IN 1989 I went to Mito, Ibaraki….
to care-take a house from some friends.
I met Shigeaki and Yuriko in Toyama when they lived across the hall from me, and was there when their first child, Maki, was born.
Now, some years later, Maki is still with Yuri and Shige, but their son, Masato, and family, have immigrated to Australia over concerns of Fukushima fallout.
Since it was Zhufeng's first visit to Mito, we piled into their Honda "Stepvan" and...
…went to Kairalu-en. Also with us were Akiko and Yasuhiko Sugiyama and Michinori Minakawa…all three were with the Ohta's on the 2012 Sierra Trek (see photos under "MORE" on the site menu bar).
Kairaku-en (1841) is a late Edo Period "Stroll Garden" on a comparatively large scale. One side is filled with tall cedar trees (dark)...
leading to "Kobun-tei" a large tea house where the feudal lord entertained guests. It stands where the cedar dark area meets….
…the "light" area with low plum trees. When they are blossoming is the most popular time to visit.
That blossoming theme is continued inside on the fusuma doors.
There is a small tea house, with this, its accompanying "waiting area".
Not formally part of the garden, the lake in the valley is a good example of "borrowed scenery".
Japan has a wide spread custom of decorative utility hole covers. Mito uses Kobun-tei on its electrical department covers.
Lunch in a typical noodle shop: menu on the wall; chits purchased at the window, table service of the food. It was still summer weather, so cold noodles served on a bamboo mat were still on the menu. Of course so were hot.
Now that Shige has retired from teaching outdoor education at Ibatagi University, he has become a farmer. He rents the far rice field, now in post-harvest fallow mode, from the lady in front. He also learns from her what to do. He produces about 400 kilo (1100 pounds) enough for three families.
He stores the threshed rice in a large refrigerator at home, and takes a bag at a time to a nearby "coin-huller" where it can be polished to varying degree of whiteness.
And his "pea-patch" vegetable garden produces even more than the rice field. Well into the autumn he makes daily early morning runs to pick greens for breakfast.
The botanical garden had a family day to promote not only things connected to plants, but also...
…traditional toys (making a wind-mill turn by rubbing the handle with a stick), or ...
…playing fire-person for a photo-op, or...
…digging up (and taking home) sweet potatoes in a demonstration plot.
There is a major prefabricated home industry, and different brands build model homes side-by-side for quick comparisons. This one is by Ichi-jo, which has a project in Issaquah, near Seattle, which I wish to go see.
Not your traditional JapaNese house!
Full of the latest things, from slick kitchen cabinets, to….
…contemporary take on soaking tub ofuruba. But note the stacked tub covers to keep the water hot between users, and the low stool with hand held shower….two item found in traditional ofurobas as well. I think the book was open to features about the fixtures, not suggesting one read while bathing.
Next door was another house, very contemporary, but with noticeable traditional features.
save for the kitchen. I wonder what my Japanese mother would have thought of this!
While on housing, here is a sitting room in Michinori's house. He and his wife are retired and serious crafts people. .
He carves Noh masks. He uses profile patterns to guide the carving, and then paints with traditional coloring.
And she makes dolls from old kimono material.
Once again, it is time for a departure photo….