5 August, Japan – ‘All Over The Place – Asia’
In the catchily named town of Omotemachishimochō is one of Japan’s best preserved samurai homes, Aoyagi Manor. Old buildings haven’t lasted as long here as back home due to a number of factors, such as a tendency to build in wood and the fact that Japan is an earthquake zone. This house has parts dating back to the 1600s and has every Japanese architectural stereotype you can think of – elaborate wooden pagoda style gates, raised floors, paper walls, sliding doors, the lot. It’s a lovely space to be in during hot and humid weather like we’re having at the moment, but it must be freezing in the winter. They get quite thick snows here and I’m not sure I’d want to be living in a house with paper walls when January rolls round. Surrounding the house is a beautiful overgrown garden with cherry trees, which must look amazing when the blossom comes out in the spring.
Johny pulled the short straw today and was dressed up in a suit pretending to be a TV presenter for a ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ style property show, the idea being he thinks that I’ve just bought the place and loves what I’ve done with it, despite my constant protestations that I’m just a tourist looking around. Shadowing us at all times was poor old Gavin, our researcher, sweltering even more dressed as a samurai warrior. I felt sorry for them in the heat… but not too sorry, as this is the fifth year I’ve found myself working in climates like this and I was quite relieved to be the one in shorts for a change!
We grabbed lunch in a lovely little traditional restaurant round the corner (they really do still sit on the floor to eat in a lot of places. It’s not great for a gangly man like myself, trying to fit my legs under the coffee tables). I then had to get changed into a horse hair suit for a brief intro pretending to be 1950s American TV host ‘Bill Beefy’, before we all piled on to the bus for our 4 hour drive to Fukushima. Yes, that Fukushima. The one with the slight upset involving a nuclear power station. Wish me luck…