Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tokyo

19 (-12)
Not everything I love about Japan is ancient history. I love it's modern look as well, especially some of the stunning architecture. My favourite building is the Tokyo International Forum. Designed by Rafael Vinoly it was the winning design for a conference and exhibition centre, and built in 1996, and been poetically described as a ship ploughing the urban waters of Tokyo!! It is a glass and steel structure that does look like a ship.


Today was my last day with Gerry so we did a range of things that we had on a short list. we started off on the Yamanote train line (circular) to Nippori. Gerry by now kno
ws her way round the route and is a fan of the ticketing system. It started to spit rain as we left and we foolishly did not return for our big umbrellas; small fold up ones were not up to the downpours we experienced.
Nippori is the stop in the Yanaka district of Tokyo (see blog Temples and Jizo) and as we left the station there were dozens of people streaming out we thought we may
have hit on some event but realised as we followed some, that it is the day to visit the cemetery and place flowers and clean up the family tomb.
At the heart of Yanaka is
the huge Yanaka Cemetery. Once the burial grounds of Kanei-ji and Tennoji temples and opened to the public in 1874, this is one of Tokyo's largest cemeteries. Among its more than 7,000 tombstones are graves belonging to famous public figures, artists, and writers, some of whom lived in the area. Among the most famous writers buried here are Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) and Ogai Mori (1862-1922), both novelists of the Meiji Era and longtime Yanaka residents. Natsume, whose portrait is featured on the 1,000-yen note, became famous after writing I am a Cat, a humorous look at the follies of human society as seen through the eyes of a cat. Ogai, who at 19 was the youngest graduate ever from the medical school at Tokyo University and who later became surgeon general, was a foremost figure of modern Japanese literature. His works tried to bridge the gap between the traditional and the modern, as Japan moved away from its feudal agrarian past.
We have seen them often but I have been unable to find out (yet) what the 'poles' are on tombs in Japan. but they add to the different atmosphere of Japanese Cemeteries.
On our tour of the area we stopped in to the Asakura Choso Museum to see the stunning sculpture (above) Asakura, who died in 1964 at age of 84 was one of the first to move away from wooden sculpture to the use of bronze and went on to teach art and sculpture working from his studio in the building that is now the gallery. A great space in itself!
After this we went on to the Tokyo International forum and took pictures from the top levels and all angles, then walked in the rain to Ginza.

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