A day of exploration to go and see what we could of some Japanese cultural life. The day was fairly overcast which seems to have been the norm for most of our days off here in Tokyo. But it was still a day to be able to walk around without being too battered and bruised by wind and rain. Tammy and I took off to UEDO PARK which is a grand park in the middle of Tokyo that houses many of Tokyos galleries, museums and concert halls. It also has a fabulous walk of cherry blossoms and we were fortunate enough to catch the very end of this amazing spectacle. With the advent of summery days and weather at around 24 degrees, dancers were seen outside the theatre with great regularity with tops off and bare bodies exposed to the precious half hour of sunshine that we were allowed before being herded back into the theatre for more performances or rehearsals. Of course this meant that the cherry blossoms began to open and everywhere in Japan there was the quest to find the perfect cherry blossom day. The news reports even give you a “cherry blossom percentage” which tells you how many of the potential blossoms are actually out. We missed the best day of viewing but the morning in Ueno Park was still a beautiful sight. It is like one big gigantic pink cloud land! The trees just take over the entire landscape with the colour of pink and deep centres of almost purple! As we were walking through the flowers were falling all around us and it felt like we were in a snow storm. Without the cold! Truly beautiful. And the Japanese go nuts for it. It is kind of weird to have these visions of Tokyo just looking like this pink fantasy land for much of spring, but the blossoms pretty much went in 10 days. It is a very short window to see such a spectacular sight, but like most things stunning in nature, it is the special factor of it being so that makes it so attractive.
After this brief little part of beauty, we headed into the Tokyo National Museum which was a beautiful couple of hours. With the weather beginning to turn outside, it was a perfect day for Museums! The collection is huge with some 80,000 pieces, but of course you only get to see a selection of this at any one time. The buddhist statues and gods of worship were rather impressive and their age was certainly something to be appreciated. One of the most interesting sections was the one of Japanese ancient helmets! These helmets were so beautiful and just so interesting in how they were woven together to create constructions of very geometrical design. You can imagine how the designers on the Star Wars movies got their inspiration when you look at them. Tails of woven cord that spread down and away from the crown to form a ramp along the nape of the neck. Really intricate and great stuff.
Then there was the display of traditional swords. The hilts have been taken apart to reveal the construction of the swords and you can see the blade in it’s entirety. The carvings on the hilt are worthy of an artistic appreciation, but the real detail was to be found on the sword blade itself! The tiniest of etchings and engravings are carved into the delicate blade and they are truly marvellous. Again the appreciaton of the Japanese aesthetic. You can just imagine someone slaving away over these beautiful engravings and getting them just right. And to see them pulled apart really allowed you to look at each one individually and appreciate each aspect of the sword. Whilst there may not have been hundreds, you did get the chance to really stare at the few on display and notice such detail.
Of course the calligraphy section was also very amazing. The buddhist scrolls were incredible. Rolls and rolls of this beautifully refined pressed paper with stamps and linen within it were rolled out like wallpaper; each scroll with the most beautiful writing and calligraphy in gold and silver ink that just went on and on and on. I so wanted to pick one up! And these things were dated from the 16th Century!!! The artwork was also interesting. The artists seem to work on a piece of paper or canvas about 2m in length and about 1m wide. Then these canvas’ are placed in a framework of 2 concentric rectangles of ‘decorative’ paper and then the whole lot is rolled up and secured with these delicate tabs of more decorative paper. They make for a pretty impressive long thin piece of work that all has the same construction and dimensions. The folding screens are perhaps the most amazing pieces just for their sheer size and length of work. They are huge canvas’ for the artists and offer a whole wall of something to paint upon. And then they are sliced up to place on doors. It makes a really interesting way of viewing artwork as it is seemingly sliced up into various sections and that can influence how you focus on a certain part of a painting. Perspective I guess is the word! But well worth sitting in front of and soaking up the essences.
The return outside brought little happiness as rain and wind had definetly set in, so we walked off to see what we could. Tammy found some schoolgirls in cute little uniforms and this brought about much hilarity when we asked to take their picture. The Japanese have a very ‘cute’ way of reacting to westerners. Peace signs reign supreme whenever a Nikon is brought out. We retreated into a tiny café to find some food for the disboy was fading fast with blood glucose levels dropping. The experience deserves no mention apart from the fact that both Tammy and I were having to watch every step to ensure we didn’t bump our head on the ceiling or bash into someone’s cappucino! Very cosy!