During onbashira, we explored some interesting places in Suwa and learned a little about its history. Next to one of the shrines is an Edo-era shop selling a salty type of shio yokan. In a country that often eliminates its past, it is amazing to see a small business that preserves traditions. We also visited an Edo era guest house, which still retains a beautiful small garden in a property that shrunk over the generations.
Suwa’s famed lake is stunning. We saw many types of birds, including tonbi (black kite) and ducks.
The town is also known for its hot springs. We saw this early 20th century building which served the silk factory workers and was known for its “stand-up onsen.” Apparently there were too many bathers for them to sit or lie down in the hot water pools.
Tour of Suwa continues after the jump
With a few minutes to spare before meeting Hiraga Tatsuya of Landscape+, I stepped into nearby Shin Edogawa park. The colors were beautiful, and empty apart from a couple having formal wedding photos taken in traditional costume. I wonder what the small seasonal sculpture is. There were several placed in the garden, and they seem to be made of rice stalks, and possibly with a religious meaning.
Please let me know if you know. Here’s a close-up.
And another garden photo after the jump.
Meiji Jingu last weekend had a fall ikebana display. This was my favorite combination of fall foliage and bright contrasting flower, with an understated ceramic vase.
It was fun to see the extremely stylized ikebana in the forest of Meiji Jingu, next to the shrine with its enormous trees and the endless procession of Sunday weddings shielded by giant red umbrellas and thronged with photo-snapping tourists. The ikebana display was a mostly ignored moment of quiet dignity amidst the clash of tradition and modernity, upper class families and international tourists, sacred, stylized and natural.
Fall has been wonderfully mild, with the zelkova (keyaki in Japanese) trees starting to turn yellow. Of the many ginkos (icho), I have seen just one already turned yellow.
Frankly, arriving at New Greenpia (ニュー・グリーンピア) was a landscape and cultural shock after Obuse. Compared to the 600 year history of Obuse and multi-layered reinventions from the 1990s to the present, New Greenpia’s buildings and gardens reflect Japan’s famous Bubble from the 1980s. Amazingly, many of the Nodai students were born at the very end of the 1980s.
If I understood it correctly, it was a semi-public resort created to provide a place for working class urban people to experience nature. Sometime in the past five years, financial ruin led it to be sold to private owners, at a scandalously low price.
Next to a giant building that serves as conference center, hotel and event space, there are huge lawns leading to tennis courts and golfing. Between the building and the recreation area is a narrow river-themed landscape created by a Nodai professor over 20 years ago. The original design has water coming out of concrete cones, which is no longer functioning.
I realize that the built environment was created with good intentions. Still, the scale of the building and the large empty lawns do not take advantage of the natural surrounds. The garden river, too, seems a poor imitation of the surrounding abundance of natural streams and irrigated fields. And the lack of maintenance is a glaring testimony of the financial troubles Japan has encountered in the past 20 years. If anything, New Greenpia served as an educational transition between the seeming success of Obuse and the haunting abandonment we witnessed in Echigo, Niigata, the site of the Niigata Art Triennial, the subject of my next post.
Perhaps New Greenpia sees more activity during ski season. We saw a few go-carts racing down the snow-less slope. I will end this post with an unsettling image near the entrance to the building promoting weddings in sunflower fields (of which we saw no evidence). Maybe the giant photo ad is meant to suggest the contemporary relevance of nature for young yankii couples, possibly city residents. I wonder why all the guests are dressed in black.