We travel not to see the world, but rather to change the way in which we see the world.
The world is on a journey of its own, but if we embrace that journey the world has the potential to take us to places inside ourselves which we never knew existed, so that we will never be the same again.
On my first visit to Japan in 1964 I knew what I wanted to see. As a young architect I was on a journey to explore the post-war flowering of modern architecture. Along the way I discovered the far more interesting vernacular architecture of the Japanese rural house.
My hope is that as you read my diary you too will change the way you see architecture. Perhaps you will also deepen your understanding of manakitanga. The hospitality and kindness of the Japanese was truly astonishing.
One of the temptations of sharing a diary is to sanitise the reality. Being selective makes for a better yarn, but almost imperceptibly non-fiction becomes fiction. Anguish, fear and doubt are part of any journey, and good things only happen when you take risks. How can you fully appreciate a furo unless you have first walked for miles through pouring rain? Boredom can prepare you for a moment of insight. Comfort and convenience take away the possibility of life-changing perceptions. A tedious, largely unedited diary is not without purpose. Bear with me for telling it just the way I wrote it down.
Friday 22 August 1964
Before dawn we anchored in the roads, but the dull day revealed little of interest. Just a slender line of tanks and shipyards with the hills rising behind. A health check, and all the toilets on the boat were closed for the morning. How real the precautions were remained a mystery. One interesting form we had to fill in asked for a list of any restaurants or hotels visited in Saigon or Hong Kong, with comment requested on their cleanliness. It also queried if you had had diarrhoea in the ten days before sailing. Finally we moved into the harbour past shipyards, and an instant impression was created by the tug which came out to assist us. Spotless, red and green, a mast full of gimmicks, and the immaculate crew equipped with walkie-talkies. Exactly like an ad in “Time”. Customs were slow. The lighters came alongside and stalls were set up on the wharf. Lunch on the boat, and what a meal, as I was the only person for the second sitting. Then ashore.
Part of the next two days was devoted to Shipping Companies and Travel Agents, and there were no positive results, as they were as unhelpful and ignorant as in any other part of the world. However there was a third class on R.I.L, but they wouldn’t let Europeans travel on it. Shopping was delightful, with the large stores probably better than anywhere else in the world. Covered shopping streets had unity yet infinite variation. The scale of many frontages was extremely small, and consequently delightful. Timber half inch by half inch; glass one inch wide; low doors with decorated curtain or rattan blind hanging down to four feet to make them seem even lower. Cameras and other goods were tax free to visitors, so that a Nikon F would be 54 pound, as against 78 pound in Hong Kong. The design of all goods was of a remarkable standard, even if the price was low and the workmanship poor. You felt that this must be the richest country on earth. Fortunately there were no complaints, so it was possible to sleep on the ship. Wrote to my folks in the evening.
Saturday 22 August 1964
Wandered around looking at details. Girls in national costumes; the colourful woollen waist bands that the men wear, even if only in a pair of shorts; men looking relaxed and refreshed in riding breeches; split sandshoes, with one space for the large toe and a second for the other toes; the clip-clop of wooden getta “jandals”; the small shrine in the centre of busy downtown; small gardens, trees and architectural details; restaurants with models of each dish in the window, with the price; displays of food, always with delightful delicacies, on shining red and black trays, so that eating was an experience. The Oriental Hotel was one of the finest new buildings in town, with the others dismally rigid, tiled “German” architecture, and the new city hall a failure. Ikuta shrine was fascinating and apart from the gateways much superior to Minatgawa Shrine. An interesting façade to an office block next to the Hyogo Prefectural Office. Sorakuen Garden was closed. Talked for some time to a French priest, who shouted me a beer. There were 300,000 Catholics in the 20,000,000 population and conversions were low. Some rain. When I climbed Futatabi Driveway late in the day the view far exceeded the limits of natural visibility. What wonderful trees. An evening meal back on the ship, and able to sleep another night on board.
Sunday 23 August 1964
Kobe – Osaka – Nara
Mass and breakfast on board, and mixed feelings about departing. Rather glad to get a customs clearance without any problems (one German boy bringing in six watches ended up in jail) and to stand on the docks a free but poor man. By 10am there were already queues outside one of the large “Las Vegas” pachinko parlours, with rows of “pokie machines”. On opening the customers sprang like gazelles to obtain the best machines. There were many of these establishments, with row upon row of pokies. A sophistication was the sale of liquor, chocolate etc. and there was always water and somewhere to wash your hands near the entrance. The temperature was not unbearable, but it was hot enough to enjoy the iced water.
At Sannomiya Station (as everywhere the men and women mixed freely in toilets) caught a train to Osaka. Trains were luxurious, fast, frequent, and moderately priced. Kobe just went on until it became Osaka. At the PO talked to students for some time and wrote to the bank for more cash. Then to a luxury department store to stare in amazement. The upper floor was an exhibition of National products. However even in a special auditorium their Hi Fi sounded tinny, so I doubted that I would buy Nippon. Below the road was the subway station, covering many acres and, although a train must leave some part every second, at times you couldn’t find a train anywhere, as you moved from level to level, and department store to department store. I was impressed with the cleanliness of everything too, after London or Paris. Trying to relocate the “left luggage” even forced me to return several times to the street to obtain fresh bearings. Decided to leave my pack for 25yen, and was then standing in the street admiring the sculpture which had been formed from the ventilation shafts to the railway when a Japanese boy came up and asked if he could accompany me around the city. Together to the filthy, black river, with a new overhead road following it in part, and carving the city in two. The auditorium, disguised behind an office block, was asking 1000yen for cheap seats. The park was even more dismal than Central Park. New buildings everywhere, but little of real note. Osaka Castle, was not very interesting, as it was coarse after the work we had seen. After I had corrected an article he was writing for a paper, we finally parted about 7pm, because I was in favour of going on to Nara alone. Up Mido Suji to discover a mystifying TV studio, the Sogo and Daimaru stores, and suddenly I arrived at the Dotonburi River. Wow!! Paris, Las Vegas, New York, and Berlin all wrapped up in one. The lights, the gambling saloons, the restaurants, and the thousands of small, quality shops, or select clubs. Shinsaibashi-Suji was one place to spend a fortune in minutes on simple things like food, but what fun. The street was covered so that most shops were completely open to walk in and out of, like a huge market. Finally took a last look at the giant moving crab and watched a film advertising a film. “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, was in English, so this sophisticated advertising must have been prepared for the USA market although it was the first time I had seen anything like it. Then back through packed streets, although it was 8.30pm Sunday night, and along quieter roads.
Finally collected my pack at exactly 9pm. The information bureau on the train station was superb and provided complete instructions in English and Japanese on how to get to Nara. Above the lights of the city to Tsurahashi and then changed to the Kinki Private Electric line. The train climbed a hill to look back on Osaka, went through a tunnel, and then followed mixed development until Nara. The park was very close to the station, so walked a mile and then slept out in the open with a host of friendly deer. Dreamt of the punts with their lanterns on the Dojima River.
Monday 24 August 1964
Rain was blowing up so dedicated the morning to repair work to make my sleeping bag and pack waterproof. Finally downtown to eat and wasted much time because there were so many details to look at, such as the showroom with a glazed rear wall and a few feet of garden beyond, or the atrium hotels. Nanando Temple, Kofukuji Pagoda and Temple, Kasuga Shrine, and perhaps Shin-Yakushiji Temple. Delightful, so decided I must spend at least another day here. In the evening I was walking past a shop when a wave led to buns being provided, which led to a mo-bike ride back to town, which led to the offer of hospitality for the night. My first Japanese bath, with a shower first to get clean and then a long relaxing soak in a tub. Also my first Japanese meal, with the pointed chopsticks causing some difficulty on large pieces of fish. Surprisingly western, with fish, spuds, carrots, cabbage, as well as rice and spiced cucumbers. Tatami matting had a wonderful resilience to it, and I lay among a selection of sliding screens, able to do anything I wanted with the view. Some rough timber posts, and glasscloth panels. A wonderful feeling. My head was too high and my feet were too wide and clumsy to be able to really live Japanese style, and at first I felt really awkward. Lights were usually about nose level and doors about 5’4”. It was terrifying to step on the stairs and suddenly begin to slide down a 45 degree slope in the dark, but I quickly realised that only the leading edge was for walking on.
