My Top Japan Sites
I spoke to Bradley’s and my good friend the other night about my trip to Japan. He asked me to list the top five things that I saw while in Japan, so I’ve been thinking about this particular list.
I went to visit my brother, who currently lives in the Akita prefecture. It’s fairly distant from Tokyo, and English speakers are sometimes rare, so we had some interesting experiences. We also spent a couple of days in Tokyo (which I fear stressed out my mother far too much), and that was great too.
So, for your pleasure, here are my favorites:
5. Squid boats fishing. This sounds like it wouldn’t be that interesting, but the boats go out onto the Sea of Japan at night and have these particularly bright lights and so it looks like there’s a city just over the horizon, on the water.
4. The samurai village of Kakunodate in Akita prefecture. It’s several fairly well preserved samurai houses, which, oddly enough, look a fair amount like the house that my brother lives in. Japanese domestic architecture has been fairly similar for a long time.
3. The five-story pagoda on the sacred peak of Haguro-san. It’s been in place since something like the 14th century. It survived earthquakes, because, my brother explained and showed us, it only rests on its foundation. It’s not actually attached to the earth, so it mostly just bounces in an earthquake.
2. A sumo wrestler on a bicycle. He was wearing his yukata (light cotton robe) and getting on his bike outside of the national sumo stadium. The museum at the stadium is good (and free) if you happen to be going to Tokyo.
1. A Buddhist mummy. I am not kidding. The priest at the temple explained (in Japanese, which my brother translated) that this is not a mummy, but instead a Buddha within his own body. Japan outlawed the process of self-mummification in the nineteenth century, but you can still see some of these guys around, particularly in the Yamagata prefecture (where ours was). The process is a little something like this: 1000 days of eating berries, nuts, and twigs; 1000 days of eating nuts and twigs; 1000 days of drinking only water. There’s also a drink mixed from the sap of the trees that acts as a mild poison to kill all the bacteria in the body, and that’s either added in the second or third period of 1000 days, but I don’t remember which one. After all this time (have you done the math yet?), you are placed in a sort of tomb, and sealed up while meditating. And you die. And your body is preserved.
I saw, of course, gazoodles of shrines and temples (shrines are always Shinto, temples are always Buddhist. Most of the time, they’re in the same complex), some interesting museums both in places in Akita prefecture and in Tokyo, and ate a whole host of new foods, some icky, some that I’m going to try to learn to make.
(damn, I cannot tell you how many times I have edited this post now. I am simply unable to get the links correct the first three times)