Saturday, 25 March 2017

At Last!

At last!!!  I have managed to change the colours on my blog to make it more readable.  Long story about a fault on Blogger - but anyway, I hope those of you who were dazzled by the previous lurid colour scheme find it easier now. 

Here in London our thoughts are with the victims of the Westminster attack, but London has survived so much over the years, and I do remember when life was overlaid with the constant threat of IRA bombs some years ago.  So things are carrying on exactly as usual, but I suppose the risk of trouble is always at the back of peoples' minds, as it is, sadly, in so many places in the world. 

  I've hardly been at the computer at all, so I am sorry that I've been remiss about responding to comments.  I do read and appreciate them very much, so I'll aim to do better in future.  I'm now posting more Japanese pictures, though, since there are still loads of things I would like to tell you about.   So here is something about Miyajima island, near Hiroshima. It's particularly famous for its large orange Torii gate which stands in the shallow sea just offshore.    


At low tide you can get very close to the gate as you see in the photos above and below.  It's exhilarating, if a bit soggy, to walk over the sands.  I noticed the old gent below walking out with his pet dog  - or at least, he was walking and the dog was sitting in its buggy.


This big torii gate marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shinto shrine complex. ("Itsukushima" is another name for the island).  It is famous for several reasons, mainly that the main shrine as well as the torii seem to be rising from or floating on the water. And, as you see below, the general appearance of the place also reflects traditional Japanese ideas about landscape beauty, with sea, mountains and architecture in relation to each other.  It really is wonderful. 


The shrine's present design dates from the 12th century, even though it had been a holy place for six centuries before that. So pure was it that for many years no births and deaths were allowed to take place there.  (If someone died suddenly I suppose there would have been great consternation - nobody was able to tell me if this had ever happened though. I probably shouldn't have asked!)
  

The site is large so didn't seem crowded, and October weather in Hiroshima is generally good so the general atmosphere was peaceful and pleasant. It's a working shrine and ceremonies were going on in the normal way - in fact there were lots of monks around. Here's one explaining to some schoolgirls about this section of a huge and very old tree.   (T and I have been racking our brains to remember the exact significance of this gnarled and ancient slice of wood, so perhaps one Japanese speaking reader might click on the picture and enlarge it enough to read the notice on it?)


A couple of years ago I visited beautiful Nara park and admired the deer, so was charmed to find that semi wild deer roam the temple grounds here, too, and they are not backward in their search for food from tourists.  These people were having some trouble posing for their group photo while deer enthusiastically rummaged in their bags for food.


I like to look for little details, so this home made tableau caught my eye, arranged on a box in the street.  I wondered about the meaning (if any) of the pine cone in the foreground,which, as you see, has a long stalk balanced across it, with an acorn at each end.


High up on the hillside is Senjokaku hall, a monumental part of the shrine complex. It's as large as "1000 tatami mats"  (which are, I'm told 85.5 x 179 cm each - that's about 33.5 x 70.5 inches. Tatami mats are used in Japan as a way of indicating the size of a space).  Attached to the massive roof beams are votive paintings, and in the background you might spot huge rice spoons propped up on the floor, nearly twice the height of a man. They're called shamoji, they have some religious significance and are particularly associated with the island of Miyajima.


Similar flat rice spoons have become one of Miyajima's best selling souvenirs - needless to say the souvenir spoons are much smaller than the ones above.  Little cakes shaped like maple leaves are also widely sold on the island.... here's one which formed part of our picnic lunch, together with sandwiches beautifully packed by the friend we were staying with. (It looks so much more elegant than my rough old version of a picnic....)



Anyway,  Senjokaku has a fabulous view from all sides, as you see below. A quiet and peaceful place to sit and contemplate, with only the sound of birds to be heard and the sun coming in.


In this distant view you can see how large the hall is; it's just to the left of the pagoda.  


Despite the island's fame, the tourism isn't too high key, and we particularly enjoyed the town museum, which spreads over several rooms in an old house.  Of everything there, I was specially impressed by the prints on display. Japanese printmaking is most famous in the West for the work of a small handful of artists, of which Hiroshige and Hokusai are the best known. But in fact it is a huge art form with many celebrated artists and it's an absolute delight to look at the variety of it all. This woodcut in Miyajima museum appealed very much to me.  I recognised the shrine, but I didn't understand what was going on.  T is learning Japanese but his reading isn't up to deciphering the label. 