Tuesday 25 August 1964
The bed was so comfortable with two mattresses on the tatami that I slept until 8am. A shower, although I gathered this was not the custom in the morning. (Did I mention the flowers in the toilet?) Then breakfast, and it was as large as dinner. Cold in essence, although one bowl of soup was hot. A bowl of rice which was refilled from a large pot; a plate with egg, luncheon meat, tomato and potato; a bowl of soup, cucumber; a jelly made from honey, though it had no taste and it was taken with sauce; and grapes to finish. Cold wheat tea was drunk in the summer and green tea in the winter. TV was the family’s constant companion and in the morning the time was shown constantly in the lower corner of the screen.
Off for a day’s sightseeing. Todaiji Temple with the great Buddha. Shoso-in by special permission. It had a constant guard with fire hoses laid out, and lightning poles at the corners. The weather was still poor, although the typhoon had passed by to the west during the night. Rain delayed proceedings several times. To Sangatsudo and Nigatsudo, where I was talking to two students for some time. A photo of people writing names on the new tiles with which Nigatsudo was being reroofed. Back to Kasuga for a fascinating after rain visit. The Todaiji, because it is a space you must go back to, and the way in which the axis has been controlled by trees makes it the finest axial planning I had seen. Walked a long way towards Toshodai-jo and Takashi-ji, but gave up the attempt. Lots of fun buying a present for the family, ending up with Kyoto shortcake. More Japanese delicacies for supper, and the evening talking with the children.
Wednesday 26 August 1964
Nara – Kyoto
A magnificent breakfast, fond farewells and a long walk out into the country. Finally a bike ride, and at last a truck, which provided iced milk and delivered me to the Kyoto railway station. Deposited my bag, rummaged about the travel agents, and walked off in the direction of the varsity. Passed Sanjusangen-Do, notable for its length, a delightful monastery opposite, the national museum, Gion corner, Kyoto Kaikan, and finally reached the university well after dark. Confusion but finally with many hands helping it was determined that Dr Nogami was in Canada, and after many phone calls Fth Pouliot was located. Two students took me to the Sei Thomas Gakuin (St Thomas Institute). Brief conversation, a trip to collect my gear, and off to a luxurious bed.
Interesting reading was “How to live 365 days a year”, Schindler, Prentice-Hall, and “Stop forgetting”, Bruno Furst, Garden City. Numbers and the Golden Section are Fth’s hobby, and one book that looked good was the “I Ching” or Book of Changes, Richard Wilhelm translation (2 vol, and 3 pound the set) Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1960. For Jung “God and the Unconscious” by Victor White, OP, Fontana Series book and he had another volume “God, the Unknown”, The Harvill Press, 1956. Letters to Roy Bennett, China Travel, and Austin Saiki.
Thursday 27 August 1964
Suddenly this was an environment to take only minutes to adjust to. A shower. 6.30am Mass in the house, a more than adequate breakfast with the English newspaper laid out on the table, and stimulating conversation to be continued in the study. Then to the Old Imperial Palace, but not very impressed. Made the free tour with an American couple, who were all praise for NZ. Called at the new building of the Imperial Household Agency and obtained permission to visit Katsura and Shugakuin on the morrow, though it usually took 3 or 4 days. Back to the priory for a spectacular meal. Then the afternoon in the central area. Mackawa’s Kyoto Kaikan; failed to find the No theatre; found the shopping dull; the American Cultural Centre with little on Japan; and the Shigo Palace was closed, but too expensive anyway. Late for tea at 6pm, but it made the fruit taste even better. A quiet evening at home, with TV News, the newspapers, good company, and good books.
Friday 28 August 1964
6.30am Mass was the most convenient of this whole trip and the agape afterwards made it perfect. The tea house and garden here at the Dominicans was as fine as anywhere, and Father was justly proud of it. He gave me a complete tour, and explained the ceremony, along with all the details. The bamboo tap to the “cleansing” bowl cut in the rock; the Christian lantern, with the “Filii” sign and statue of our lady carved in the base; and the driftwood signboard “The True Way” (ie Christ). Within the house one of the fathers had also created a magnificent painting of the character for “way”.
By tram to the station as Kyoto had a deceptive scale, and then walked through very poor mixed development of railways, roads, shops and houses via To-ji to Katsura. Arrived exactly at 11am, so a memorable hour wandering through garden and building. Superb.
Then followed wrong directions for miles, but eventually came to Koku-Dara – the moss garden. Unless you were a connoisseur of moss this was a failure, although it did represent the more primitive approach to gardens, without all the details and artificiality. Simply a pond with the island for the gods accessible by a small bridge. The colour was very subdued. Photo of the small tea house. Circular and semi-circular windows were not uncommon, contrary to expectations.
Directed onto the wrong bus, which showed me most of Kyoto, including Arashyama with hills, bridge and many folks swimming. However the proceedings took so long it was 3pm before I reached the centre, and 4pm before locating Shugakuin. Very decently they permitted me to come back and join the morning tour.
Then located the British Council, but the unbelievable site and buildings (left from the war?) were well disguised, and it was closed on arrival. Then called at an architect’s office – Naitos – but found it a regular plan factory with clock in and out, publicity pamphlets etc. Came away with much unintelligible data on Japan buildings, which had to be discarded for lack of room. The firm was doing routine work. Another delectable supper.
Saturday 29 August 1964
A rather more successful and energetic day. Raining heavily in the morning, but apart from practical difficulties it can do a great deal for the gardens. By fast convenient electric train to Shugakuin, and while the lower gardens were of average interest, the upper one was superb. An artificial pond had been formed in the hillside, so that across the rim you saw all the distant mountains, while any ugly foreground was eliminated. The whole was such that you could not tell where the natural stopped and the artificial began. Made the tour with Harleman, a specialist in fluid mechanics at MIT, who had been attending a water pollution conference in Tokyo. Big, both in feeling and height, he would have been pleased to see me anytime at MIT. Together with the Dean of Engineering from Kyoto University we returned to the University and a conversation was arranged with the Professor of Architecture and his understudy. He claimed that architects were still not accepted by the Japanese. Their course was two years liberal arts and two years architecture, which seemed a little slender. Tokyo, Waseda and Kyoto were the only schools of merit in the country. There were always a few foreign students engaged in informal study, but language prevented them from taking any recognised course.
To the British Council library and two hours solid work reading Richards “Architectural journey thru Japan” from cover to cover and noting all the buildings. At last it felt good not to be in total ignorance.
Then tram to Kitano Tenmangu, notable only for its size and confusion of building types. Hirano shrine – just another. Ryoan-ji was sizeable and had several pleasant gardens apart from the more famous one. The rock garden was certainly a place for contemplation and it was unfortunate to find such a host of tourists (as always taking hundreds of photographs – of each other!!). Frail, but with a great sense of calm. (Photo also of an interior of a subsidiary space, with a simple red carpet and transparent rattan screening really bringing the room to life.) Back across town to Tennocho to find a “recommended” club house by the prof at the university. Magnificent use of concrete. Not time to go higher up the hill past the Miyako Hotel to a water storage plant, so back via Kanze Kaikan (Noh Theatre), zoo, giant Tori, Art Gallery, Heian Shrine, and Kyoto Kaikan to arrive “home” just after 6pm, with the very difficult political situation of wondering if it might be possible to stay another night. I was welcomed and a special meal was provided.
At the St Thomas Institute (Sei Thoma Gakuin) the major work was translating the Summa into Japanese. About six books had been published and at least two a year were coming out. The scholars were not necessarily Catholics, and most had been meeting regularly for at least ten years. The library was excellent – with periodicals alone costing $300 a year. Salaries for translation work came partly from the Dominicans and partly from the Vatican.
Sunday 30 August 1964
Kyoto – Himedji
A final clean up, packed the tonnage of books that I now seemed to have, and left about 10.30am. An hour posting films and letters. (1 Saigon-Hong Kong. 2 Hong Kong-Kobe. 3 Nara-Kyoto. 4 Kyoto.) Then by train to Kobe via Osaka, contemplating just how fast the trains were (the new Tokyo-Osaka at 200km/hour) and how many days it would have taken if hitch-hiking. The route was dull except perhaps for the roof patterns close to Kobe.
