What's that saying? "You can't go home again."? Well, maybe one can at least go back for a few days and rummage about.
In 1967, my college era wife, Sherri, and I returned to Japan and taught English in Toyama Prefecture for two years. The marriage didn't last, but Toyama became another "home", and I have been returning to it repeatedly.
Mention "Toyama" and people think "snow" (like "Seattle" > "rain"). Like Seattle, it is on the windward side of a mountain range, so it gets the precipitation, and Tokyo (Ellensburg), on the other side, the sunshine.
Train stations were smaller….
…and rolling stock older. Toyama was one of the last areas to still have steam in the '60's.
When my Japanese mother visited from Tokyo, she said "Oh, I haven't seen cars like this since the war ended."
I was on the train because I lived in Toyama City but three days a week I taught in nearby Takaoka. Hajime Inujima made the trip all six days (we had half day classes on Saturdays). So we sat together and talked. And talked. For two years. He was the head of the high school band….
…and a home-room teacher, here handing out graduation certificates to his class.
I was one of the English teachers with the English Speaking Society. This is where those students who wished to learn to speak self-taught themselves, since the high school curriculum did not deal with spoken skills. One student, Totomi (on the right, with one eye squinting) was very serious.
She went on to become a simultaneous translator, and university professor of English. She and her husband, Ryoichi, live near Kyoto now, making it easier for me to visit them.
Inujima-san didn't remain a teacher, he went into politics, over environmental pollution issues, and was elected to the Prefectural Assembly, time and again, retiring after 24 years. He became well known, and very knowledgable about Toyama. So when he picks me up at the train station….
(no longer a small affair….it is getting ready for Bullet Train service from next year)...
...its off to a new sight to see. This is a merchant's home, now museum, near the Toyama port.
The family did well in coastal shipping, which, before good roads and railroads, was the way to move cargo up and down the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea.
The Inujima's home has not moved, but the house has had significant remodeling…the genkan entry,
and eat in kitchen, where….
…Yasuko makes wonderful breakfasts!
She makes delicious dinners too, but they wanted me to see a traditional tempura restaurant in town. It is across the street from the Prefectural Government building, so...
….the chefs are well acquainted with them.
From Toyama City I took the train to Takaoka….the color scheme on the left looks familiar, but that on the right is a whole new look.
And the interiors have changed a bit too….
David Kopitzke, (see Tokyo segment) during his two years teaching English, lived in Myokoku-ji Temple where I was a frequent visitor.
It is of the Nichiren Sect, and is rather well adorned.
The inner garden is more subdued, here with its bamboo supports in place for heavy snows to come.
Araki-san, on the left, was a priest in training, his mother was the amazing woman who kept the temple functioning, and who welcomed her daughter in law (and later children) to the family. Now, at 106, she graciously welcomes visitors, and hopes that her grandson, the current priest of the temple, will soon add a grand-daughter-in law to the fold. Imagine, when she was born, Teddy Roosevelt was President.
Takaoka has another venerable item, Zuiryu-ji Temple, 1663. Famous for its large linear layout, one enters the outer gate, then, walks straight to...
the Main Gate, which has on each side….
a guardian Nio. If they let you pass, it is ...
on to the Buddha Hall, with its ...
…grilled windows and ...
The alter, with Buddha and two attendants is quite restrained, reflecting a pure Zen manner.
Over the alter is an unusual canopy, with images of flying apsaras. Behind the Buddda Hall is the ...
…Main Hall, which has a Zendo for meditation.
Apparently well used, judging from the sitting pillows.
It appears that this fellow has been sitting, and offering encouragement, for quite a while.
In the foothills behind Takaoka is Gokayama and its hamlets of "Gassho" (Praying Hands) buildings.
We often went to Ainokura, and stayed at "Yusuke Lodge" run by the Ikehata's.
There son, Shigeru, was a photographer in Toyama CIty and we became friends. He would come to the Lodge when I was there with family, friends or tour groups. After his parents died, he and his wife moved in to continue operations.
In the tall attic, he has made models off the silk worms eating mulberry leaves and spinning cacoons.The heat from the fire below kept the worms warm, and the smoke kept insects from the thatched roof.
Staying at the lodge includes dinner….
and a ofuro bath. Years ago the tub was hallowed out of a very large tree trunk, but they are hard to find now. Indeed, finding a wooden tub maker is hard to find as well.
Rooms are traditional tatami, and bedding, futon and quilts, with modern accessories such as an electric "hot water bottle".
In the morning there is breakfast, and, when time to leave, a ….
…chance for a parting photograph.