じゃあまた

There wasn’t that much left to do. Before meeting with Yuka-san on my last evening, I finally got around to buying a T-shirt at the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi. That, too, became a little iconic experience.

I handed a 5000 Yen note to the sales clerk to pay.

“Is a 2000 Yen note OK as change?” she asked, with an embarassed look.

“It’s OK,” I said. “I’ve had another one for years now. For foreigners, they are not bad luck.”

I have been told by many Japanese that having a 2000 Yen note means bad luck, and they try to get rid of it as quickly as possible. I am not sure why 2000 Yen notes should bring misfortune to their owners. They are actually quite rare, like 2 dollar bills in the US. I have had another one for years. I put it between the pages of a book not to lose it, and now I cannot remember which book it was. If that’s all the misfortune associated with owning it, I can live with it.

Yuka-san had suggested a 家庭料理 (family-style food) -restaurant, and that was a good choice. We made plans to meet again some time in Germany, together with Kirk and Peter. So, see you all here.

In spite of the Lufthansa strike, my return flight departed as scheduled. Back in Germany, I told my conversation partners, Shifumi-san and Keita-san, about my trip and showed them pictures. With their help, I could make some sense out of my souvenirs.

“The large characters in the middle of the calligraphy say Zenkouji, the name of the temple where it was written. And here is the date when it was written, Year Heisei 28 (=2016), November 29,” Shifumi-san said.

I do give up too easily. I had decided in advance I wouldn’t be able to read the calligraphy anyway, so I didn’t even try. The date is actually very easy to recognize (see below).

“Oh, here on the kokeshi doll, it says Naruko,” Keita-san said, pointing to faint white kanji written right below the obi (visible in the picture of it to the left of the reflection of the flash).

“Naruko?” I asked. “Could that be the name of the person who owned it?”

“No, no. Naruko is the name of a town famous for its kokeshi dolls, and for Onsen.”

So it is. The town is located in Miyagi prefecture, actually not too far away from where Takahashi-sensei lives. It is one of the towns where kokeshi doll manufacturing originated, and there is a kokeshi doll museum. I think I will write to the museum and ask them whether they can identify the signature of the artist who made it.

I also think that Kirk’s comment about the 1901 one yen coin was right on. The weight of the original coins was 26 grams; mine weighs only 19 grams, so it is very likely counterfeit. I don’t think it is modern, though. It doesn’t make sense to go through the pain of producing a fake coin to sell it for a couple of bucks on a flea market. I prefer to think that this is one of the counterfeit coins that were produced in China in large quantities at the time. A great story nonetheless.

So, this was it, for a while. But rather than a さよなら it’s a じゃあまた for sure.

Some of the calligraphy explained – I don’t think I would have been able to “read” the Heisei and Year kanji, but after identifying the numbers it’s quite obvious what they mean.

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The appearance of the JR Pass has changed, it used to show one of Hokusai’s “36 views of Mt. Fuji” woodblock prints. I got good value out of it.

jr-pass

金沢城

Kanazawa Castle was destroyed by fire and rebuilt multiple times during its history. The current structure was completed in 2001, only a few older parts remain. However, in contrast with the castles in Osaka and Nagoya that have been re-built mostly in concrete, Kanazawa Castle has been re-built using wood, true to its past appearance, down to using traditional construction methods. Today’s structure resembles that of 1809, which burned down in 1881.

Kanazawa Castle is both unique in construction and of stunning beauty. If I had to choose the two Japanese castles most worth visiting, I would choose Himeji and Kanazawa. Himeji is more grandiose, but Kanazawa is more elegant. Himeji may leave a stronger overall impression but Kanazawa is more beautiful in detail. All of the other castles that I have seen – Hiroshima, Okayama, Odawara, Osaka, Nagoya, and also Himeji – are tower-like structures with three to five floors. By contrast, Kanazawa Castle stretches out longitudinally, with small watchtowers at both ends. Its exterior is very unusual. It is covered with large, dark square tiles separated by thick layers of white mortar. Its roof, a wooden construction covered with lead, is painted white. Its gates are made of light brown wood contrasted with a pattern of pitch-black paint and metal fortifications. See for yourself … unfortunately, the weather was not too good on the day I visited, so my pictures are not all that brilliant.

The Ishikawa gate, one of the few remaining old parts of the complex, dates from 1788.

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