Then walked off about 2pm. Just walked, and walked, and walked. Finally two short lifts to Himedji and arrived exhausted. The road had absolutely nothing to offer. Narrow (even in cities there was often no sidewalk), crowded with traffic, with ugly, uneven, untidy, confused chaos. No wonder people took the night train. Began writing my diary at a taxi depot and this resulted in lots of fun, including a sketch of self exchanged for one of the artist, and all hands pooling to buy me a beer. (It must be expensive!) Walked to the castle and found a magnificent spot to sleep with fir needles for comfort.
Monday 31 August 1964
Delayed in the park to read and bring my diary up to date. The view consisted entirely of TV ariels. Then around the outskirts of the castle, meeting Norm Carver (“Form and Space of Japanese Architecture” – res tel 780 633) en route, resulting in an invite to visit him in Kyoto. When I arrived back at my pack, which I had left locked to a park bench, a figure soon appeared and invited me to his home. The house was just across the moat, attached to the Judo Academy, and the father was an 8th dan, and a doctor specialising in muscles etc, with rooms full of machines and a steady stream of people in need of physiotherapy. A glass of beer was produced and finally I met all the family. Takao, Matuyo, Hitoshi, Michiko (with her dolls), Takayuki (fisheries), Sachiko and Kazayuki. (68 Homachi, Himedjishi, Hyogoken, Japan) In about ten minutes steak was produced, and after reading all the tourist pamphlets about “the tenderist steak in the world” my mouth was watering. Delicious. A quick clean up and then off to tour Himedji. A Buddhist mausoleum, which was a confused mix of Indian and Chinese, all badly done, and seeming unforgivable in Japan. Some hours visiting the interior of the castle, which was probably the most interesting yet seen. Complex fortifications, provision for counterattack, and fine changing spaces. The don-jon in heavy timber with the basic pattern of a central area able to be closed off with screens. An excellent view of the city from the top.
Back home for a tempura dinner of fish, lobster, fried finely sliced potatoes etc etc. Then watched judo for the evening and finally at 9pm donned a judogi for some fun with all the family as spectators. Pleased to find I had not completely lost the touch, but I moved like an ox. Great to have a shower and find an ice-cream and cider passed through to refresh me. Magic demonstrations, talk, cards, and finally to bed.
Tuesday 1 September 1964
Himedji – Kurashiki
Awake early so steadily on with “The Agony and the Ecstacy”. Then dressed in the national costume and had a vast breakfast with everything from spaghetti to bacon and egg pie. Talked on and I was finally convinced (without being too pressed) to stay for a sukiaki lunch. Finally left, being given a fan, towel, mended and cleaned shirt and shorts, cider, fruit, sandwiches and heaven knows what. With such warm hospitality it was quite sorrowful to leave, because I knew how difficult it would be to maintain the wonderful friendship.
Taken by car out of town and felt more like just enjoying the sunshine than hitch-hiking. Posted my sketch to the folks, after taking half an hour to get the cost reduced from 80 to 25, which I suspect was still too high. Two lifts to Kurashiki through beautiful country, which was extremely green, with the sinking sun glistening off all the tile roofs. Some ugly industrial spots and Okyama was hardly impressive, but like the Japanese you only looked at the good and forgot the bad. Walked down town to locate Tange’s Hall and sat in it to write to the folks. Impressed with it as sculpture, but not more. Slept beside the road in some very soft grass.
Wednesday 2 September 1964
Kurashiki – Hiroshima
Downtown again. Raining, so sketched and wrote in the art gallery just opposite the hall. Then toured the city hall and the museums of the city, (outside only at 50yen each) one like a Greek temple and the other in converted granaries. More rain – what a country. Some short lifts and then a truck from Fukuyama to just out of Hiroshima. Too dismal to photograph, but the road had spots of great beauty. Small farm complexes set close together in a sea of green rice gave a Swiss feeling. Terraced paddy fields. Forested mountains. My sudden arrival at civilisation posed some problems finding a park to sleep in, but finally located an excellent spot. The after an hour it began to pour, and pour, and pour. Snow, heat and wear had made my bag and pack less than waterproof and soon I was completely saturated, just lying there knowing it is impossible to get any wetter. Slept a little, but such weather was trying both physically and psychologically.
Thursday 3 September 1964
Hiroshima – Kure – Hiroshima
Another miserable, wet day. Walked back to the junction to Kure, and quickly obtained a car to Kure. The waterfront road was all the posters said about the Inland Sea. Small islands, boats weaving in all directions, rows of scallop breeding poles, water pots with hemp rope lying along the fences. I just could not imagine living away from the sea – it is life, change, movement, and with as many moods as a human being. Waves swirling among rocks or clutching at grains of sand were always music. Tunnels were a feature of the road, as they were everywhere in Japan, though not as skilfully used as in Switzerland. In practice it was merely another reason for not widening the impossibly narrow roads. The long, last, fume-filled, dark cavern emerged into Kure. Low buildings, poor street patterns, industrial filth. All the ugliness of a country of insensitive planning – yet this had been erected since the bombing.
My host dropped me at a drab, grey station fronting an uninviting tarmac desert broken only by some bus islands. Could anything good come out of Nazareth? Off down the unpaved sidewalk to investigate, peering as always into all the small, pleasant doorways, and shops with plastic food displays. Suddenly a drab line of trees stopped against a vast concrete column which proved to be a corner of Sakakura’s Sports Centre and across a sandy area was the hall. Wandered back and forth because the most interesting aspect was the relationship of external forms and when sitting in the foyer of the admin block had my passport checked by the police, which seemed to me to be most unusual. Sought permission to see the council chamber interior and like proud fathers all hands stopped work, illuminated it, took me on to the secretary’s office for cool green drinks and tea, and finally sent me away loaded with pamphlets and books on the city. It was not perhaps exciting, but good architecture. The council chamber was dull after the free floating forms of Kurashiki, but it worked well, with clarity and dignity. The proportions of the offices from which the chamber rose were particularly fine. The concert hall was less resolved, with a fine conception which just didn’t eventuate, and it was seen at its best in the crisp, white model. Down the frighteningly wide boulevards to the grim industrial sector, but the ship yards had nothing of interest beyond statistics about “the world’s largest tanker”, so walked back through the town. Meals could be located in small shops, hidden behind the signs hanging on the doorways. Set dishes were prepared and stacked up, as in an undignified self-service. You selected and supplemented the dish with a bowl of rice, which inevitably came with two yellow slices of pickle. Tea was free and usually iced water was also available. Chopsticks were disposable, and you simply broke apart the split sticks to obtain them, these being stacked in bowls on the tables.
A single ride back to my pack, and wrote to Deguchis while hoping my things would dry a little, but in the overcast humidity it was an unfounded hope. Trains were less frequent here so packed it into town with the dying light and finally became involved in conversation with some students while relaxing on a bridge wondering how far it would be to Himedjiyama Park. The result was an invitation to coffee, in a very sophisticated “international” shop. Iced water and a plate of appetisers. Then iced coffee with individual small cream jugs and plastic stirers in paper envelopes. Finally tea. All with typically excellent service. This resulted in an invitation home, so a long walk almost back to the park. Beer and dried fish, ice creams, fruit, conversation with the five boys. Then a bath. My shirt was taken away for washing, with my hostel sheet. Then we dipped water out of the bath for a preliminary clean, relaxed in the bath, emerged for a community soap down, and finally took turns to relax in the bath again. Into my yakata for a supper of beer and dried shrimp.
