Wednesday, June 30, 2010

KOBUCHIZAWA, JAPAN- DAY 9

I had only a few hours left in Kyoto this morning, so I quickly headed to Nijo-jo Castle and Kinkaku-ji Temple (a.k.a. Temple of the Golden Pavilion) before I would catch the train for Kobuchizawa. Nijo-jo Castle (1603) is a grandiose and unequivocal statement of the shogunate's power. Nijo-jo's wide exterior most and towering walls are the castle's exterior face, but once inside, a second moat and defensive wall become visible.
This had less to do with defense than it did with reinforcing the castle's social statement: access to the inner sanctum depended on a visitor's status within the shogunate's hierarchy, and the powers-that-be could remind anyone of their place in the system. Anyone who was permitted inside was as much a hostage as a guest, a feeling surely driven home by the castle's ingenious nightingale floors, which "sing" as you walk across them, revealing your movements at all times. Pretty clever, huh?Next, I went to see Kinkaku-ji Temple which is said to possibly be the world's most ostentatious retirement cottages.It was built by Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga in 1393 in anticipation of the time when he would quit politics. He died, and the new shogun (his 10-year-old son) followed his father's wishes and converted the villa into a temple. The top two stories are coated with gold leaf...an especially incredible site when reflected in the pond's still waters.Next, onto the train to head to Kobuchizawa for a stay with Danny & Lilac's friends Hide-san, his wife Choco-san, and Annica (a German foreign exchange student who speaks Japanese, English and German...thankfully!). They so graciously opened up their beautiful country home to us for two nights. (Remember, we only met them days earlier in Korea at Danny & Lilac's wedding). When we arrived, we were welcomed with a traditional Green Tea Ceremony...That was followed by a home cooked meal by Hide-san...his "famous" Sukiyaki, which is beef that's cooked with vegetables in a homemade sauce. When it's served to you, you dip it in raw egg (I know, it might sound disgusting...but, trust me it's amazing!) and then you eat it. WOW...his Sukiyaki was one of the best things I have EVER eaten!
Stay tuned for more from Kobuchizawa!

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