ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Japan

DAY 7 (6/7): THE SUBTLE BEAUTY OF A WARRIOR’S REFUGE, Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

We wandered around Nagamachi (長町) on narrow lanes flanked both sides by yellow earth walls.  We slowly found our way to Nomura Samurai House and arrived at the house’s forecourt about an hour before its closing time.  Once we took off our shoes, we were free to walk around the former samurai house.  It was hard to imagine that such a tranquil complex with a picturesque garden and tea house was actually the home of a powerful samurai (warrior official who served the feudal lord) in the Edo Period.  In the 16th century, Nomura Denbei Nobusada, an official of the first feudal lord of the Kaga Domain Toshiie Maeda, was assigned with the Nomura Family House.  12 generations had passed until the 19th century when the Nomura lost their property during the Meiji Restoration.  It was the historical moment of transition when the samurai system quickly became obsoleted against rapid modernization of Japan.  A business man and shipowner named Kubo Hikobei bought the house in mid 20th century.  He restored the garden and house and was responsible for several alterations, which included adding a tea house.  The focal point of the Nomura Samurai House was undoubtedly the small  garden at the back of the house.  Stone lanterns, stepping stones, pine trees, a small waterfall, a tranquil water pond, and several curious koi fish form a beautiful picture to welcome visitors and exemplify the essence of traditional Japanese gardens.  Journal of Japanese Gardening even claims that the small Nomura garden is one of the top three gardens in the entire nation.  While judging beauty is purely subjective to the eye, the layering of natural scenes and careful arrangement of the verandas, pathways, stepping stones and stone bridges would definitely slow down the pace of visitors.  Only with patience and a peaceful heart could one fully appreciates the carefully configured beauty of the garden at Nomura.

01After a path made of large stepping stones, a humble entrance welcomed all visitors at the entrance garden.

02Prominently displayed at the foyer was a samurai armour.

03The painted screen doors at the tatami drawing room were quite eye-catching.

04Japanese cypress wood, rosewood, ebony, paulownia wood, etc were used for different functions inside the house.

05The family altar is lavishly decorated with gold paint and leaves.  Kanazawa has been a famous place for gold leaf manufacturing for over 400-years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Japanese is almost a synonym to fine craftsmanship.  All nails in the Nomura House are carefully kept out of sight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the back garden, trees and shrubs of different sizes provide a layered backdrop to the stone lantern.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boundary of garden and architecture almost disappears.  Walking or sitting at the wooden veranda would make one forget all the troubles.

09Irregular stepping stones, rectangular stone bridges, and the smooth wooden veranda allow spectators to appreciate the beauty of the garden at his/her own pace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA plinth like water basic reveals a certain contemporary charm of minimalism.  Gentle ripples and the sound of the dripping water create an almost spiritual effect to the visitor experience.

11At the end of the veranda, we found our way into another small outdoor space and a stair up to the tea house.

12The transitional space between the garden and the stair to the tea house is another masterpiece of landscape design.

13Before one reaches the stair up to the tea house, a small water feature reminds visitors of the purity and vitality of water.

14The outdoor spaces at Nomura Samurai House are full of beautiful surprises.

15A large variety of bamboo, timber and stones have been used to create a rich palette of textures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust like many tea houses in Japan, the tiny tea house at Nomura Samurai House is an artwork in itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the tea house, the lush-green vegetation of the garden defines the ambience.

18Before leaving Nomura Samurai House, a display bonsai reminded us the beauty of many traditional Japanese art did require tons of patience, techniques, care and imagination to maintain.  What might seem to be a simple pot plant was in reality had gone through decades of care and subtle alterations.