It looks immensely dramatic, anyhow.  

I'm looking forward to the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum but how I wish there would be a more comprehensive exhibition of Japanese printmaking.  Like most Westerners, I had absolutely no idea of how wonderful it is.

68 comments:

  1. We were there last Sunday and I t was wonderful. We also got to meet Tomoko on Saturday.

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  2. Lovely view from the Hall, Jenny. I see you have fun traveling in Japan. I specially like your photo of deer inspecting tourists' bags!

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  3. These are wonderful, Jenny - I can see why you love Japan so much!

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  4. Fabulous photos, as usual, Jenny. :)

    London and Londoners are a staunch lot...the city and its people didn't succumb during the Second World War...or to the IRA bombings...they're made of tough stuff!

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  5. Yes please! More photos and stories from Japan. It looks stunningly beautiful. Every time I read one of your posts on it, it makes me want to visit. And now I'm trying to think of ways to get to London for that Hokusai exhibition. One of my favourite old daily diaries was was one with gorgeous pictures of Ukiyo-e, 'pictures of the floating world' - a very nice thing to organise your week with!

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    1. Hope you get here to see it! There is so little about Ukiyo-e here, it's surprising to me.

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  6. We were there Sunday, it was w, also got to meet Tomoko.

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    1. I know she enjoyed meeting you too!

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  7. Lovely. I can visualise sitting there admiring the view and enjoying the entire environment, pity I can't go in real life.

    Thank you for the new blog effect, it is so much easier to read now.

    I too remember the IRA days, in fact the death of Martin McGuinness brought it all back. They were dreadful times and the Midlands too had it's share of horrific bombings. It seems that we still have violence in our midst albeit a different breed of people.

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    1. The view from the hall was enough to make anyone forget all the madness in this world. So wonderfully serene, and people even spoke in hushed voices!

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  8. Wonderful photographs.
    The deer are adorable. Hokusai's waves are a favorite. There is no other art that depicts waves as well.

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  9. How perfectly lovely! The balance between water and wood, nature and manmade. Like the two acorns across the pine cone.
    And then- the deer to bring a bit of unpredictability.
    Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Ah, yes, I suppose it means balance, those acorns across the cone. That makes sense. I might make one of those myself.

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  10. It looks so beautiful and so peaceful. There are not many places in the West that offer the sense of peace so many places in the far East have. The print is just wonderful...

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    1. Isn't it full of life and movement? And close up, so immensely skilful.

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  11. Oh Jenny, this post takes me back to our visit to Japan, probably 15 years ago. We stayed with friends in Hiroshima, packed a picnic (wonderful rice balls) and took the train to Miyajima. One of my favorite photos I ever took is the torii so seeing yours just brought it right back! I, too, especially remember the very friendly deer as well as the beautiful temple complex. I wish I'd had a better camera then or a better eye and taken even more photos for yours are so spectacular. Somehow, I don't remember the prints and I'm sure we didn't see the whole area -- it was February and very cold! But your fabulous photos remind me of how beautiful this place is. The photo with the blooming tree made me wish we had been there at a different time of year.

    I wonder when the Hokusai exhibition is? I would love to see that.

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    1. Yes, Jeanie, we went by train too. I am glad that our trip was rather warm despite the lateness of the year, although I am sure the island is beautiful at any time of year. The museum with the prints is a bit out of the way actually, I am not sure we would have found it if we hadn't had quite a lot of time to wander around. It was well worth it, because as well as the prints it gave a most fascinating and comprehensive picture of life and also explained much more about rice spoons! Although not all the explanations were in English, our friend kindly and patiently translated for us.

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  12. P.S. -- I forgot to tell you how much I love your bright new blog look. So glad you were able to slog it out because the result is really lovely -- especially with those cheery daffs leading us off in the banner.

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    1. Thanks, it was quite a relief to me to see the colours change at last. I didn't really mind purple and yellow but so many people said they found it dazzling to read.

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  13. Absolutely beautiful place that emits a feeling of peace even through photographs. Thanks, I needed that. :)

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    1. I am glad it helped Rita. You have certainly had a stressful and frustrating and upsetting time of it and I hope brighter days are on the horizon for you.

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  14. A wonderful post. I'd really love to visit Japan one day.

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    1. I hope you get there, and I would love to hear what you think if you do.

