Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 27 (Japan Open - Air Folk House Museum & Taro Okamoto Museum of Art)

Yet another successful journey today by myself. But instead of a temple I navigated my way to Japan Open - Air Folk House Museum, a "living" museum in Mukougaoka-yuen. I have to admit it was very easy to find when I arrived at Mukougaoka Station: the museum is actually a huge park where 23 houses have been collected from across Japan and preserved. It was so interesting to see the different styles of architecture from different places and periods. Houses ranged from 100 to 300 years old and were still most of the original.
The second house I entered I noticed a lot of smoke and realized there were two women tending a fire and folding something. They invited me to join them, and informed me about what they were doing. In the center of each house is a fire pit and all of the houses are regularly fumigated to keep bugs and mold out of the thick straw roof. The two women were weaving origami dragonflies and grasshoppers from bamboo leaves. They handed them out to children as old-time toys. I thought it was ironic because everyone in my host family hates bugs.
Many of the buildings had the same interior; either it was a rustic stone floor farmhouse or a wealthy business home with woven straw floors.
At the end of the tour I had the opportunity to dye my own piece of cloth the Japanese traditional way! The dye was made from fermented indigo leaves so when the instructor opened the vat in the floor the whole room smelled to high heaven. I didn't mind though - I was so intrigued in the dying process. After soaking for three minutes the cloth must be spread out and exposed to air for the dye to change colors from green to blue, and then dipped again.
After the Folk House I headed to Taro Okamoto Museum of Art which was about a five minute hike into the forest. What made it intriguing was it seemed so out of place - it was a chic concrete art museum surrounded by forest. Okamoto was born in 1911 and died in '96 but his art is still modern in today's times. He had this intense fascination with the sun and made sculptures conveying feelings such as "pride" and "separation". It's kind of creepy though - there are statues of him throughout the exhibit so when you thought you were alone and turned around you were suddenly face to face with Taro himself. Instead of cameras the museum was equipped with people watching in chairs all day - how would you like that job?
I forgot to mention the other night we went to an "American" buffet and had a time limit of an hour and a half!
That was my busy day... I can't believe I only have two weeks left! I still have so much to do!

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