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DAY 7 (5/7): LIGHTHOUSE, CHOCOLATE & SAMURAI HOMES, Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Branded as Little Kyoto, Kanazawa is famed for its century old neighborhoods and buildings.  With only a fraction of Kyoto’s tourists, Kanazawa is a great place to appreciate the machiya, or the old Japanese timber townhouses from the Edo Period, and neighborhoods of geisha and samurai.  Close to the castle hill, Nagamachi (長町) is the most famous samurai neighborhood in the city with well preserved samurai residences.  From Kenroku-en and Kanazawa castle park, It is about 15-20 minutes of walk to Nagamachi.  On our way, we made a detour to Oyama Shrine (尾山神社).  Moved to its present location in 1872, the shrine is the most prominent shrine complex in Kanazawa, especially the iconic west facing gate structure standing proudly with a mixed style of Japanese, European and Chinese influences.  As soon as we stepped in the shrine complex, we saw groups of people setting up art installations in the temple garden.  Perhaps the artworks were set up for the upcoming Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり).  We strolled around the complex and finally came to the unique front gate.  Designed by a Dutch architect, the gate is consisted of three levels. The first level presents design features from Japanese and Chinese influences, and the upper levels are inspired by European styles, including the famous stained glass window at the top tier which was once served as a lighthouse.

Exited Oyama Shrine from its front gate, we continued to walk west into the Nagamachi (長町), the tranquil neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.  Sitting just a stone throw away from Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi had a high concentration of samurai residences in the Edo Period.  Today, the water canals, narrow lanes, earthen walls, old trees, and traditional gateways still exist.  Some houses are still occupied by families of former samurai.  Before visiting one of the former samurai residence, the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we couldn’t resist the temptation and stopped by a chocolate patisserie shop called Saint Nicolas.

4The Oyama Shrine is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the Kaga Domain.

5While we were there, local communities were busy setting up art installations in the temple ground.

6Some of the art installations were made of materials that we could hardly imagine.  This piece set up laser disks (LD) in an arrangement that resembled a lily pond.

7A glassy pavilion seemed like a brand new addition to the shrine complex.  It might well become an information centre soon.

2We exited the Oyama Shrine through its main gate.  Once served as a lighthouse, the top level of the gate features a colourful stained glass window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring daytime, it is difficult to see the real colours of the stained glass window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of the gate, a small procession route led us west towards Nagamachi, the neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.

8Before going into the lanes of samurai residences, we reached a small street flanked by a small water channel and stopped by Saint Nicolas, a delightful patisserie and chocolate shop.

9Saint Nicolas offers a wide range of chocolate, ice-cream and patisserie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe decided to sit down for a tea break before ending our day with a visit of the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家).

11Finding our way to Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we wandered around the small lanes of Nagamachi.

12Unlike the historical districts in Kyoto, Nagamachi of Kanazawa to us was much more peaceful and saw far less tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor 280 years, many top and middle class samurais lived in Nagamachi near the Kanazawa Castle.  Although most mud walls were reconstructed in modern days, the charm of the old samurai era remained.

14The Onosho Canal is the oldest waterway in Kanazawa.  In the old days, it was a means to carry goods from the harbour to the castle town.

 


DAY 7 (4/7): A STROLL THROUGH THE HISTORICAL HEART OF KANAZAWA, Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Since early 20th century, Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園) of Kanazawa (金沢) has appeared in travel literature along with Koraku-en (後楽園) of Okayama (岡山) and Kairaku-en (偕楽園) of Mito (水戸) as the Three Great Gardens in Japan (日本三名園).  Today, Kenroku-en Garden remains as a popular destination in the heart of Kanazawa.  For most visitors, it is not only the crafted beauty of the manmade landscapes that is astonishing, but also the continuous effort and care throughout generations involved in maintaining the beautiful trees that leave many in awe.  Unfortunately we didn’t come at the right season to appreciate the visually stunning yukitsuri (雪つり), which literally means “snow hanging.”  It is a traditional protection of the famous pine trees against potential damages caused by heavy snow, whose delicate limbs would be supported by bamboo poles and ropes arranged in conical arrays.  In winter, a number of pine trees in the garden would appear like suspension bridge structures.

Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園), which literally means Garden of Six Attributes, refers to the six traditional qualities of a perfect Chinese garden.  The six attributes include spaciousness, tranquility, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views.  Next to the ground of Kanazawa Castle, the 11.4 hectare Kenroku-en was built by the Maeda Family (前田氏) in the 17th century.  The garden was established in 1652 when a water system was constructed to divert river water to feed the artificial streams and ponds within the site.  Garden features such as tea houses, fountains, stone lanterns, statues, flower beds, planters, and tree groves dot around the larger Kasumigaike Pond and the smaller Hisagoike Pond.  These artificial ponds could be seen as allegories of the sea, with miniature islands symbolizing mythical isles inhabited by divine deities.  Greenery were planted to offer scenery of distinct seasons: plum and cherry blossoms in spring, irises and azaleas in summer, and red maple foliage in autumn.  Out of the roughly 8750 trees, there are dozens of feature pine trees.  These feature trees, such as the Karasaki Pine, have received years of attentive care in order to maintain their unique visual characteristics.

Kenroku-en Garden was quite crowded during our visit.  It was a day before the city-wide celebrations of Hyakumangoku Festival (百万石まつり).  On the second day of the festival, tea service would be provided in Kenroku-en.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for a few more days to fully experience this popular annual event.  We entered the garden via the Mayumizaka Gate (真弓坂口) across from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.  We wandered aimlessly on the winding paths, hopping from one area to another to check out the picturesque ponds and unique pine trees in the garden.  After strolling around the Hisagoike Pond and Kasumigaike Pond, we decided to leave the busy garden and walked over to the Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園).  On the lawn in front of the reconstructed castle, staff were busy setting up temporary booths for the upcoming event of the Hyakumangoku Festival.  Unlike Matsumoto Castle that we saw a few days earlier, the original Kanazawa Castle (金沢城) was long destroyed by fire in late 19th century.  A reconstructed complex was erected in 2001 at the original site based on the castle’s appearance in 1850s.  The white and grey colour combination of the castle looked smart and delightful, but somehow the reconstructed complex did look a little too clean and new.  We crossed the castle park and walked towards Oyama Shrine (尾山神社), an interesting building that we wanted to check out before leaving the historical heart of Kanazawa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter D. T. Suzuki Museum , we walked north to the Mayumizaka Gate (真弓坂口) of Kenroku-en Garden.

2We soon arrived at the Hisago-ike Pond, where the famous Midori-taki Waterfall and Kaisekito Pagoda featured in the scenery.

4Right by the Hisago-ike Pond, the chouzubachi (手水鉢 or hand wash basin) in front of the Yugao-tei Tea House was made from the trunk of a fossilized palm tree.

3Design features in Japanese and Chinese gardens often represent miniatures of natural landscape: ponds as sea or rocks as islands.  A small rock cluster in the Hisago-ike Pond symbolizes an mythical island in the Eastern Sea.

6At Kasumiga-ike Pond, larger manmade islands are planted with pine trees and flowers, providing a focal point for spectators from all around the pond.

5Tea houses are common structures in Japanese gardens.  Uchihashi-tei Tea House sits beautifully by the waterfront, overlooking the magnificent scenery of the Kasumiga-ike Pond.

8At Kasumiga-ike Pond, the famous Karasaki Pine is often considered as the most unique tree in the entire garden.

9Around Kasumiga-ike Pond, there are a number of feature pine trees that are painstakingly reinforced with bamboo and wooden posts in order to maintain their unique postures.

10Thanks to the manmade reinforcement, the crown of some feature pine trees spread out to great extent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANeagari-no-Matsu (根上り松) or Raised Root Pine is one of the most handsome feature pines in the garden.

12Neagari-no-Matsu (根上り松) or Raised Root Pine.

7Near the Kasumiga-ike Pond, the Gankou Bashi or Flying Goose Bridge offers a sense of interest to the garden scenery.  There are eleven tomuro stones arranged in the gesture of flying geese.