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  15. What brilliant photos. The places look wonderful especially like the beach photos. One of these days I might get there.

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  16. Thanks for the tour. I've yet to visit Japan but would dearly love to one of these days. Everything looks so tranquil and beautifully designed and made, including your elegant picnic.

    I would have had a terrible time tearing myself away from those adorable Nara park deer.

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    1. I'm not sure they would have let you tear yourself away ! :) They are very friendly!

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  17. The picture from the window is terrific! It just makes me want to be there.
    Watching the group fend of the deer is marvellous also!

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  18. Thank you for the virtual trip! Japan is so fascinating.

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  19. Wonderful photos! I do wonder also about stalk balanced on a pine cone with acorns on each end. Just a reminder to keep our lives balanced? If you find out, let us know!

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    1. Yes, I think on the whole it does mean something about keeping balanced. Well worth remembering when life hurls a curve ball.

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  20. A beautiful commentary by you Jenny. Gorgeous photos and so interesting to read about these things. I too love all the details you point to. The Japanese have a particularly elegant approach to the tiniest arrangements. The pinecone with the stick interested me - it immediately made me think of the way I've seen vendors in Vietnamese markets carrying their wares... an open woven basket would be at each end of bamboo pole balanced on the back of the neck of the vendor. Some looked so full and heavy but they walked quickly as if no effort! Many years of hard work obviously.
    Thanks for your beautiful post Jenny :D)

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    1. Thank you Sue. I am often amazed at the strength and endurance of certain far eastern peoples who are quite small and wiry yet seem to be immensely strong. I would find it hard to carry baskets pressing on the back of my neck, for some reason that's always been a rather sensitive place for me.

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  21. That looks like an amazing place - I love how it is right on the water. And also love that the deer are friendly and unafraid of people.

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  22. Beautiful photos - Japan is on my bucket list...

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  23. Oh! You have a new blog design! The color is beautiful! The last time I went Miyajima was A few decades ago. Thank you for sharing. It is surprising to see the sixth photo. Most of tourists who get into a photograph are from other countries!!I too love Hokusai. Happy spring to you, Jenny.

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    1. Glad you like it, Tomoko! Yes, the people in the sixth photo seemed quite confused, although they were laughing too, so I think they found the deer funny. :)

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  24. I would like to express my condolences on the victims.

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    1. Thank you, the event was a sobering experience for us all.

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  25. i wish I had a better camera when I visited that place. I had forgotten how lovely it was! I have a woodcarving hanging in my bathroom with koi fish that I bought from a woodcarver at one of the stalls there.

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    1. What a lovely souvenir that must be. I so rarely buy souvenirs and often regret that i don't.

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  26. So enjoyed looking at your photo.
    I have always wanted to visit Miyajima. I sent a photo to Yuko so she can translate.
    Son loves Hiroshima and wouldn't mind living there.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

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    1. I hope Yuko can translate, but it might be difficult, but anyhow - it was something to do with the ancient tree - perhaps dating from the time of the original temple, so very long ago.

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  27. Thanks for another fascinating post with great photos. I especially like the orange Torii gate in the shallow water - - so elegant and serene. And I love those little maple leaf-shaped cakes.

    Congratulations on finally being able to change the colors on your blog. I've recently been having problems with Blogger, too. I won't reveal details - - it would take too long!

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    1. I thought japanese cakes were really elegant, and love the way they sometimes reflect the area, or the seasons, etc. I went to a town called Millau in France and found one of the patisseries selling cakes in the shape of gloves - one of the main industries in the town! Now that WAS weird!

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  28. Beautiful pictures and lots of fascinating information, as always, Jenny! I already mentioned it in my comment on your previous post; this new colour scheme is so much better and I am glad you were finally able to change it, as I knew you wanted to for a long time.

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  29. As always, Jenny, a wonderfully interesting and informative post. It's the details that stick in my mind though: the wee tableau with its fascinating contents; and the way in which the Japanese describe the measurement of area.

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    1. Yes, it is quite a good way of describing it as I suppose everyone grows up knowing how big one mat is, and it's much easier to visualise than some anonymous numbers.

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  30. What a beautiful spot. Ideal for some quiet contemplation (somewhere removed from the tourists, that is!) I love the woodcut too. As you say, very dramatic, especially with the choppy sea and the rather ferocious expression of the man in the foreground.