Friday 4 September 1964
How delightful to lie on the floor looking out the low level glazing to the small garden beyond. We don’t appreciate a changing eye level because we never use it, but a foot of floor glazing is magic when the whole room is suspended above you. Breakfast of milk, toast and fried onions, and then away as all hands must be at school by 8.30am. Part way with the team and then on to the city centre. A shambles, ugliness, and lack of any imagination in this “new city”. It was impossible to believe it was new or planned. Toyo Murano’s church was of no interest, but serving 10am Mass resulted in an invitation to stay the night at the presbytery. On to the Peace Park. Met a Danish girl and a French boy who were studying at Kyoto University, on an exchange from the Beaux Arts. Together we visited an art exhibition, which had several outstanding works, and an amazingly high quality by contrast with what NZ might produce. As in architecture there was a tendency to have several imitative styles in one’s repertoire, but even these displayed technical control. Then they shouted me lunch and we went to Tange’s simple, almost 1930 concrete museum. Perhaps as a result of my feeling that modern society recoiled in horror from any physical suffering, through self-pity in identifying self with victim, while not even seeing moral malformity, because it was not part of the materialist world, I was not very moved by the display. The results of heat and pressure I find easy to comprehend, and the sight of fragments of melted tiles, or bottles, or clothes, or flesh, told me nothing that I had not understood in my laboratory. It was not like the question of understanding a mind which can inflict torture on another human being or beat his mind to pulp. It was merely the inevitable outcome of war, and I would have felt too ashamed at having begun all this at Pearl Harbour, to be proudly displaying my wounds. War is total, everyone is involved, everyone suffers the consequences. However the sad disillusionment of propaganda was emphasised by the leaflets dropped by the USA to a people who, even after the bomb, believed they were successful in their lust for power over Asia. If it had resulted from a genuine desire for peace and love then that would have been magnificent. I doubted the motives were so pure, and what was the point, with every street corner in the city smothered with posters advertising films of violence, hatred, lust, power and war. The value of a sermon is not in its eloquence but the action it provokes.
On to the university, but Prof Sugitami was not about. No time for further action. At Okodori station my friends were waiting at 4pm, as this was close to their school. Home through the grounds of the University Hospital which seemed strangely out of keeping with Japan. Clothes hanging out of windows. Conditions hardly conducive to cleanliness.
All my things were washed, dried and waiting, and when I packed to depart I found I was presented not only with food and drink. but also two dolls as presents, towels, books etc. At times Japanese friendship was almost embarrassing as I should have been making the gift, not them.
I was accompanied to the centre of town, and a short walk remained to the cathedral. After a shower I found a glass of iced coffee waiting beside my book – how well they did things. My room was sometimes used for the tea ceremony – simple, seven and a half mats. Studied the book of competition designs for the cathedral, and Tange’s was the only one worth looking at. Liturgically all were dreadful.
Then at 11.30pm Father was free, so we talked over an evening meal. How the abundance of food agreed with me, as I weighed in at 70 kilos dressed just in shirt and trousers, so I must have put on at least 14 pound in Japan.
Saturday 5 September 1964
Hiroshima – Miyajima
At 6.50am the joyous sound of church bells, with the sun streaming through the leafy trees to bounce off the tatami and mingle with the rays from the shoji screen. Several masses, with my approach to Mass now rather like that to food – eat lavishly when you can, don’t worry when you can’t. A conversational breakfast. Parish life was very much the same as in NZ. The problems of busy priests, many societies, small numbers, apathy – nothing that a man of vision would worry about, yet a situation that involved you like quicksand. I feared NZ, because it was going to be possible to move quickly into solving problems, without ever objectively seeing whether the problems really existed, and how important they were. Travelling was like making a retreat – you could see clearly and objectively – but failed to allow for human weakness when engrossed back in the reality.
The three young priests had every facility, but as in the USA one lived graciously and simply when luxury was the lot of the society.
Writing and then walked through the town. At last a lift by a woman in a car with a cooler, but the humidity was so high that it saturated everything by exceeding the dew point. A detour to a school, with the children as always immaculately dressed, and the road as always like a bullock track if you were ten feet away from the main highway. I was delivered to the Miyajima pier, and locked my pack to a power cable on discovering that a locker cost 60yen, representative of the lavish spending of the many Japanese tourists.
An enjoyable ride, a walk through a mile of tourist shops, filled with junk, and a few hotels squeezed between. Then suddenly the peaceful bay, some lanterns, and the torii looking marooned on the mudflats. Itsukushima Shrine was its best in the “courtyard”, enclosed on one side by the covered walkway and on the other by only the plank deck. Elsewhere the accumulation of buildings did not appeal. Senjokaku on the hill was a fine, very heavy and basic building. The pagoda was nothing after Nara. Devoted the rest of the day to climbing Mount Misen, while waiting for the tide to come in. Hiramatsuyama Park was beautiful – in many ways like NZ – with a normal sense of scale in the trees and the view across the Inland Sea was magnificent. It was amazing to see how much of Japan still remained almost untouched, to be enjoyed by those from crowded cities nearby.
Saw the shrine washed by the tide, and festooned with lanterns, while the torii was serenely floodlit. Then the 7.15pm boat back to my pack. Walked a little way out of town, being presented with a loaf of bread on the way, and slept in a partly finished house, fearing rain. Some problems with trains.
During the day met the French student again. I had not realised how the atelier system worked at the Beaux Arts. A group of students simply selected some noted person and asked him to train them (without salary). He provided crits etc, the school doing nothing more than giving each project one of four grades. The older students taught the younger all “subjects”, and when you felt ready, having selected any topic you fancied for the year, you sat an exam held three times yearly and obtained a “merit”. The course lasted for ten years.
Sunday 6 September 1964
Miyajima – Fukuoka
A lift along the coast to Awakuni, but failed to locate any church. The town hall was interesting, though weathering poorly. Walking out when a truck stopped, and they paused for me to look at the Kintaibashi bridge. A wonderful drive up the valleys. Bush, and road sidings where the free form of the cuttings had been strengthened with an undulating grid of concrete beams to look like Gaudi. Terraced fields, and how the tile roofs glistened in the sunlight. You forgot about the tangle of wires which crossed the country everywhere because the rice was so green and the roofs floated, with the strong shadows on the screen walls beneath. Farm complexes were as frequent as they were magnificent, and I wondered how the land produced enough. After a meal I went down to industrial Tokoyama, and a ride was arranged in a delivery convoy of Toyopets. The scenery varied in quality, but there was much ugliness between the fine farms.
A toll, and the longest tunnel of them all, across to Kuyshu. The north seemed to be a large industrial complex, but then there was pleasant country to Fukuoka. The only incident was one of the convoy running out of gas. This was the end of the ride and the hot sun made me feel like curling up under a tree. Close by was a “Bargain Centre”, very like a USA wholesale store. Prices were certainly ridiculous. Walked, and walked, and walked, because the city just did not end. I must have had that exhausted look when passing a 7-Up factory as I was invited in for a sample, and while 7-Up-ing some girls across the road observed me, and invited me in to speak with them. Much fun and they gave me “curry” which by my standards was made without any, because Japanese food had no strong spice. They also wanted me to take several dolls, but they seemed so fragile that I declined. As always the request was for pen friends. Perhaps due to misunderstanding I was permitted to wander off about 10.30pm, so walked two houses down the street and camped in a vacant lot, above the water level of the paddy fields.
Monday 7 September 1964
Fukuoka – Minamata
Walked away early and had just decided to buy breakfast when a truck stopped and with the prospect of a long ride I decided not to go to Nagasaki. Stopped for beer and “self-help” plates of hard boiled eggs, but ended up with a full meal. At various places we also stopped for ice-cream and other luxuries. The road had pleasant scenery, with some magnificent fishing villages. Just a cluster of shining grey roofs at the head of a brilliant blue bay, and the dense green forest rising up behind. The sea with its many islands was much superior to the Inland Sea, but the road was the worst yet encountered. Later valleys of cascading paddy fields, and finally we stopped at Minamata. I was invited to stay, so after watching some sumo wrestling on TV a high school girl acted as a guide to show me around the village. A new block of council offices was of a high standard, and we looked briefly into a school, which was rather chaotic and not very different. On the bridges the customary line of enthusiasts indicated that this was a nation of fishermen. The equipment was of a remarkably high standard. Then the local sumo grandstand, just banked up earth around the central earth platform with a crude timber and g.i. covering. The circle was formed from straw. The old town was compact and a tangle of textures. Back “home”, and a passer-by who discovered I was from New Zealand went off to return and present me with a paratrooper’s wings and a carton of various canned foods.
