Sunday, November 21st, 2010
We arrived in Nagoya on Saturday November 20th, after having spent fourteen hours, from New York to Tokyo, inside a very old Delta airplane that didn't even have the seat entertainment units we are all used to have these days, especially on very long flights like this one. Instead it had an old projector in the middle of the cabin, just like it used to be 30 years ago. Needless to say, they felt the longest fourteen hours ever.
Yasuko's parents welcomed us at the airport, and we all went to eat a hot cup of ramen at a place near the apartment we had rented for our stay in Nagoya. Then we went home to unpack, take a long shower and go to bed. The morning after a nice sun welcomed us as soon as we opened the curtains of our room and opened the sliding door that lead to the small balcony.
The view from our balcony was exactly what one would expect to see in pretty much any neighbourhood in a large Japanese city, with tall apartment buildings mixed in between smaller houses with the unique, interlocking roof tiles made according to the Japanese tradition.
Unfortunately, the nice apartment building where we had rented our room during our previous trip, back in 2008, did not have any room available for short term rentals, therefore we had to rent a room in a different place. The room was a bit smaller, but comfortable for our needs, plus the building had an elevator and we even had a reserved parking space in the small parking right behind the building, which was very convenient.
After a quick breakfast at the combini store, we drove to Jutaro and Rie's place (Yasuko's brother and his wife), where we finally got to meet our nephew Takumi. We spent some time with them, while Takumi was playing with the gifts we brought for him from the US.
Then, around noon, we drove across town, to reach Yasuko's grandmother's place, where we had planned to have lunch with her.
We had a really good time with her. She was very friendly and also very curious about me, so, after we ate sushi together, we ended up spending a couple of hours talking about my hometown, back in Italy, and about the place where Yasuko and I were living in Long Island.
After we left her place, Yasuko and her mother decided to go to the Kakuozan market, which is held on the 21st day of every month. The booths are set up from Kakuozan Station all the way to Nittaiji Temple and the surrounding area. There are many vendors with common daily goods, candles, Japanese pickles, clothing, kitchen knives, fresh seafood, dried fruit, vegetables, healthy alternatives, flowers and much more. Not to mention all the great foods that can be found at a local festival. We arrived at the market late in the afternoon, when most of the vendors were already cleaning up. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed it and I had a lot of fun trying to capture some of them in my pictures.
The temple fair is called "Kobo-san." It is held along the approach to Nittaiji temple and is crowded with lots of religious senior people who enjoy shopping and chattering. There are more than 100 stalls on those days. They sell lots of interesting things: food, ceramic, clothes for senior people, Buddhist altar fittings, garden plants, etc. The atmosphere is totally different from the modern shopping area like Sakae, and it makes you feel nostalgia for the old days.
The man in the picture above is, believe it or not, a mushroom vendor. Everything about him was unique and interesting, from the way he talked to the way he dressed and moved around his stall. Also I found interesting that he had a big old picture of the Emperor's wife displayed right next to a bunch of big mushrooms.
At the end of the road, we paid a visit to Nittaiji Temple, the only temple in Japan that does not belong to any specific Buddhist sect but represents all of them. It was built in 1904 as a symbol of friendship between Japan and Thailand. You will find in the tower, completed in 1918, the Buddha’s holy remains enshrined as a gift to the people of Japan from the royal family of Thailand and designated as a Prefectural Cultural Property. There are also the present Dharma hall completed in 1984, a statue of King Chulalongkon finished in 1987, and a 30-meter-tall five-story pagoda erected in 1997.
We were both jetlagged after the 16 hours trip and we were only kept awake by the excitement to be finally there again. After the walk in the street market and the visit to the temple, we went to a local supermarket to do some shopping with Yasuko's mother and then we stopped by the Tempaku-gawa river to take a brief walk along the levee. We went to watch the sunset along the river and we found a nice surprise: a gorgeous moonrise over the tree line and the city skyline. I immediately switched to the new 70-200mm to make the best out of that beautiful moon and, at that very moment, while I was shooting, to top it all off, a couple started kissing each others just about a hundred meters away from us.
As the perfect ending to the first day of our trip in Japan, Yasuko's father treated us all to an amazing dinner at a very special place, a restaurant which specialises in serving fugu, the Japanese word for pufferfish and the dish prepared from it. Fugu can be lethally poisonous due to its tetrodotoxin; therefore, it must be carefully prepared to remove toxic parts and to avoid contaminating the meat. The restaurant preparation of fugu is strictly controlled by law in Japan and several other countries, and only chefs who have qualified after three or more years of rigorous training are allowed to prepare the fish. Fugu is served as sashimi and chirinabe. Fugu has become one of the most celebrated and notorious dishes in Japanese cuisine.
Once we arrived at the restaurant, as soon as we got off the car, we noticed that, inside a storage room near the parking lot, they had a large board with hundreds of fish tails nailed on it. Yasuko's father explained that this is how they dry them before serving them in the hot sake during the dinner.
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
The following day the weather was rainy. In the morning we went to Yasuko's parents place for a while, then she has to run some errands around town and, in the afternoon, she had a dentist appointment. Since her dentist office is right near a cute tiny jinja (a Shinto shrine, a structure whose main purpose is to house one or more Shinto kami), I grabbed the opportunity and took a brief walk on my own to take a few pictures.