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The Yin and Yang of Japan

semi-overcast 17 °C

It is very easy to romanticise Japan. It is, to western eyes, exotic in almost every respect. It has seemingly strange customs and there is a populace that is, in general, simultaneously demure and extrovert. These young ladies in their rented kimonos were not at all camera shy as they posed by a bouquet of flowers outside a newly opened teahouse in one of Kanazawa’s old quarters. (Yes- the flowers are real)...…
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The traditional architecture of Japan relied heavily on wood and paper which, being highly flammable, led to many historic districts being wiped out in fires. Fortunately, some buildings have survived, especially in rural areas. These picturesque thatched farmhouses are in the mountain village of Shirakawajo near Takayama…
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This ancient woodcutter’s hut is in Hida – Takayama in the Japanese Alps…
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While this is one of the many handsome ancient streets in that small city…
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However, Takayama is a extremely popular with tourists and by 9am the street often looks like this…
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Parts of Japan are undeniable scenic, but there is a darker side – a side that never appears in the travel brochures featuring such beautiful sights as the cherry trees blossoming in the snowy mountains…
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Japan is a heavily industrialised nation dependant on the manufacture of vehicles, ships and numerous electrical and household products with familiar names like Honda, Toyota Sony and Mitsubishi. The greater Tokyo area is home to some 37 million people and is the most populous conurbation on earth. It is therefore inevitable that there are many places that are not exactly tourist friendly. For instance: In Takasaki we were surprised by the number of people wearing facemasks until we realised that the air was heavy with industrial pollution. There are also grotty back alleys like this in sleepy Sado Island…
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The Japanese customs and etiquette can also be somewhat wearing on foreigners. Sitting on the floor to eat lengthy meals can eventually dull the appetite and sleeping on a tatami mat is only marginally more comfortable than concrete. However, there are plenty of McDonalds and western hotels in the larger cities for western softies. We tolerate the discomfort and are rewarded with breakfasts like this in a Takayama ryokan. (Note the Japanese style egg and bacon)...
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The mountain city of Takayama in the centre of Japan is best known for its twice yearly festivals when 300,000 visitors show up to watch a parade of floats celebrating spring and fall. These enormous Yatai floats date from the 18 century and are pulled through the streets by up to 40 men…
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Only two more stops on our itinerary – Nara and Tokyo. And we have plenty more cherry blossoms in our immediate future.

Posted by Hawkson 01:46 Archived in Japan

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Comments

Conurbation?! Thanks for giving us the real deal!!
No conurbation here, yet. Probably why we have difficulty finding Commons volunteers to organize our spring and fall fairs! Ying and yang indeed.
Alison

by Alison fitzgerald

good morning. Lovely to wake up to your blog. Always appreciate your rounding out the picture for us. I think I would find the crowds daunting. Looks like you are seasoned travellers and know when to see the sights.

by Sue Fitzwilson

That raw egg has me fascinated. Is it meant to be scrambled in a hot soup? Can't imagine what else could be done with it. Don't see a hot plate.

by R and B

It is customary in Japan to eat eggs raw. We simply stir them into our rice, but they don't cook. However, this particular ryokan probably discovered that westerners are not keen on slimy raw eggs so they provided small burners and bacon.
Most Japanese egg dishes are either raw or barely cooked.

by Hawkson

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