the rest. Around 12:30, the sky started to get heavy and I left. Although, I had some time before the next bus came, and I walked next door to the Forest of Seven Gods of Good Fortune. This was a display to the seven kami of fortune. This outdoor museum had large statues of these kami which were built out of wood in the Edo period. Below, I’m putting a picture of my favorite. It’s my favorite strictly because it looked the most jolly. This kami is called Ebisu and he is the god of fishing and commerce.
Right in the middle of me taking pictures of all of the kami, it started pouring so I ran back to the bus stop and came home to end my day. Tomorrow is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time. I go to Ise tomorrow and then the day after I go to the wedded rocks. See you soon.