There were several public baths nearby, so sampled one. The sexes were segregated, though linked by the usual bath-house wench who collected money. Shoes were placed in a locker, and clothes in a basket which sat with a dozen others on the entry platform. In the public baths people often soaked first, considering they had paid for this privilege, so the running water was not as clean as it should have been. Rows of hot and cold taps along the wall were used for filling the bowl with which you washed. You needed to remember to soap the towel rather than yourself, which always seemed odd. Then you rung out the towel to dry down, and the process is complete. A “furo” lacked the final refreshing cold, but was most relaxing. “Home” for a special sukiyaki dinner, with the refinement of a stainless steel pan. The contents were placed on a plate first to cool, and thus an egg was not used. Beer, and various salted nuts etc. Talked, watched TV, and finally at 10.30pm my host decided to go to a sushi party so we bundled into a taxi and went downtown to a small shop. It was very sophisticated, with running water in the bench to wash your hands and the latest in refrigeration. Almost all these places seemed to be air conditioned. The most appealing point was the design and crockery with complete harmony of form and colour. Sushi came in unlimited varieties and was simply a slice of fish moulded into a rice ball. It was eaten with a radish, and often followed by fish wrapped with rice and seaweed.
Some time after midnight we returned and collapsed into bed. When the alarm went off to send us on our way at 5am my natural reaction was to roll over and go back to sleep, and I was sure my host spent the morrow with a hangover.
The house was attached to a tyre changing service, and shoji suffered badly under such conditions.
Tuesday 8 September 1964
Minamata – Miyazaki
A lavish breakfast, and then, after many phone calls, we went together by taxi to Kagoshima. Pleasant scenery with thatched house roofs boldly emphasising the ridge. Rough roads, with the women hard at work in their wide straw hats, white head scarfs and rubber “two toe” boots.
Kagoshima was ugly, so after visiting the docks (photo of loading ship, and another of street stalls with an unusually heavy stone and wrought iron building behind) and climbing the hill (photo with the volcano), wrote a little and walked on out. Stores were amazing inside and chaotic outside, with advertising balloons as the final element. The temple here commemorated the ruler at the time of the Mejii restoration, who introduced many western ideas into Japan, such as morse code. A short ride along the waterfront in the dusk, with the volcano at its best, as the sun first emphasised the deep rifts and then turned the cone black while the smoke glowed red and finally merged into the night.
An air conditioned car stopped and apart from a meal pause, and a mystifying investigation of Miyakonojo’s railway station (they have a magnetic influence on Japanese, who always try to take you there) we went on to Miyazaki. At the Asahi Press Office some English was spoken, and an investigation resulted in my being invited to stay at Mr Motinaga’s home. Here the living quarters were all on the upper floor, except the bath opening directly off the entry hall. The home was lavish but the gimmicks destroyed the architecture. For example the posts were cut away and ugly curves introduced. Decoration included an array of sporting rifles, Japanese swords etc. I was able to decline whisky in favour of beer. The customary three section dunlopillo mattress of the more sophisticated.
Wednesday 9 September 1964
Miyazaki – Nichinan
A typical seven dish Japanese breakfast of soup, eggs, dried fish, pickles, rice etc. Then to his office, which seemed busy though a little mystifying as to what about. Off to Asahi Press, and then, clutching several Olympic flags, I was marched down to the main street, and photographs were taken for the paper. Finally the moment arrived which everyone had been waiting for, rehearsing, and reading about. The Olympic flame arrived at Miyazaki airport to begin one of three routes towards Tokyo. It was suitably impressive, with smoke, motorbike cops before, and a team of runners behind.
Then collected the “friend” from the previous day, and we all went to the cactus garden only a few kilometres from Nichinan, but after a brief glimpse frustratingly turned around and came back. Walked around the island shrine of Aoshima, with its typical vegetation. (photo of village opposite from the island) Then back to town and a sudden decision that the proposed “fishing” excursion for tomorrow was off, and so I was delivered into the hands of a bus hostess, who was given a card of introduction to Nichinan’s mayor. The bus trip was too immaculate to be true. Not only the precision and cleanliness of the driver and hostess, but also the facilities of the air conditioned bus. The coast here was magnificent, and in some small bays the fishermen had their red nets out to dry alongside the pots. Duly arrived, and some consultation resulted in my being placed in a taxi and delivered to Tange’s Cultural Centre. Magnificent, so until dark studying it. Then the problem – where to live when only equipped with shoes and camera of my own, as Motungra had insisted that I wear his clothes while having mine cleaned. The “caretaker” sensed the predicament and phone calls resulted in a “Baptist” missionary calling for me. With his wife we went to a small fishing village and while they had a meeting I admired the harbour and watched the students at work beneath their small lamps. There was little privacy in Japan, with no space for the individual.
Back “home” to discuss the strong family instinct of the Japanese; the eldest son inheriting the family “god shelf” with all the ancestors spirits enshrined within. Even if the individual chose Christianity intellectually there were social pressures, and the deep-rooted instincts of a dead religion. Buddhism had little force and one could freely interchange Buddhism and Shintoism, as happened at birth or death. New Year and festivals were the only religious events in people’s lives, yet no fishing boat would leave the harbour without the shrine’s blessing. On TV watched a symphony and of course the Owa Dori dancers at Miyazaki for the Olympic ceremony.
Thursday 10 September 1964
Nichinan – Miyazaki
At 7.15am a very pleasant atmosphere with a short reading before breakfast. Why are Catholics too self conscious to apopt such “catholic” habits? Then waffles and syrup – two huge platefuls. A look at the kindergarten and then back to the Cultural Centre for more photographs. The town was pleasant and small, with the usual covered shopping street. Past the timber mills and across the bridge to look back on the pulp mill. A convenient lift all the way back to Miyazaki, so decided to walk to Haniwha Park. It turned out to be miles, but was worth the effort as the clay images had real character and the “home of the gods” was still recovering from the previous night’s ceremony. Followed the flags and signs back to town, and phoned from the Asahi office. A taxi called, so glad the bill was only a 100yen. An ofuro and then able to present myself. A welcome, and after a tempura meal for some reason I was taken to a hotel without charge. The maid looked at my pack, and unlike the tourist guides say, she let me carry it up myself. I had a first floor room with a “rustic” verandah into the passage. Within the space was simple, with a decorative nook and scroll, certainly ideal for luggage, and the bridal mirror on its small make up cabinet. TV, phone etc for luxury, and tea and a bun on arrival. Then into yakata and clip clopped down town to buy a paper. As always it was impossible and I was about to give up when a teacher arrived on the scene. He taught English, but only spoke four words – “Ah, so, I see”. Eventually he saw that I wanted a paper, and obtained one from a friend. We tried to talk on the way back to the hotel until I finally evaded one of those depressing conversations, and retreated to my room to write letters. While absent the bed had been laid out, and a mosquito net provided.
Friday 11 September 1964
Miyazaki – Saiki
The maid asked if I wanted breakfast so took the risk of saying yes and all went well, unlike the Meshed affair. The usual full meal and consumed the whole pot of rice so it really felt like Thailand. (photo of the table layout) At 9am a phone call results in a car from the firm coming to collect me and then after more tea in the office Mr Motinagra takes me out of town, into the rice fields, after presening me with his shirt, shorts etc.
A ride with a photographer, who specialised in colour prints of architecture. This was the “only” way to keep an office record.
Then a salesman stopped and we travelled together for the rest of the day to Saiki, with many stops on the way. At Hyuga someone called a missionary to interpret, and they wished me to stay, so when I insisted on going on they provided an address in Saiki, and so I ended up on the door step of the Vissers orphanage. A meal with the children and much talking about South Africa. The road through the mountains was very rough, but a scenic gorge.
Saturday 12 September 1964
All day writing letters and organising gear, with an afternoon walk to locate the church and enquire about Masses.
Sunday 13 September 1964
6am Mass, and then met my lift of the previous day so through the tunnel to the next bay. Delightful. Ships, timber, small ricefields, white walls and timber, friendly people, and islands in the harbour. Walked back to the harbour (photo looking across log sections waiting for the rayon mill) and along the new water course to “home”. Then writing and a magnificent meal of home-canned South African meat and also a sweet made from the white of water melon. Talked, and talked, and finally decided to stay for another night.