13In late May, there was no sakura or autumn maples, though the irises were still quite eye-catching.

14In the Plum-Grove Garden, there are about 200 plum trees with over 20 plum varieties.

15After Kenroku-en, we walked over to the Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園).

16The original Kanazawa Castle was destroyed by fire in the late 19th century.  The elegant Kanazawa Castle that we see today was reconstructed in 2001.

 


DAY 7 (3/7): POETICS OF ARCHITECTURE, D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

In counter to a globalized world where International Style architecture can be erected anywhere in the world without connections with the regional culture and landscape, architectural historian Kenneth Frampton suggests Critical Regionalism as an alternative approach that integrates Modernist design with regional essence.  From Kenzo Tange to Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma, the beauty of traditional Japanese architecture have made a strong presence in modern architectural designs in Japan.  Located just a block southeast of SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the D T Suzuki Museum is an elegant piece of modern architecture that contains deep roots in the beauty of Japanese Zen traditions.  Famous for designing a number of museums in Japan and, the most well known of all, the new wing of New York’s MOMA, architect Yoshio Taniguchi (谷口吉生) completed this small museum in 2011 to commemorate the life and works of Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro (1870-1966), an influential Zen Buddhist philosopher who was largely responsible for introducing Japanese Zen Buddhism to the West.

Famous for the spatial qualities and fine detailing, Yoshio Taniguchi’s D T Suzuki Museum goes much beyond a sleek building that houses a collection of artefacts.  From the humble entrance to a hallway guided by a slit of light, from a cozy exhibition hall that tells the story of the zen master to a small library of Suzuki’s works for visitor’s better understanding on the philosophy of Zen, and from a courtyard of a rugged stone wall and tranquil mirror pool for visitors’ self reflection to a spiritual pavilion surrounded by water for self contemplation, a visit to the D T Suzuki Museum offers an inspiring journey designated for the beauty of spiritual enlightenment, Zen Buddhism and life itself.  Though small in scale, the experience and beauty of D T Suzuki Museum provided us much more food for thought than many catchy and sleek designs that spark a few minutes of wow effect and then nothing more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReference to traditional Japanese houses and Modernist architecture, a band of vertical strips conceal the humble entrance and glazed reception lobby.

DSC_8154A square abstract pattern of lines and strokes define the logo of the D T Suzuki Museum.

DSC_8157After obtaining our tickets, we followed a hallway with skirting light into the exhibition space.

DSC_8164In the middle of the hallway, an angular glazed corner allowed us to have a peek into the modern zen garden outside.

DSC_8180No photography was allowed in the exhibition and library areas.  After the exhibit, the journey took us out to the courtyard of mirror pond and the contemplation pavilion with its paper-thin roof.

DSC_8247We sat on a wooden bench in front of a stone wall for quite some time to feel the breeze and take in the atmosphere and let the beauty of the courtyard to sink into our hearts.

DSC_8182Water ripples was generated automatically from time to time in the pool, serving as a visual massage to further calm down our mind.

DSC_8192Every elements in the complex are minimal, light and elegant, as if the world has been striped of every excessive and undesirable element with only the essence left behind.

DSC_8183Refined detailing of the pool railing showed us the architect’s careful attention to minimize excessive lines and connection hardware throughout the complex.

DSC_8225At four corners of the pavilion, rainwater chains were provided along with beautiful water feature of small water droplets forming tiny ripples in the pool.

DSC_8237The pavilion for contemplation can be reached from all four sides.  With indirect lighting from the overhead oculus and the four openings each framing a garden view, one can stay, meditate and make peace with him/herself in the pavilion for a long time.

DSC_8257The courtyard wasn’t very big, but it was full of interesting design details and magnificent spots to appreciate order of zen architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe edge of the pool is carefully treated with a perimeter band of pebble stones.

DSC_8265From the garden lookout, the pavilion and its reflection appear perfect in geometry under the shade of the willow tree.

