Japan is of course one of the world’s most advanced countries, where technology is everywhere. But it is also the land of the bonsai trees and Koi carps. We have already travelled through parks and gardens, marvelled at flowers and visited historic castles. But that is hardly representative of typical Japanese landscapes, which tend to look more like this:or this:than this:Some modern Japanese architecture can be very daring, and even more so when one keeps in mind the added constraints of of the world’s most rigourous anti-earthquake construction:But, despite its glories, none of this architecture really matters to the Japanese identity. Whereas, until 9/11, the New York skyline was the US for the rest of the world, Japan sees itself as this:Glorious Fuji-san, here overlooking the sapphire waters of Lake Ashi, and scarlet torii (gate) of a temple. Mount Fuji is considered a deity in Japan, which it dominates from atop its 3700m. Because of fog, it is rare to have a really clear view of its almost perfect cone. How much it matters to the Japanese is easy to witness. When going down the Shinkansen line from Tokyo towards Osaka, a very high-density, high-speed train line, even seasoned Japanese travellers stop talking and gaze when they can get a good view of Fuji-san. Like this:
But back to Lake Ashi. It is typical of Japanese contrast and paradox that the boats ferrying visitors along the Hakone tour, one of Japan’s favorite spots for cherry-blossom viewing in spring, look as totally improbable as this, which I call “Jerry Bruckheimer meets Fuji-san!”:It would however be inappropriate to finish this brief photo tour of Japan on such a humourous note, because humour is not something that Japanese people share easily with Westerners. Different cultures…..
As is so different that wonderful custom that, as the entry of temples, one can see collections of colourful sake drums. Sake being the national alcoholic drink, to say that it is unlike any Western tradition to align it in the entrances of places of worship is an understatement…So which Japan are we saying good-bye to, or “sayonara”?