Art, architecture, history, travel

A word on the Japanese language 1979

Kabuto Tokugawa Ieyasu

Kabuto Tokugawa Ieyasu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A word on the Japanese language. Some believe Japanese to be a language isolate while others classify it as an Altaic language a very distant relative of Turkish, Mongol, Tungusic/Manchu and Evens/Manchurians. There are 3 alphabets in use Kanji, hiragana and katakana are actually syllabaries, where each character represents a syllable, i.e. consonant vowel combination. So ka and ko would each be represented by a different character. Katakana is usually reserved for foreign words such as English and Chinese. date accessed 10/7/13

Figure 1 Manchu Scholar

After the tour we went up to Nikko. It was beautiful. We didn’t get to see much as it was raining. Which made things difficult since we had to walk everywhere with our backpacks. We did see the main Toshogu shrine and one other temple. The style is very ornate, a kind of Baroque, Japanese style. The Toshogu is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Ieyasu and two other of Japan’s most influential historical personalities, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Minamoto Yoritomo. Nikko date accessed 1/9/09. The point of the whole thing is to honor the dead shogun as well ass keep the local barons under control by keeping them broke and keeping them at the shrine so that they could be spied upon; similar to Louis XIV at Versailles in France. See blog on Madrid 1975. President Grant was the first American President to visit Japan on a whirlwind tour in 1877-1879 including England Russia, Thailand, Burma and Japan. He visited Nikko in 1879 as part of that trip. The Japanese say you haven’t seen Nikko until you’ve seen Nikko. He also visited the emperor and empress in the new capital of Edo/Tokyo.

One hundred years ago NIKKO Jas. Croil a journalist from Montreal described his trip to Nikko as such.
jamescroil00croiuoft_djvu.txt date accessed 1/10/2009

The saying is current in Japan, " Do not say Kikko

until you have seen Nikko” Kikko meaning very grand. I had

been told that Nikko was one of the places best worth seeing.

It lies up in the heart of the mountains about 100 miles

from Tokio a beautiful and fashionable summer resort, and the

sight of the most splendid temples in Japan. Arriving at Nikko

we set out to inspect its remarkable group of sacred edifices all

most interesting. In many instances the outside of the temples were

elaborately embellished with bas-reliefs, one particularly attracted

attention having a variety of monkeys finely engraven on an en

tablature over the main entrance. I need not waste time in trying

to describe in fitting terms the charms of Nikko ; I can only say

my visit to it, brief as it was, left an indelible impression. I

mounted my rickshaw and bade Nikko farewell. We went down

to the station at John Gilpin speed, and waited half an hour.

Met some Austrians at the station (Bahnhof) and had a nice conversation on the way back.



Thursday cont

Next Jim and I did some shopping.  Jim bought a calculator.  David is still doing his own thing, somewhere in Japan.  We have not heard from him.  In the days before cell phones this was not an unusual thing.  In many ways one of the most challenging things about visiting another country back in the day was navigating the telephone system.  Often government-owned and tied in with the post office. Also make airline reservations.  I was impressed any where we went on this trip the airline was able to pull up our reservations instantly. (Pan Am was known for installing this worldwide reservation system in the early sixties Jim and I got to see it in action)

We got to the youth hostel about five.  I took a bath.  The first truly Japanese style one with a hot tub.  When you are finished they give you a towel about the size of a wash cloth to dry off with. *** Talked to some people from France, found out that they had run into David in Kyoto.  They we in their fifties they had saved all their money for this one time trip to Japan and were truly enjoying themselves.

Friday Hiroshima/Miyajima/Okayama/Osaka

Got up early this morning and went to Miyajima, one of the top three scenic sites in Japan and one of my top 12 favorites places, three of which we visited on this trip.  In addition to the famous Torii and shrine we visited the museum of National Treasures.  As in Nara there are many sacred deer roaming the islands.

We took the cable car up the peak saw the sacred red monkeys and hiked back down, a good 2 hour walk—the path was dotted with many small shrines and

English: Precepts on the secret of success in ...

English: Precepts on the secret of success in life drafted by Tokugawa Ieayasu from the collection of Nikkō Tōshō-gū. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


After taking the boat back to Honshu we got out our sign and got a ride to —Toyonaka.  Our first ride in a Japanese truck.  The driver was very friendly and kept teaching us Japanese words and pointing out scenery.

This is part of the great southern Honshu Taiheiyō Belt (太平洋ベルト, Taiheiyō beruto?, lit. “Pacific Belt”) also known as Tokaido corridor megalopolis stretching almost uninterrupted from Tokyo to Hiroshima. The speed limit on the highway is about 50 km/hr.

