The entrance to Fujiwara-san's katana workshop. Swordsmithing has historically had deep religious ties, as evidenced by the Shinto adornments around the shop.
Last weekend we were fortunate enough to be able to attend a private demonstration of the ancient Japanese tradition of swordsmithing. We traveled north to the town of Seki, which has been the center of the Japanese sword (and now cutlery) industry for nearly 800 years. Crazy.
I never leave home without a camera, since I never know when I’m going to run across something that makes me smile. As a result, I’ve built quite a collection of candid photos that capture tiny aspects of our experience here. I thought I’d share some with you from the past few weeks to give you a glimpse into the little things that make life here such a unique experience. No common theme here, just a bunch of random observations to share. Without further ado…
12:00 is the national lunch hour in Japan. At precisely 12, the office buildings literally empty themselves onto the streets – and suddenly the city becomes a river of business suits and briefcases. This is not a good time to ride a bike to the supermarket (I’ve tried, it’s hopeless to attempt to navigate the sidewalks). It is, however, a fantastic time for a little bit of people-watching.
This weekend we took a much-needed break from city life and headed for the hills. The plan was to hike a section of the Nakasendo highway between two restored post towns, Magome and Tsumago. The Nakasendo, which loosely translates to “central mountain way”, was a road that was constructed in the 8th century to link the major cities of Kyoto and Tokyo. Now of course the old road has been replaced with modern highways, but sections of the historic route remain.
Japan is not a quiet place. Of course, you might argue that no city could be described as “quiet”, but Japan seems to have taken all the noise to a new level. At first, I thought this was just part of the culture shock of moving from a rural environment to the city, but I’ve come to realize that a lot of the noise is unique to this country in particular.
I was validated in this realization by this great article in the Japan Times this week – if you have the time, give it a quick read (it’s short and sweet). The article provides a humorous description of the noises that I encounter every single day. For example, an observation about shopping: “To reel in the customers you have to first hook them with an earsplitting ‘Irasshaimase!’ [‘Welcome!’] Otherwise, they may swim down the street to some other shop. Which is why everyone everywhere is screaming.” It’s so true!
The one way in which my experience differs is inside of our apartment. Fortunately, it is dead quiet in here. Either our neighbors are mute and light-of-foot, or the walls are an impressive feat of sound dampening technology. Either way, the apartment is a great place to seek retreat from the noise of the city down below.
Except when the appliances come to life.