Sunday, July 1, 2007

Japan Part II

Yamashita Park with the Marine Tower in the background. It is one of the tallest inland lighthouses in the world, at 106 metres.


Another thing about going to Japan, according to friends who had been there before us, was that you needed to take suitable gifts, since the exchange of gifts is very important with the Japanese. So I visited a gallery that sold small Eskimo soapstone carvings and loaded up with some to hand out whenever the occasion warranted it. Fortunately they were more reasonable then than they are now.

Before I tell you some more about my tourist activities in Yokohama I want to tell you a few other things that happened. Since this was an official exchange program between the University of Yokohama and the University of British Columbia, we were taken to meet the President of the University. The room was full of men, with the President and what seemed like a whole contingent of assistants. We did the ritual gift exchange, with me receiving a silk scarf with some abstract scientific design on it, while I proffered one of the Eskimo carvings. An invitation to dinner was extended for the evening, which turned out to be a very interesting evening indeed.

We were driven in the President's chauffeur-driven Mercedes to a traditional Japanese restaurant where we removed our shoes at the entrance and were ushered into a typical room with a long low table and where we all sat on cushions, placed on the tatami covered floor. Once again we were in the company of a dozen or so men, with no other women present. Fortunately most of them spoke reasonable English, since they had all been graduate students or post doctoral fellows in the States. My husband is a very quiet, shy person so it was up to me to answer most of the questions and keep the conversation going. Heaven only knows what they thought of this outspoken Western wife, since none of their own wives had been invited. This is a very typical situation as I found out later, but so very different from the North American way. Of course the meal was very good with lots of sake flowing, however I don't drink alcohol. No knives or forks, of course, and although I was adept enough with chopsticks, my husband had more trouble. As a matter of fact we had to eat with chopsticks for the whole two weeks and I think he was really glad to go home to be finished with that.
Yamashita Park with fountain and statue and pigeon

During my free hours in Yokohama I visited several wonderful spots. Down by the harbour is a long, narrow beautiful park, the Yamashita Park, which was built on land reclaimed from the bay, with debris from the major earthquake of 1923. Since the climate in Yokohama is very mild, even in November when I was there, the floral displays were still quite beautiful and the park was filled with statuary and fountains. This park had the most beautiful view of the harbour and also the skyline of the city.


Yamashita Park

One of the charming museums in Yokohama that I visited was the very unique Doll Museum. Housed in a wonderful modern building was a collection of 13,000 dolls from 140 countries. Dolls of all different types and made of many different materials, from wood to wax, paper-mache, china, bisque, plastic, celluloid, to cloth as well as stuffed animals were displayed in this interesting museum. It's hard to imagine that there are dolls which were not represented in this valuable collection, including some wonderful doll houses fully furnished with exquisite furnishings.


This is Yamashita Park with the Doll Museum in the background

The Doll Museum with one of the fabulous ginkgo trees that were everywhere in Yokohama and showing the last of its wonderful fall colour


Next time I'll tell you about the Silk Museum and Yokohama's China Town. That's if you are still interested.

26 comments:

Sienna said...

Still interested; yes very much so!

Love to hear about other cultures and countries, can't get over the lighthouse, what a view that would be...will tell my niece to look out for the doll museum...really enjoying your tourguide JMB!

Good fun, thanks.

Pam

jmb said...

Hi Pam,
Thanks for the kind words. I am enjoying remembering this trip, since it was such a different place to go for me.

Smalltown RN said...

That is so cool...I learn so much when I come visit your site...and you photos are great!

james higham said...

Just about to dance with you and you disappeared on me, lady in red.

Japan - you've done it again. I've always wanted to know what it's really like and your post carries us there again.

jmb said...

Hi smalltown,
Thanks, I had so many photos of this park I didn't know what to choose.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi James,
Well I just dropped in to see if any diehards were left at the Awards. I should have known you'd still be there. It took me a while to figure out how to dance but I had a little fling then had to leave. I just missed Welshcakes, she was typing in her goodbye and poof, gone, before I could "say" hi.
We'll have that dance another time.
regards
jmb

Ellee said...

How fabulous, you are so very lucky. My sister would love the doll's museum, she has quite a collection herself.

I look forward to the next instalment.

jmb said...

Hi Ellee,
If your sister collects dolls she would indeed love this museum.
regards
jmb

ipanema said...

Gifts are a must in Japan and they carry that culture with them outside too. Their bow reflects the kind of importance a person has. the lower the bow, the higher is the importance.

Like what you've found out later, yes, it is normal for Japanese men to hold this kind of after office parties which they have come to be known about - sans the wife. It's really an interesting cultural thing.

Nice post. Yes, I'm still interested with the next issue.:)

lady macleod said...

wonderful, lovely photographs. the gingko trees are lovely but soooo stinky when you step on the leaves.

yes more please.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Great post, jmb and so informative. If I were ever going to visit Japan I wouldn't bother with a guidebook - I'd just come over here and reread your posts. Then I'd know what I wanted to see and what to expect. I would love to visit that doll museum!

Janice Thomson said...

Ditto Welshcakes on traveling advice. It is wonderful to see the world through your eyes Jmb. Of course we want more!

Voyager said...

What wonderful travels and experiences with other cultures you have had. I love reading about them. And the ones still to come.
V.

patterns of ink said...

I know you know me as that other Westie owner who comments here sometimes, but we had a close call with our Kip this week. Almost lost him. He got into some Advil--very toxic. I told of it in Thursday's post "Attachment."

jmb said...

Hi Ipanema,
Well it's not so interesting for the wives is it? However I don't know how you break these customs.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Lady Mac,
Well the leaves were still on the gingkos when I was there so I never knew that they stank to high heaven. What a shame, I love them.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Welshcakes,
Well I wouldn't say I was a comprehensive guide but I always find something interesting to see and to tell you about, even 16 years later.
I thought the doll museum was lovely.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Janice,
I'm glad you are enjoying my visit to Japan. I certainly did.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Thanks voyager, I like telling you about them because it makes me appreciate that I had the opportunity to visit these wonderful places.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Patterns of ink,
I went to read your post and I'm really glad that he's OK. It's a terible thing when something like that happens. Our dogs are so precious to us.
regards
jmb

Lee said...

I'm still enjoying the trip too..look forward to more to follow.

Josie said...

Interested! Are you kidding?? Omigosh. I would love to see the doll museum. I have some bisque dolls that belonged to my great-grandmother. Now I can hardly wait to hear about the silk museum.

Thank you for the journey to Japan.

Cheers,
Josie

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
Thanks for following along.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
Aren't you lucky to have those bisque dolls. I'm sure that they are quite lovely and probably rather valuable to you, more so because of the family connection.
regards
jmb

Liz said...

Japan sounds like a fascinating place to visit. I have a writing friend who spent a couple of years teaching in Japan, and she has written some wonderful poetry about it.

Everywhere we went on our recent whirlwind trip to England there were parties of Japanese tourists; do you see such groups of foreigners in Japan?

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
I thought Japan was a very interesting place,although very expensive.
When I was in Japan it was out of tourist season, November, in fact. So I saw very few foreign tourists, even in Tokyo and Kyoto. But there certainly were lots of Japanese visiting their own tourist spots.
regards
jmb