Did I mention that Japanese driving is on the left (left side passage)? Engelbert Kaempfer and Carl Peter Thunberg 1776) wrote that in Japan people were keeping to the left. In fact it may have predated traffic rules in Europe. Apparently independent of the British. British date accessed 1/09/2009. 1907 saw the first Japanese killed by an automobile accident.

Got to Takehara (竹原市; -shi) about eight o’clock pm. Got another ride into Toyonaka (豊中市, Toyonaka-shi?), one stop before Osaka. Stopped at an interesting truck stop one the way with a collection of Samurai and WWII artifacts. The Japanese apparently have their own different version of history.

Arrived in Osaka about one a.m. with no place to stay. A Japanese couple tried to help us but they were too drunk…

Saturday Osaka

After about three hours of sleep we woke up about six and rode the commuter train the last to stops into Osaka. Benjo (便所, benjo?place of convenience or place of excrement), from the word ben (便, ben?) meaning “convenience” or “excrement”, and this word is fairly common. This was a place that we had an immediate need for. Please do not confuse this word with bento which is a box lunch served on ships and trains and other places.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the beef bowl with yakisoba, the Japanese version of the Waffle house. Gyūdon (牛丼), often literally translated into English as beef bowl, founded in 1899. They gave us free cardboard hats.

Shirataki (白滝 ? often written with the hiragana しらたき) are very low carbohydrate, low calorie, thin, translucent, gelatinous traditional Japanese noodles made from the konjac plant. The word “shirataki” means “white waterfall”, describing the appearance of these noodles. Largely composed of water and glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber, they have little flavor of their own. date accessed 8/22/2011

Then we went to the Tenno’ji temple. Osaka is a big modern city unlike Kyoto with its National treasures. It is still interesting.

Osaka Daimaru 1979

Met Jim at the Bunraku Puppet Theater, Bunraku (文楽, Bunraku?) is the world renowned puppet show. Performers of Bunraku are considered living National Treasures in Japan. The other form of traditional Japanese theater from Kabuki which is the one everybody has heard about. It was very good. The performance lasted over four hours.

Found our first Japanese pedestrian mall, had a final sushi dinner, went shopping at the Daimaru The Daimaru, Inc. (株式会社大丸, Kabushiki-gaisha Daimaru?). It is the huge department store of Osaka. It is really very nice. You can eat at the food stalls in the basement for a good price.

Went to the train station where we had left our bags, but we left them there overnight again. Went out to the youth hostel but had trouble finding it as it was located under the stands of the Osaka soccer stadium.

Had a final Japanese bath with the little towel, before going to bed.

Sunday Osaka/Honolulu

This is our last day in Japan. This was a long day as we crossed the International Date Line. We got back the day we lost at the beginning of the trip, to spend in Hawaii.

We started in Osaka. Jim and I left the youth hostel and had breakfast at the beef bowl again.

Spent the day at Osaka-jo , the castle and in the surrounding park. We met many interesting people, including several Junior High School (middle school) students, who barely spoke English, some Judo competitors and an interesting man who spent his vacation talking to foreign visitors to the castle. He took our address and sent us a letter when we got home. It’s very exciting to get a letter from Japan. I think with cell phones and the internet all we’ve lost appreciation of what it means to get a letter, especially from a stranger in Japan. We also saw the sumo wrestlers practicing in the auditorium.

It is getting crowded here now as schools have let out and kids are enjoying their summer break which is much shorter than in the US. Summer break begins 20. July Marine day Marine Memorial Day (海の日, Umi no hi?) or Ocean day and lasts six weeks, about 40 days or the end of August. Most Japanese school children wear uniforms seifuku (制服, seifuku?) even in public schools. Most children attend school six days a week including Saturday. 50% go on to college. Students clean there own school. High school is not compulsory in Japan. The school year begins in April. Students walk to school, there are no busses and they do not drive.

I’ll be looking for a job myself when I get back to St. Louis. It was a nice day. We enjoyed the castle too.

Figure 2 Japanese Students

Figure 3 Artist

Figure 4 Judo

Schools dated accessed 1/09/2009

Went to the airport Osaka International Airport (大阪国際空港, Ōsaka Kokusai Kūkō?) (IATA: ITM, ICAO: RJOO) about five to catch our plane to Honolulu—David showed up with about forty-five minutes to spare for an international flight which caused us a lot of anguish because Jim and I weren’t sure what to do if he didn’t get there. I.e. leave for Hawaii without him or miss or flight and wait for him to show up. In our youth we had not made any back up plan. This is the old International airport the new airport in Osaka bay didn’t open until 1994.

Have you been to Japan recently?Do you live in Japan?  Do you agree with what I said? What were your experiences? How has Japan changed since I was there 30 years ago?

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