Monday 14 September 1964
Saiki – Kokura
6.30am Mass, and breakfast with the friendly Italian priest. A tour of the immaculate kindergarten. (photos of children) Posted mail, another breakfast, and finally delivered back onto the main road. A beautiful place to walk, and the hills through here were superb. Oita was just a large city, but my lift went right on to Beppu. A large “tourist” centre which was little more than a department store, so up the hill past the “largest” Buddha in Japan, and an army camp, to the valley of the bells. Nothing worth delaying for, so onward and it was almost dark when I was given a ride all the way to Kakura. I was left standing at the station wondering what to do, when some students came up to talk. Finally invited home for cake and ice-cream while we talked the night away. Then the four of us stayed in their small room. Small indeed. The steepest stair possible led up to a one foot six inch wide corridor and the room was five mats. A new suit was presented for admiration, and the inevitable photo album.
Tuesday 15 September 1964
Kokura – Tsuwano
The day was wet and miserable again. With the boys for breakfast in a small shop, and then together to the castle. It was a concrete replica, very badly done, and the view was of dismal industrial chaos. A concert hall nearby was new but unimpressive. Finally off again, and a ride to Shimonoseki. Then to Oguri, and fortunate to find a procession just setting out. On into a wilderness of roads, and finally, after real King Country, given a free ride in a bus into Tsuwano. Began writing up diary in the PO when finally a teacher arrived to offer me a bed. With the terrible weather it was more than welcome. Presented with canned oranges and ice-cream, and then 18 high school girls arrived from an adjacent dormitory. Together with him we all talked the night away, mostly on general knowledge. Ofuro and off to bed. It seemed there was little Japanese music as even when he was a teacher he could not recommend any records.
Wednesday 16 September 1964
Tsuwano – Kufo
We had the same breakfast as the girls in the hostel, brought across by a servant. Fried eggs & onion, bread, and coffee. Then stacked away the bedding and we all left at 8am. To work at the school, to learn at the school, and to walk into the wilderness. It was delightful even when raining to sit with the external screens slid back, so that the floor had nothing to stop the eye except the crisp edge which melted into the garden. Visited the church, on discovering I had passed it in the dark, but it was Italian apart from the tatami floor.
The rain stopped, and the air was fresh. As always the streets were crowded with school children. The tarmac ended, but then a Sake delivery van continued the journey through a scenic valley, following the river, with pulp machines or timber mills for relief.
A truck stopped, but the ride was for only a few feet, as the steering promptly failed to function. Never daunted they apologised and remained stranded while organising a ride for me in a milk delivery truck to Masuda. The usual busy, compact street and a grubby railway yard. Then by a truck delivering wood chips to the pulp mill in Gotsu, so saw Hamada in passing, though it had little character except that added by the sea. Gotsu was the normal ugliness, and the municipal building was not worth pausing for. However it was fun to be there at 3pm, when the music on the radio stopped and a voice began announcing exercises and calling numbers. All the office solemnly rose and, in unison with the “Big Brother” voice, they stretched those cramped muscles. Ten minutes later all were back at work.
On along this beautiful northern sea coast, with many villages, including one with a number of rock cut shrines, which was unusual. Stopped just south of Kufe, so inspected the auditorium, but the detail was better than the conception. Also photographed a typical solar heating unit on a new, small bungalow. These were common in all the places I had visited so far, even on houses that were almost collapsing.
I was walking out into the fading light when a motor scooter stopped and after a few kilometres he insisted that I come to his PO and from there to his home. A tremendous experience. The façade was insignificant. The foyer was merely a transition, with several directions one could turn, although instantly your eye swung to the highlight of the entrance hall, with no decoration except a cross section of a tree and small pot of planting. Composure. Invited by the row of slippers you changed shoes and entered the hall. Directed then to the adjacent living space, enclosed by rattan screens from other rooms, so that there was movement silhouetted by the garden beyond, with figures dancing like shadows on the wall. Behind was another garden, with the wall of sandblasted glass reducing the glare to nil so that the clear panels of glass seemed like paintings on the wall. I was introduced to his wife and then I was presented with a small plate of sliced, roasted yam, to eat while squatting on a cushion at the low table. A meal was then prepared with great beef steaks necessitating the replacing of “hashi” with knives. Then the ofuro, with an excellent view, as also had the “Ben-Jo” which became a spatial experience in itself. A timber walkway led to the door, which had horizontal ribs, one of which slid across for a catch. Within were three areas; a sink with tank and plunger release suspended above it, and one of the small towels which were found in thousands in Japan; a urinal; and a toilet (bottomless pit) with floor level lighting and a view window above. The evening was spent watching TV, with my feet hung over a small hearth recessed into the floor, with a table above it and a cloth around, to protect the tatami. It was always gratifying on TV to see how awkward other people looked when taking shoes on or off.
My bed was laid out in the room first entered, with the table moved to one side. An enclosure for the scroll and a small god shelf were the only other elements in the delightful room.
Thursday 17 September 1964
Kufe – Matsue
Japanese houses were based on family living, with total lack of privacy, so that when the first screen in the house was slid across in the morning you woke, on the assumption that it was your own. The process repeated, until eventually you decided to get up in preference to being nervously frustrated. Breakfast was eventually provided, but my host certainly did not make haste, so must have decided to take time off work. The meal was, as usual, a full meal, and a mixture of western and Japanese food. Then I took some photographs of the house, and suddenly my hostess produced a box which was placed on the tatami while we all gathered around and then I realised that this was “Chenoyu”. The powdered green tea was scooped up with a small bamboo ladle into a deep bowl. Hot water was poured over the tea and a bamboo whisk, looking like a shaving brush, was used to whip up the mixture into a frothy brew. A small dish of sweets was presented first and after eating one the rather uninspiring tea was drunk. Two bowls were used, so that while one person was drinking the other bowl was cleaned and refilled.
Then all was ready, and with sad farewells I was taken by motor scooter for some distance and then a ride was arranged in a passing car. On through fields with the wonderful patterns of tall rice drying racks. At Izumo they decided to visit the shrine which was about 8km from the town, and impossible to find without a Japanese guide. So I was fortunate enough to be taken by car right to Kikutake’s treasury, and then on to Matsue. The treasury was fine sculpture, but not a very successful museum. The shrine was interesting for its asymmetrical front. Several photographs around the grounds illustrated typical features such as the thousands of pieces of paper tied to trees.
At Matsue I locked up my pack and wandered into the town, which at first did not seem to be any older or different from any other Japanese city. There were houses here and there and a few streets, but the flavour had gone. The castle grounds were nothing, but the Don-jin was particularly fascinating and beautiful – the exterior rather than the interior. A free guide was provided, but he seemed only to see the ugly wall paintings, and none of the beauty. Then to the town square, with cumbersome new buildings and Kitutake’s art gallery. It was closed but a free glimpse of the building was provided and it was unimaginative. Lighting in the large open space seemed to have been forgotten and the display “system” looked only temporary. To the church to discover that evening Mass was just finishing. I was invited to stay for the night, which resulted in leaving my pack lying beside the road overnight. Talked the night away with a Jesuit who was just here for a short time from language school in Tokyo. He suggested Vogel’s book “The new middle class” as an interesting commentary on the change away from the “family” attitude of firms. Most firms here paid low wages but gave many fringe benefits, such as meal chits or gifts, or help with children. In turn the worker had a responsibility to think the party line, work extra hours if there was pressure, etc. Thus when someone proudly told you his father was a “salaried man” the term was not to be equated with “business man”, as I first thought, but rather expressed the freedom of a 9am to 5pm job for a fixed figure. To change the family structure was no more simple and a grandmother would usually have a complete veto over all members. A sample might have been the stopping of a Catholic boy and girl marrying because of an old Buddhist tradition which made one of the families “cursed”. It was agreed that missionaries made no effort to adopt the country, but admitedly this became a question of who respected who and for what.
Slept in a small room, which is used for youth meetings etc. The parish had two priests (and currently two students from Tokyo) and only 420 parishioners, but was remarkably well equipped with a new church (funded from Spain and Germany) and a fine presbytery.