DSC_8269The essence of minimalist architecture is evident from the limited number of lines and elements in the design.

DSC_8276.JPGLess doesn’t mean lacking: unique features in the museum garden offer touches of design sophistication to enhance user experience at different spots throughout the journey.

IMG_8572For many tourists, D T Suzuki Museum has provided one of the most pleasant surprises and inspiring moments in their Kanazawa experience.  We couldn’t agree more.


DAY 7 (2/7): A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Since the old days in the Edo Period, the Omicho Market (近江町市場) has been the biggest market in Kanazawa (金沢) for over 280 years.  With 170 shops, Omicho Market is very popular among both the locals and tourists.  Anyone who is interested to get a taste of the fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan will never be disappointed with the market.  Depending on the season, Omicho Market is always a seafood paradise: snow crabs, shrimps, oysters, squids, sea urchins, and all kinds of fish from the Sea of Japan near Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), with Noto beef (能登牛) and Kaga vegetables (加賀野菜) from the region as delightful bonus.  In fact, the Sea of Japan just off the Ishikawa Prefecture is where the warm Tsushima current and the cold Liman current intersect, resulted in an abundance of nutrients and large concentrations of fishing ground for a diversity of fish and shellfish.  Being the largest market in the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, it is obvious why Omicho Market is one of the best places to sample seafood in Japan.  Most tourists will either sample fresh seafood or seafood snacks from the market stall directly, or walk into (often after certain amount of queuing time) one of the small seafood eateries near the market entrances or on the 2nd floor.  After dropping off our backpacks at Pacific Hotel, we quickly walked over to the market for a short stroll.  It soon turned out such a stroll in the market would happen at least twice per day during our stay in Kanazawa.

1Spanning across several covered lanes, Omicho Market is one of the largest markets in Japan.

2Noto beef (能登牛) refers to the high qualify strain of Japanese black cattle with their longest and final breeding process held in Ishikawa Prefecture.  Every year, there is only about 700 cattle shipped, making this rare wagyu beef almost exclusive to the region.

3Many shops in the market specialize in regional fruits, produces or snacks.

7Traditional Japanese sweets are also available in a number of shops, including this one that sell traditional sweet rice cakes made with sticky rice and red bean paste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThought of course the main draw for visitors to the Omicho is always the seafood.

5For seafood, a winter visit would have an advantage with snow crab season.

6Oysters from the region are also popular among tourists.

8Outside of winter, crabs from the Ishikawa Prefecture are still available.

9The crabs are sold in a range of prices depending on size.

10Crustaceans remain the most eye-catching items in the market.

11Without tasting them, even looking at the crabs was a feast for our eyes.

14At last we couldn’t resist but ordered some oysters and a prawn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the local oysters and prawns were super fresh and sweet.

16Before taking a bus a few blocks south of Omicho Market where the city’s main tourist attractions could be found, we stopped by Curio Espresso and Vintage Design Cafe for a quick lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith fantastic reviews on the Internet, our coffee didn’t disappoint us.

18The hummus, bread and soup were also more than satisfying.


DAY 7 (1/7): DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢), Japan, 2018.05.31

After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to another misty and rainy morning in Ainokura.  It was time for us to move on.  In order to catch a direct bus to Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅), we had to catch the 7:45 bus from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop.  Before breakfast, we took a final stroll around the village.  Walking around the tranquil rice paddies and fields of drying reed, and breathing in the moist mountain air fixed with the fragrance of the woods and soil gave us a peaceful finale of our sojourn in the Japanese Alps.  The breakfast at the minshuku was once again a hearty feast of small dishes in the traditional dining hall.  After breakfast, the minshuku owner gave us a ride out to the Ainokuraguchi bus stop, sparing us for braving the elements with our backpacks.

The hour long bus journey north to Shin-Takaoka was as peaceful as our stay at Ainokura.  Only four passengers including us were on the bus.  The bus took us past the villages and towns in Toyama, including Johana Station (城端駅) where most buses throughout the day would end the journey for tourists to transfer for a local train.  Soon our bus went up the expressway over to the city of Takaoka.

