“How can we possibly top the mosquito nets for excitement?” Lynn asked.
“I was disappointed it wasn’t actually a museum,” I replied.
We had two more small museums to see; both period houses. We passed a store selling exquisite paper lanterns, one of which was decorated with a swastika. I realize the symbol predates the Nazi era by hundreds—or thousands?—of years—I don’t want to Google swastika to find out. It symbolizes good luck or some such, not “let’s kill all the Jews!”
But it was still disconcerting to see it here and there throughout Japan.
The houses are blended in my memory now. They were built around a central courtyard with a garden; you could see the garden from almost every room.
As in the Imperial Palace in Nikko, I was struck by the simplicity. These alcoves, or tokonoma, are found in reception rooms—in America we would say living rooms. They contain a calligraphy verse and a flower arrangement for your guests to admire and contemplate.
Right now I am looking around my living room. The focal point is probably the TV. I don’t like having a TV in my living room but there’s nowhere else to put it. There are 13 plants, a couch with six colorful throw pillows and a blanket, two chairs, three lamps, end tables, three mismatched area rugs, about 20 pieces of art, and piles of newspapers, magazines, and books. There’s my desk, my bike, four pairs of footwear, a bag of plastic bags, a bag for the Goodwill, and a coat thrown over a chair.
And the bloody curio cabinet, still standing empty. I’m trying to sell it on Craig’s List but so far no takers.
My house isn’t particularly “American” in style. If it was, the TV would be twice as large and there would be oversized reclining chairs. I like my place, but Japan did make me wonder if I could get rid of more stuff.
The second house had a deer painted on the screens in the front room. We were the only visitors and the volunteer staffing the place insisted on taking photos of us. I’m glad she did. Neither Lynn nor I are in to selfies, which you may appreciate. But sometimes I’ve returned from a trip and realized I haven’t got one photo of the two of us.
This was the cooking set up in the larger house. There was no signage so I don’t know what to say except it resembles an Aga, the British range that has no dials, just hot and warm burners and ovens.
You won’t be able to read this wall calendar that was hanging near the front door, but delineates the 24 seasons of the year. That’s right—each season is measured in weeks instead of months.
From Nippon.com: The 24 divisions are split again into three for a total of 72 kō that last around five days. The names were originally taken from China, but they did not always match up with the local climate. In Japan, they were eventually rewritten in 1685 by the court astronomer. They offer a poetic journey through the Japanese year in which the land awakens and blooms with life and activity before returning to slumber.
There was also a tree festooned with colorful ribbons and origami and trinkets; we had noticed these here and there.
Keiko’s mom would explain to me the following week that this was for the upcoming Tanabata festival. Again, thanks to Nippon.com, this charming explanation:
Tanabata is one of Japan’s five traditional seasonal festivals, originating in China and first observed in Japan by the ancient imperial court. The stellar holiday centers on the stars Vega and Altair in the constellations Lyra and Aquila. Following the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, the festival marks the meeting of Orihime (Vega), the weaver star and patron of silk farming, and Hikoboshi (Altair), the cowherd star and agricultural messenger. In Japan, the lovers are celebrated with lively decorations and wishes written on long, narrow strips of colored paper. As the date approaches, these and other vibrant decorations hung from tree branches enliven the decor of homes, shopping arcades, train stations, and other public spaces.
Decorated trees … sound familiar?