77: Am I A Tourist?

After two weeks in Tajimi, I have explored almost all of the tourist attractions! I realize that if I were a typical tourist, I probably would have been bored by now, but then again I don’t feel much like a tourist this time. Even though I can barely communicate with the people here, I feel very much at home. With the nature all around me, and the quiet, unassuming beauty of the people here, this is a place I think I could really live in. Yes, it doesn’t have big shopping malls or towering ski slopes, but then again those aren’t that far away either!

I check the map and there are two last major “tourist” destinations to explore. First up is Ichinokura Sakazuki Art Museum; famous for its sake related collections.

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Spring is in the air and even the parking lot is lined with cherry blossoms!

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As I look at the rows of sake cups, I can’t help but wonder, why are they so small? On one hand, sake drinkers can drink a lot. On the other, tiny little cups. How peculiar!

I turn the corner and come to my favorite exhibit – calligraphic pictograms on small plates. The words are written in kanji, many of which are similar to Chinese characters so I am able to read them. Really cool how the artist morphs the words into elegant, stylized pictures to convey their essence, playing on the fact that these words originated from pictures in the first place! I make a mental note to learn calligraphy sometime in the near future.

The museum has a joint admission ticket for Koubei gama, which is the old kiln of a famous potter Koubei Kato. His passion is in Persian pottery and all his famous works are influenced by Persian aesthetics. It is a little strange to be looking at middle eastern art forms in an old creaky Japanese house, but I really enjoy the feeling of staring out past the old fire breathing kiln to the serenity of the surrounding gardens.

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Right on time, my tummy starts groaning for my attention and I dutifully head to BB cafe opposite the sake museum.

They do not have an English menu but the Japanese chef helpfully comes out to explain his Italian menu in bits of English. I pick a safe-looking carbonara set and start flipping through a Japanese magazine from the rack while waiting. Gazing at the pictures, I find myself transported back into my teenage years, when I would sit beside the bookshelves at Kinokuniya’s Japan section and devour magazine after magazine even though I could never understand the text. They always had big splashes of pictures; colourful fashion and comics at the end – looking at this issue in my hands, it is as if nothing has changed. I suddenly feel very young!

The food arrives and it does not disappoint at all. I practically lick the plate clean.

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With a clear day afternoon, I decide to continue my exploration on my bicycle. My stomach happily filled, I head to Oribe street, lined with galleries showcasing local potters’ works. As I lift the pieces from the displays to examine and admire them, I notice the price tags and simply cannot fathom how some bowls can cost 10 times more than another which looks just as exquisitely made. There is much I have to learn!

Cycling back to the studio, I see some trees covered with striking red leaves. It looks almost like autumn.

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Fame can, overnight, make a bowl 10 times more expensive than it was. But fame can also fade, as seasons change, as people change. Just like falling leaves and petals – a flash of brilliance, then gone. Until spring returns again.

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