From Shin-Takaoka, it was just a 15 minute train ride on the Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) to Kanazawa (金沢), our final stop of this Japan trip before heading back to Tokyo. We felt a bit strange stepping out of the modern Kanazawa Train Station after staying several days in the mountains and countryside.  Designed by architect Ryuzo Shirae in 2005, the century old train station of Kanazawa received a modern makeover, including a wooden gate inspired by a traditional Japanese torii.  We took one of the many buses leaving the station for Omicho Market (近江町市場) at the city centre.  Our hotel was just a block away from the famous market.  With a small ground floor cafe, the sleek and modern Pacific Hotel was like a world away from the Gassho-style thatched roof minshuku of Ainokura.

DSC_8079We woke up to another wet day in the mountain village of Ainokura in Gokayama.

DSC_8104Before breakfast, we made a final stroll around the tranquil rice paddies of Ainokura.

Passing by the fields of drying reed reminded us the traditional way of living in Ainokura is still going strong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast at Gassho Minshuku Nakaya (合掌民宿なかや) was again a delightful feast for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was very kind for the owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya to drive us out to Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop in the rain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bus ride to Shin-Takaoka took a little over an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpened in 2015, the Shin-Takaoka Station (新高岡駅) in Takaoka (高岡) is a modern  interchange station for the Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed railway.

DSC_8132There are Hokuriku Shinkansen high speed trains coming from Tokyo stopping at Shin-Takaoka on the way to Kanazawa.

DSC_8134In less than 15 minutes, we arrived at Kanazawa Station.

DSC_8138The wooden torii gate at Kanazawa welcome every visitors entering the city by train.

IMG_6753The modern and clean Pacific Hotel near Omicho Market offered us a comfortable resting place for our stay in Kanazawa.

IMG_6751A small reception counter of Pacific Hotel also doubles as a coffee bar.

 


DAY 6 (6/6): CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30

The stay in Ainokura proved to be more than worthwhile.  We got the chance to take refuge in a 350-year old gassho-zukuri house and dine right by a traditional Irori (囲炉裏) hearth in the atmospheric dining room.  The stay also allowed us to experience Ainokura in the evening, when most tourists were gone.  After dinner, it stopped raining.  We went out to take in the tranquil atmosphere under the silver moonlight and shimmering stars.  Wandering on the winding paths, we were totally surrounded by rice fields and the croaking sound of frogs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe owner of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya used the traditional Irori (囲炉裏) hearth in the dining room to prepare the smoked ayu fish for our dinner.

DSC_7999Seasoned with sea salt, the smoked ayu fish were the star delicacy of our dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPickle, deep fried, and soy sauce veggies, carp sashimi, local rice, and smoked ayu fish left us more than satisfactory after a long and wet day in the Japanese countryside.

DSC_8048Outside of Gassho Minshuku Nakaya, the village path was lit with dim street lamps.

DSC_8016The mirror-like rice fields reflected the beautiful gassho-zukuri houses.

DSC_8020With clouds and moonlight, it wasn’t the best time for stargazing.

DSC_8021Loud croaking sound of frogs came from rice fields in all directions.

DSC_8024The village paths were pretty much deserted after dark, except a handful of tourists and local villagers.

DSC_8027The sky was getting darker as we wandered around the village.

DSC_8028We could see a bit more stars as the last twilight faded.

DSC_8031In the dark, we walked uphill a little bit to a lookout that we visited earlier in the day.  From there, we took a photo of the night sky over Ainokura just before the moon emerged behind the mountains.

DSC_8037Across the rice fields and river valley, the moon was about to emerge beyond the mountains.

DSC_8039The silhouette of mountains and silver moonlight depicted a lovely reflection in the rice fields.  We were grateful to enjoy a moment of absolute peace just before moonrise.