Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kawagoe

Day 18 (-13) Noren
Originally "Noren" was a shop curtain which was (is) hung in shop and restaurant doorway to show that they are open for business. The design usually says the shop's name, or perhaps its logo. It also provides some privacy and screens from direct view. One enters by using ones hand to push aside one of the split curtains, as you enter. No need to duck under it! Ones used in homes are decorative and of various length.


Today after a night of pouring rain we planned to go to Kawagoe despite the rain. Well was the forcecast out; we had the nicest weather since I arrived. We traveled by train on 3 lines with nary a delay at any station.
In its heyday in the Edo period, Kawagoe an old castle town thrived as a last rest stop for those journeying to the shogunate. Nowadays it offers a tantalizing glimpse of what Edo would have been like before the devastation of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
The town's main attraction and claim to fame is its traditional storehouses, or kura, that line a long street. Permission from the shogunate in 1720 sparked a construction boom of fireproof houses that are characterized by half-meter-thick walls built of wattle and daub (dozozukuri).
After a fire consumed the town in 1893, many more were built in the style favored by Edo merchants.
As many as 200 once lined the town, but today only a dozen or so of these remain, most now serving as craft shops or restaurants. The buildings have tiny windows with heavy shutters with interlocking edges, that can be sealed shut in the event of a fire. Steep tile roofs are crowned by immense, fire-deflecting onigawara (devil tiles). The street is wide and flat with no gutter,so very open looking. I feel we should see Samurai walking around the corner at any minute or maybe some Ninja on the roof tops!
We caught a bus from the station that took us first to Kitain Temple
The history of Kitain is thought to have begun when the monk Ennin founded Muryoju Temple in 830 A.D. We went over the residence there, lovely tatami floor and garden views from each room. Famous are also the 500 Statues of Rakan. There are actually 540 of these statues representing the disciples of Buddha. They were carved between 1782 and 1825 with no two statues alike. It is said that if you feel among the statues in the dead of night you will find one that is warm. Mark it, come back during the day, and you will see it is the statue most resembling yourself. However we did not venture back at night!
At one of the shops we saw two umbrellas open at front It was not raining so I was curious as to how they came to be wet. What I realised after a perusal was that when they get wet the flower pattern appears!

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