Friday 18 September 1964
Matsue – Himedji
Communion and then breakfast with Father. A few short lifts, walked most of the time, and eventually reached Yonago. Photos of lifting the rice onto racks, a fine typical thatched roof, a group of women working a concrete mixer, and a woman controlling road work traffic, with red and white flags, though no walkie-talkie. In Yonago thought the exterior of the auditorium to be very fine. The interior was black and depressing.
Fortunately a truck stopped which was going all the way to Itami, so the afternoon was spent relaxing. Enjoyed the fine coastline or average rolling countryside. All the villages were a uniform mud colour from the dust, and some had protective walls of bamboo. A stop to watch the fishermen sorting out their catch, while dozens of women waited on the sand alongside. I gathered that the best were sold by the almost naked men, after selection from the water filled boats lying on the beach, and then the remainder almost given away to the waiting women.
A meal stop at Tottori and then across the hills (Route 29) in the dark to Himedji. Decided to stop, realising I would be welcome, and soon I was relaxing over a great steak. This was my “home away from home” in Japan. Talked until midnight, if talking was the term to use.
Saturday 19 September 1964
Himedji – Kyoto
A sukiyaki breakfast and then taken out to visit one of the local shrines. Presented with a package of “buns” from the shrine – sticky and filled with a tasteless soya bean, so not to be compared with the Chinese variety. Then at mid-day I walked on, though they wanted me to stay for several days. A single lift to Kyoto with a pause at the Mitsubishi factory at Ibaraki where I was fed sushi and orange drink. The expressways here were very impressive, but it was dismal to return to such large urban conglomerations. Dusk at Kyoto, so walked downtown to learn that there was no kabuki in Osaka now. Asked permission to camp at a local church, so able to sleep on a meeting room floor. Kyoto seemed like a new city, and so different from Kyushu, even to the woollen waist bands and bicycle racks.
Sunday 20 September 1964
Up at 6.25am for 6.30am Mass. A brief talk with Father and then walked and trammed to the Kanze Kaikan for a Noh play which proved to be very much an all day affair. The theatre interior was completely new and fascinating. A quarter circle of seats, only 8 deep, grouped around a stage on the diagonal axis. Behind were “boxes” – literally, for they had only cushions on which to sit. At 9am all was deserted except for two other tourists, but finally the performance started and then people came and went all day, producing lunches or simply going to the foyers to relax as there was no interval for the ten hours of performance. The stage was merely a roofed, raised platform with a ceremonial walkway approach, although a small door was normally used. A carpet was spread on the glistening timber floor and on this the chorus gathered, the important front row using small stands for their books. Dress was mixed between suits and kimonos. Chorus followed chorus and the atmosphere changed as books disappeared and everyone was properly attired, with kimonos and baggy trousers with side slits for the men, or kimonos for the women. Fans were always carried, and before speaking each person or group lifted the fan from the floor and held it in their lap while resting the end on the floor. Principal characters began a dialogue with the chorus and then the carpets were removed as people made a solemn dance to the chanting of the chorus, individually, as though it was a formal introduction to the role they played – but they did not appear again. The fan and hands moved solemnly while the actor walked about the stage, stamping feet, and finally retiring for the next person. Then the chorus resumed, with a blue overdress being added for the men. About 4pm a climax was reached as a band with three drummers and a whistle joined the chorus and a lavishly robed man and masked woman danced, to culminate with the presentation of a robe. Several more scenes with the band and then the carpets returned yet again for the chanting to continue. The crowd followed in books giving the full text and everyone wandered about to take photographs, presumably of their special favourites. It was surprising that so many of the audience were in martial costume also. “Yo, oh, oh; Yo, oh, oh.” The beat of the drums continued after 6.30pm and it seemed it would go on forever. Graciously the dancer slowly swung the fan, stepped forward and back, with an arm rigidly held in position, which was all a mystery to the symbolically uninitiated. I decided it was time to go, so walked past the Kaikan, admiring the Geisha girls who were about to entertain a Lions “convention”. Their white faces reminded me of a Noh mask, and the kimonos, while more sumptuous and with the “tail” unfolded to fall to the floor, lacked the simple dignity of the everyday type. On to the Dominicans, and finally decided to stay the night, as it was raining again. Rang Norm Carver and exchanged addresses and talked, but decided not to go up. A luxurious sleep again.
Monday 21 September 1964
Kyoto – Ise
Again it was pouring with rain. Left immediately after breakfast, collecting my pack from the Kanze Kaikan. On the way admired the dozens of fine entrances. The dark timber, closely spaced, screening and revealing, the deep green of the trees glistening in the wet, the delicacy of the bamboo, and rough panels of plaster. The Miyako hotel and the Water Treatment Plant, which certainly was fine industrial architecture. Onwards through the gorge, but fortunately a truck took me to Yokkaichi, and more importantly provided shelter from a severe thunderstorm. Ugliness, mixed development, wires, the new 200k/hr railway, motorways, and a few pleasant places with low dense rows of tea plants with straw laid between. Rice was stacked on a single low rail here, and the waste straw formed into small stacks. (photo with Yokkaichi refinery in the background) Several rides on to Ise about 3pm. Rain. The outer shrine and the inner shrine in the failing light. The setting was supurb but the temples somewhat disappointing. The approach to the inner shrine was magnificent, an example of the formal axis of the building beautifully contrasted with the informality of nature. The best building was a small superbly proportioned storehouse just by the inner shrine. It was unusual also for the freestanding central support to the ridge beam. There you found the simplicity anticipated in the main shrine. The inner sanctums could not be visited and the exteriors were fenced, to destroy continuity of space. The floor within the wall was defined by white or black stones. The many side temples normally had a board and batten roof to an “entrance” at right angles to the main thatched structure. Walked back to town past four miles of lanterns and spent some time talking to the priest and a visitor. They would say that the Japanese are highly emotional, remembering that they act on their emotions much more than we do. Then met a friend in the street, who was busily planning a world trip. Invited home, so talked useless things until midnight. The collection of data provided by the NZ Tokyo Embassy was very impressive.
Tuesday 22 September 1964
Ise – Toba – Ise
Toast and milk for breakfast after Mass, and then a ride to reach Toba by 9am. To Mikimoto Pearl Island. Saw the pearls being opened and a nucleus inserted, together with a small membrane which, after five years, would have changed the nucleus into a pearl. The nucleus came from Missisippi. Pearls were cultivated in 3 year old oysters for 5 years, as in the 2 remaining years of life they loose their lustre. Then the pearl divers demonstrated. A tour of the “factory”, now in temporary premises, to see sorting, drilling and the assembly of a necklace. Foreign visitors were invited to a “guest room” to enjoy tea and listen to a recorded explanation of diving. Almost an American flavour to the efficiency.
Back to the mainland by launch. About the town, which was typical of any tourist resort town in Japan, with all manner of souvenirs and special cakes, though here with a few crays and crabs and pearls to set the scene. Everyone bought at these centres and must have distributed the wooden boxes of goodies among the family. Photos of fish lying on racks in the sun to dry and just looking across the bay with flags to give colour to the large wickerwork pots. Two rides to Kashikojima, which was pleasant and interesting, but not a real beauty spot. Watched oysters being cleaned, wandered about the rafts, saw a factory for inserting the nucleus in oysters, and enjoyed the people with conical “Vietnam” hats caulking down drums and cages and poles for rafts.
Then a single ride back to Ise through pouring rain and on to Naiku shrine. Watched a Gagaku performance. The setting seemed as beautiful as ever, but the temples were like paper models. Caught in the sunlight everything became magical. Photographs of bridges, temples, and the bamboo protective surround to trees in the park. Back “home” for a curry rice and then brought to the phone to speak to a Washington boy, who turned out to be an architect wandering around in a Mitsubishi sponsored van to study Edo houses. Finally we all got together as he was staying with the person who gave me a lift back to Ise, and so the night was spent talking over coffee.
Wednesday 23 September 1964
Ise – Nagoya (Okazaki?)
