Inuyama Trip Day 2
For the second day of our Inuyama trip we hadn't planned anything special, so we decided to just pick up some local sightseeing leaflets and see what the options were.
One place that caught our eyes was the Meiji Mura (Meiji Era Village), a park out in the hills that had collected historical Meiji Era (1868-1912) buildings from all over Japan and reconstructed them in one park.
We didn't have any great expectations for this place, but it turned out to be a huge park with a very impressive collection that took all day to look at. This first vista that greeted us might give you some idea of this place.
The building on the right, behind the pond, is an original Frank Lloyd Wright hotel and as tempting as that was to see, we stopped off at this smaller old photographer's store first.
One thing we soon noticed was how open and hands on everything was here, you could pick things up and look at them, sit on the furniture (except for a few cases) and generally really interact with everything. I even got to try a neck brace that would hold you in place long enough for an old glass plate photo.
One interesting point from this building was its connection with this guy.
Major Theodore Von Lerch was, although the English notes refer to him as Austrian, actually born in Slovakia. So here's something for my Slovak friends to be proud of, this is the guy who actually introduced skiing to Japan.
Next up was the Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, or rather the lobby of the hotel - as that is all that's preserved here. The original Imperial hotel stood in Tokyo between 1923 and 1967 (the Meiji Mura Museum opened a year later in 1968).
I knew the Frank Lloyd's name and reputation but had never (knowingly) seen any of his works before. I have to admit it was impressive, and we both commented on how the complex decoration reminded us of ancient South American designs (I read later that Mexican designs influenced him, though he never admitted it).
This biggest problem with blogging this place is that it is HUGE! Even though we arrived just after opening time, and were pretty much the last ones to leave, we still felt a bit rushed and had to skip a couple of buildings. So I'm not going to give too many details about each building, more of a brief over view.
In front of the hotel was a collection of 'justice' buildings, consisting of a court house and two jails from different periods.
The last couple of shots there are from a Sake Brewery behind the jail.
Just down from the brewery was another significant piece from the collection, the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral (Kyoto, 1890).
Opposite the Cathedral are the old Cabinet Library building from the Tokyo Imperial Palace and a grandiose bank foyer.
It is certainly no mean feat that these buildings have been transported from all over Japan (and sometimes other countries) and been rebuilt here. It's even more remarkable that it all stemmed from one man's desire to save these building. Tanigughi Yoshiro was so disturbed to see the destruction of the Rokumeikan (which had become a symbol of Japan's Meiji era Westernisation) that he created a preservation foundation that resulted in the creation of the Meiji Mura Museum.
Tanigughi Yoshiro's co-founder and friend, Moto Tsuchikawa, was (vice- then) president of Meitetsu; a Nagoya based Railway Company. So it's no surprise that the museum also boasts a working steam railway, a couple of old rail bridges, a nice collection of industrial pieces and a train shed housing the Imperial carriages used by the Emperor.
(These imperial trains were absolutely gorgeous inside, but with the light and reflections of the glass I couldn't get any worthwhile photos - sorry!)
Next up are a Kabuki theatre and another early Christian church. Though I was amused to note that the way the statue of Mary had been placed in a diamond crevice that she held more than a passing resemblance to some of the vaginal icons from the fertility shrine we'd seen the day before - maybe there had been a blending of Western and Eastern religious sentiments at work here.
Followed by the Japan Red Cross Society Central Hospital (1890).
One really nice service offered by the museum is the ability to send letters from this original Meiji post office, not just ordinary letters either. They have a special service you can use to time delay the delivery by ten years, so you can write to yourself in the future. This seemed like a wonderful idea so Haru and I took one sheet each and secretly wrote to each other. Both papers went into the same envelope, and, all being well, we should get them via her parents address in ten years time.... waiting, waiting, waiting....
The next area was a collection of immigrant buildings made by western settlers. My personal favourite of these was a Dutch build house with beautiful wood grain doors.
After a much needed lunch break we began exploring this street.
The buildings here mostly consisted of shops and services such as a butcher's, or this small doctor's office which Haru really liked.
And finally, about 6 hours after we'd arrived, we made it to the front gate... yes, somehow we'd come in the rear gate and gone through the whole park backwards, not that I think it makes much difference.
Near the entrance there was a nice middle school (where I got to school myself thanks to my camera's panorama mode).
There was also another very grand residential building here, though exactly what it was I don't know, by now I was tired and not taking as much notice as before.
Whoever had lived here had certainly had no shortage of money, the furniture was amazing, and again (with the exception of one chair that was almost popping its springs) you were free to sit on anything and pick up the plates, glasses, etc. It made it very easy to imagine yourself living there - welcome to our new apartment (I wish).
Several rooms here also housed more typical museum collections, including historical watches, telephones and even traditional Japanese ceramic pillows (which are much more comfortable than I would ever have thought).
With closing time fast approaching we still had one more small area to visit.
That long single storey building in the bottom right might not look like much in comparison to some of the other buildings in the park, but it has an interesting history as famous Japanese writer Soseki Natsume used to live here. That's why the (fake) cat is slumbering in the doorway, in honour of his celebrated novel 'I am a cat'.
This wasn't the only building in the park connected with a famous writer, and although we saw it much earlier in the day I saved my personal favourite until last. Lafcadio Hearn's Shizuoka summer home, where I got to come face to face with the man himself (if I bent over, I never knew he was so short)!
In the back room of this small unassuming shop Hearn had passed his summers penning the first western interpretations of Japanese traditional stories. His works are a treasury of insight into a long lost and magical Japan. Writing with an acute eye, his observations of everyday life make wonderful reading, but it's the folk tales he collected on his travels that I really love; they are Pandora’s boxes full of goblins, ghosts and other night terrors such as these.
Here isn't the place to start a detailed account of Hearn or these stories. No, the place for that is in my haikyo and yokai focused blog, and Hearn's entry can be found by clicking here. So I'll finish off this epic entry with a double recommendation. First, pick up some Hearn from your local library and try it, the best spooky stories are in a book called 'Kwaidan'. Second, if by any chance you ever find yourself with a day to spare in the vicinity of Inuyama then check out the Meiji Mura, it's certainly worth it.