Friday, October 3, 2008

Nihon Minka En

Today we started our trip to Shinjuku, starting earlier than usual about 9.30 and so there was still quite a busy time on the trains. The carriage we entered at Meguro was very full; after we had gone a stop or two I realised that all the people were standing. The seats had been folded up so there was more room. It was not the whole train but not sure how many carriages. Not sure what Melbourne commuters would think of that!
As we left the train we had to look for the Odakyu line, We said this to each other and as we headed for a sign that said straight ahead a young woman beside me said the Odakyu line is there, just on our right. So we thanked her and went in while we were perusing the schedule signs (in Japanese and waiting for it to roll into English) another woman Station staff came up and asked where we wanted to go and then assured us the train at 9:59 was the Express we wanted.
We were headed for Nihon Minka En known for the remarkable collection of old Japanese folk houses, farms and merchant houses. On display in the park is a collection of 20 traditional minka (farm houses) from various parts of Japan, especially thatch roofed houses. Of these, nine have received the designation of Important Cultural Assets. The houses are varied, and include examples from regions of heavy snow, lodgings for travellers, and a theatrical stage. There is excellent English information and more information at each house. The info covered the origin of the house, it's building structure as well as it's use and any special features .
We shared the venue with a group of about 20 girls from an International school who were collecting stamps at designated houses and writing some information. Their teachers were having tea at the rest area! Self directed learning obviously.
In contrast there were two groups of Japanese school kids about 40 in each group, and they were all together in school colours and hats and engaged in well disciplined activity together.
We came across two men renovating one of the houses including redoing the thatch. They were on the top of the house with no safety harness or anything! The man on the right went higher up the roof and one of the bamboo poles he stepped on slipped down; he then squatted down and using some twine bound the pole more firmly!
After we had worn ourselves out tramping around the complex we walked back to the station and had a lovely (late) lunch of ramen and gyoza.Delicious!!

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