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  31. Hi dear friend, I liked your new blog look it is easy to navigate.
    Today we can see easily that such accidents have long story behind them which is written by few selfish men who wanted to operate world according to their own benefits.
    Truly AMAZING PHOTOS! !!I must say Japan is really beautiful country

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    1. Thank you, I am so glad you liked them. Yes, beautiful indeed. It is deservedly a world heritage site

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  32. As ever I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your Japan trip. Those spoons are quite something aren't they?

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  33. I always enjoy your posts for the beautiful pictures and the virtual trip!

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  34. Love ! the new design of the blog. Thank you very much.
    The whole post gave a very calming image of Japan. I've always thought it so beautiful and you really brought out that beauty.

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  35. Dear Jenny - It was a shocking news that the horrible terrorist attack happened in the stage of your everyday life. London people would be worried, of course, but I believe people would live on their lives without being too nervous. Talking of safety, Japan is one of the safest countries crime-wise but is highly prone to earthquakes.

    I like your sandwiches (egg, ham, and cucumber or lettus?) for lunch and momiji sweet for dessert. You seem to have had lunch where you didn’t get attacked by hungry deer. As to the mysterious tree, I can’t read the Japanese explanation but I think it’d be part of a camphor tree which had been material for underwater part of tori and was replaced by a new one in 1950. Set Inland Sea was a stage of big battles between the (winner) Genji and the (loser) Taira in 12th century and there are tragic tales as well as heroic exploits tales. The painting might have something to do with the battles or other historic events.

    Yoko

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    1. Thanks for this information, Yoko, and I think you are right about the 12th century battles. The woodcuts were in a section of the museum which dealt with the battles (although they referred to them as Minamoto and Heike) The accounts of the battles were quite confusing for me as I have no background in Japanese history at all. The museum also referred to an epic poem called Tales of the Heike which I have never read.
      I was always a bit worried in Japan in case there was an earthquake! Advice in California was to shelter under a piece of furniture, but when staying in a Japanese style room there was not much to shelter beneath ! :)

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  36. I'm loving your trip to Japan...is there more?

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    1. Thanks, e. Yes, there is more, and I have some pictures waiting to go in a later post.

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  37. Thank you so much for the photo's and the details that go with them. I think the island must be a serene and wonderful place. I would really like knowing more about Japanese printmaking and the artists.

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  38. I am glad to know you also enjoy one of the best beauty in spring. Thanks for your comments on my posts.

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    1. A pleasure, your posts are thoughtful and interesting.

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  39. I loved the picture of the tourists with the deer. Where I used to work, we had deer come to visit pretty regularly. We were always told to avoid them and not try to interact with them.

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    1. I guess it probably encouraged them, and so they wouldn't eat the right kind of food. It's true that tourists often feed animals with things that are quite bad for them.

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  40. Beautiful photos and explanations, Jenny. i particularly like the one of the deer runnaging in the bags...how funny and sweet too! I hope the people didn't mind too much. I too remember the IRA period in London and even before that, growing up with the fear of the Cold War. It seems there's always something, isn't there? As for Johannesburg, dare I say it but we became almost blasé about the danger. We had to. It was that or live in hiding.

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    1. Yes, I heard this from others in SA. It is all a matter of where you set the limits in your own mind, I think. It's the only way to cope.

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  41. Thank you for your comment on my latest post, Jenny. Regarding your question - I think he still likes to do art, but as far as I know, I haven’t seen him spending much timme on painting outside art class of school. As an art form, he has preferred music including piano, clarinet (at the marching band), and guitar (as a member of a band) from elementary school to university. Now being so busy at work, he has little time to do art for his own pleasure, but he enjoys art of paper folding with her daughters recently.

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    1. From what you say above, he sounds very creative, and I believe his creativity will come out in many different ways when he has the opportunity. Having children is often a lovely way to revisit things we enjoyed when young.

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  42. Asian Architecture is so Aesthetically Beautiful and blends so well with the Natural World that is always breathtaking to me and I wish we had more of it than we do here in the States. Dawn... The Bohemian

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  43. The new colour is much better, Jenny. Blogspot does lots well, that you don't notice until you move somewhere else, and it's free, but it's often outside your control. Love the light in your pictures of Japan. The first few are particularly beautiful. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderfully rich and talented the human race is (despite so much evidence to the contrary!) and how infinitely diverse.

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