Japan Trip 2010–Day 6


This morning we were glad that we’d opted out any of the supplementary excursions offered by our tour for budgetary reasons.  Though it meant missing what looked like an interesting trip to the mountains and more of Maya’s excellent instruction, we wanted to slow down and return to some of the places we’d sped through the day before.

As bundled as we could get against the rain and cold, we trudged up to the castle grounds, no less enthralled by their familiarity, and made our way to the entrance of the armory. The interior was almost empty this early in the morning, which magnified the scale and symmetry of the long chamber, as if one was looking into a pair of facing mirrors reflecting the warm color and intricate joinery of its unfinished wood members.



Originally constructed in 1583, the castle was burned to the ground several times. The present restoration, begun in 2001 and employing 53000 workers was done from scratch following plans of its 1809 reconstruction, which went up in flames 1881. In the intervening years, the place had been used as a military barracks and then the site of Kanagawa University.

We climbed the three story “Diamond Turret” overlooking the parade ground, so named because instead of 90 degree angles, all the joints in this tower were at 100 and 80 degrees.


Ostensibly this allowed for better visibility of the surrounding area, but it also advertised the virtuosity of the carpenters, which might be even better appreciated by our son, Joe, whose carpentry skills keep evolving and whose design preferences now seem quite Japanese.

After an hour and a half of enjoying the castle’s visual delights, learning about its sophisticated engineering, and luxuriating in its warmth, we went out into the rain and walked the half mile to the No Theatre Museum located near the back wall of the fortress.  There we looked at beautiful costumes and masks, and a poorly produced video preview of one production, which sharpened our anticipation of seeing Kabuki the next day.


Next door we encountered the first and only disappointment of our trip in the Museum of Twenty First Century Art. Most of the galleries in this graceless and sterile building were empty, and those not empty were no more interesting.

Fortified by a buffet lunch we raised umbrellas and braved the elements with a return to the Kokuen garden, entering at a corner we’d missed the day before.


Despite the cold, cherry blossoms were entering their full glory. Under the indirect light from gray skies the wet washed leaves and rocks took on an interior radiance. Raindrops animated the placid surface of ponds with rippling circles.


Another hour of uncomfortable delights had us again seeking shelter, and we found it  inside the garden at the Shigurateki Teahouse, where for three dollars a kimono-clad hostess welcomed us to sit down on a tatami mat, have hot green tea and a biscuit while looking across the verandah at the rain dripping from the eaves and listening to the waterfall behind us.


On a visit to the nearby men’s room as we made our way toward the garden’s exit, I found a vase of fresh flowers by the sink.


A flamboyant koi waved sayonara as we left.


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