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Published: July 26th 2006
Built to commemorate the suicide of Yoshihiro Ouchi. Imagine what they'd have built if he did something good.
With a long weekend upon us, Denise and I made the 2-hour drive south to Yamaguchi - Kyoto of the West and Capital City of Lord Ouchi. It's also supposed to be a romantic city, as the word was afforded a very large font on the front of our travel brochure. Also on the cover of our Yamaguchi City Tourism Guide is a poem (possibly a translated haiku) written by Bokusui Wakayama, and it reads:
In the mountains of early summer,
a traveler stands at
the pagoda of the old temple.
This is not to be confused with his other, well known work of literature often found scrawled on bathroom walls:
A person of no particular consequence,
stands at a busy road intersection,
waiting for the pedestrian signal to change.
If that was the winning poem selected to grace the cover of local travel brochures, I'd hate to read the ones that didn't make the cut.
So, where was I? Ahhh...yes, Yamaguchi
city, prefectural capital of the same name, is bursting at the seams with all sorts of cultural and historical sights. Shrines, temples, gates, and gardens are scattered liberally throughout the city center. There's no shortage of galleries and museums either, not to mention a Christian church in memory of some guy who stayed here for six months over 450 years ago.
With the temperature in the
Burial ground of the Samurai class.
low 30's and the humidity dial turned all the way up, our trip was interrupted by occasional visits to air-conditioned stores to get a drink and cool down in order to prevent us from melting on the sidewalk.
First on the agenda was the Five-Storied Pagoda, a beautiful old wooden structure surrounded with hi-tech gadgets to prevent people from climbing the barrier to light it on fire. There's not much else to the grounds, just a little pond with some fish, a cemetery, and the Rurikoji Temple which was filled with people in active prayer. Not wishing to intrude, we made our way through Kozan park and the adjoining Mori cemetrery before making a brief side trip downtown for some lunch and the pleasure of strolling through an air-conditioned mall.
We spent a good part of the afternoon driving around getting familiar with the city, when Denise brought up a rather interesting point. She made the accurate comment that visiting Buddhist and Shinto shrines in Japan is exactly the same as making a trip to your local Catholic church in Canada. Not exactly a highlight on anyone's sightseeing list - and if it is, well, you need to
Denise thrown in for scale.
get a life - so we decided to not spend our entire day jumping from one shrine to the next, when there are more pressing sights to see.
We may miss out on the occasional hidden gem, but unless it's touted as a 'must see', we'd be happy not ever visiting another shrine again. Which is a good thing actually, as we almost crashed a wedding late in the afternoon because I felt like stopping to take some pictures at a sight I thought was very popular judging by the number of cars in the parking lot. We ran up the steps, only to see a large group of people in suits standing around looking bored. Denise, quick to notice - I was busy framing a picture - firmly commanded me back to the car before we were spotted and had everyone asking who invited the camera-toting, surfer shorts-wearing foreigners.
Before heading home, we made one last stop at the Sesshu Rock Garden, a place of historical interest and scenic beauty (thanks for that, Yamaguchi City Tourism Guide! And thanks for the blog title too.). "The Artistry of Stone and Water - Welcome to the World of Zen
Good work, Bad name
Believe it or not, it doesn't have a fancy name. The Naming Department was on vacation when it was built in 1442.
Gardens" boasted our brochure, as I was left standing there feeling utterly disappointed - there wasn't a garden gnome
in sight! Bollocks to that, I say!
With rain clouds looming overhead, we thought it best to make haste before getting caught in the sudden downpours common in this part of Japan, and with that we jumped in our car and headed for home. Camille & Denise
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