Around to the other folk’s house and ate toast and home-made pastries until they must have decided our capacity was unlimited. Then began looking at books from which most of the information on rural houses had been gleaned. A tremendous experience in establishing unity and order: a sudden crystallisation of what I had found in Kyushu without ever expecting to do so. The book was “The rural houses of Japan” with photographs by Yukio Futugawa, and text by Teiji Itoh, published by Bijutsu-Shuppan Sha, Tokyo. Itoh spent some time at Washington Univerity and they had cyclostyled a translation, which I concluded would be well worth getting. Then “Roots of Japanese Architecture”. Suddenly I realised the change in myself. These were things now made my own. Mysteries which had accorded with reality and lost none of their magic. Finally a volume of photographs which showed the slick distortions which are possible. Honesty is needed when the sophisticated look at the simple.
Finally others arrived from an island off Toba, with gifts of pearls for the American, who knew their boy, and also a kicking fish which was duly served sliced up into sashimi, along with a sumptuous meal. You always felt the Japanese found it difficult to make friends among themselves, and so such mixed gathering was like the reconciliation of a great feud, and an occasion for great jubilation. Then off to collect my gear, with the disastrous exception of my parka. (All hands please observe two minutes silence.) Down to the Outer Shrine. Talked in the rain and finally left for Nagoya about 5pm. What weather!!! It just never stopped raining. Discussed all manner of things on the dull trip in the Mitsubishi – Tatami van, or perhaps I should say listened for here was another travelling American with a real chip on his shoulder, and bitter about life in general. He sure jest couldn’t understand why everyone hated the Yanks, while contributing more than his fair share to continuing the tradition. I only hoped this trip would make me a good listener, who tried to understand others rather than justifying myself.
Nagoya never seemed to be reached and we continued on into the countryside. At Okazaki I decided I must quit so bundled out into the wet. Walked a little before deciding it was stupid hitching in the rain at 9pm. Sighting an open garage beside a cop shop I decided this was the place for me, and an enquiry led to a Japanese “big brother” who spoke English. The result was a ride in a police car for a mile to the police barracks, where all luxury was provided. How wonderful can an ofuro be, to just soak because you want to?
Thursday 24 September 1964
Nagoya (Okazaki?) – Hamamatsu
Four of five cops rose about 6.30am so decided it was best to follow. All very casual with a thank-you but nothing more. Then a decision, and pouring rain hardly set the mood. However in an hour I was walking into the centre of Nagoya. What a typical, ugly sprawling mess. Three hours later I was still walking in to the centre. The day was saved by the final discovery of a person in a bank who spoke English and was able to identify the hall. By 12.30pm it was finally reached. Two rows of dreadful buildings stood astride one of the most depressing spaces on earth and almost visible through the rain was the hall. It simply didn’t come off. The proportions and the details never came near to being resolved, and this made such an extravagant statement seem the more ridiculous. It was best studied from magazines and this also saved the reality of what useful rubbish tips the hollow channel columns make, or all the junk jammed beneath the auditorium, or even how the roof didn’t keep any rain off. Caught a bus and walked on to post a letter requesting the forwarding of my parka. Then a ride to the outskirts of Hamamatsu, collecting my pack on the way. Then another car took me into the town and the usual questions led to an invitation home. There must have been a hitch, and I was taken around the town and delivered to a “friends” home. Attached to a church of odd denomination the essential attraction seemed to be that I spoke English, as I was placed in a small room, which was ideal, but quite isolated from the family. Discovered that Pachinko originated in Nagoya and I thought it was a good symbol for the city. Another symbol could have been the cockroach, for animal life abounded in Japan, with such close living. The champion exterminator was in Kufe, and it was terrifying to see the gleam in his eye as he pursued them with a small vacuum cleaner on wheels. After each had been sucked into the bottomless pit, a squirt of DDT powder followed. He also showed what an excellent flame thrower a cigarette lighter could be when pursuing ants.
Wrote to Stephanie Noton, George Szymanich and Reza Hashama.
Friday 25 September 1964
Hamamatsu – Atsugi
Breakfast was delivered to my room in such a completely efficient manner that I was not certain what these folks really thought of foreigners. Eggs, toast, marmalade and instant coffee, with a knife and fork!! Outside it was still a gale, though the tornado centre had passed, so enjoyed the quiet luxury. Last evening I had been given panfried rice, so I didn’t know who was fooling who. Wrote a letter and read a little, but finally decided the initiative was mine so announced immanent departure. On my way, supported by cheers from the hospital balcony downtown, and then a local gave me a lift to clear the town. A second truck ride provided a meal at a wayside pause, with tempura shredded vegetables, rice and soup. It was taken at the special raised floor area of the restaurant, which permited you to squat at the table. On TV saw some of the typhoon damage. Along the way, and in Shizuoka, there were a few houses of a new type with white well-weathered walls, divided into levels by bands. There were discs at each level, the lower ones with a hook and the upper with a bracket to the gutter. The roof was heavy Chinese, as were window details.
At Shizuoka found Toro was only 3kms away, and was offered a guided tour. Off, hunched up in a Mazda, and delighted with the restorations, even when enclosed by a rustic concrete fence.
Back by Honda to my friend’s house. It was very small – only six mats for himself, wife and child – and there was a community kitchen shared by about six apartments. The window looked almost two feet to the wall of the house opposite, and a bird cage filled the gap. Within the room chests of drawers, TV (he was a TV serviceman) and a lounge setee. I could only think of London or Camden House. His generosity was boundless and I ended up with a book on Japanese and a postcard, after turning down cards he wanted to give me from his own collection. Back to my pack, to the satisfaction of mystified but happy faces. On through a dismal town and a lift to Shimizu. The houses here were a sheer delight and I enjoyed walking a long way past the strong overhanging roofs supported by several posts, while the screen wall behind took a hundred different forms. Sometimes only the door was recessed and the wall was in frosted glass with central clear panes. Then a ride on to Atsugi. Fuji revealed itself from the cloud and was certainly magnificent in the dying red light of the day. Then the dense development suddenly gave way at Mishima to rolling hills of forest or market gardening. Lake Hakone set in the midst of the hills and then a toll road descent to the lights of Odawara. At Hiratsuka turned off the “one” to Atsugi, with a large US base (and night clubs, playboys etc just down the road) and so to a construction camp.
I felt completely at ease in such an environment, with a dozen people who knew how to work with their hands, and after a meal of eggs, meat roll, onions and rice ladled out of the great wooden “cask”, we all watched a TV wrestling performance. It was a farce with up to a dozen in the ring, as if anyone was losing the seconds came to help. Confusion, fun, and an honest assessment of what wrestling really is – pure exhibition. Down to the town’s public furo, and, as before, the folks soaked first and washed after. Then up to the construction camp to talk and sleep.
Saturday 26 September 1964
Atsugi – Yokohama
At 7am off by car to the mess hall for breakfast. Rice, eggs, fish, cucumber and sauce. Then back to the barracks, awaiting some message. Down “town” and then to Yokohama, and on the outskirts I was placed on a Kamakura bus with fare paid and three cans of fruit juice in my pack. Befriended on the bus, and so located the Art Gallery (Sakakura) though at first I refused to believe that this was the building because it was so mutilated. The Hachinan Shrine alongside was bad Chinese. Walked down some of the back streets, delighted by the fences: a bamboo fence with natural bamboo growing among it, so that nature and man became indistinguishable; brush with bamboo on either side tied together with black cord; the termination of a fence softened by the overhanging planting or a mound of earth surmounted by a small bamboo fence.
To Daibutsu, but it seemed to me to be a regular tourist trap, with a line of visitors passing steadily by, but not benefiting in the least by the experience. Did not go in to add to the foolishness, so the inevitable photo across the fence.
Back downtown to photograph a timber yard with each piece profusely marked and in the foreground the symbolic Honda and three-wheeled Mazda. Also a junk yard, because Japan seemed to be the country most notable for turning junk to advantage. A single lift back to the Yokohama Rail Station, and wandered through the depressing town. The City Hall (Murano and Mori, 1959) was competent except for some detailing, but dismally dull. The Silk Centre had more polish, but was not outstanding. (Sakakura) Did not find Maekawa’s Concert Hall, though there would be time enough. It would not be as elusive as Tange’s Golf Club House. Today I passed Totsuka three times but failed to find it. Back along the neon streets with a profusion of foreigners, to write up my diary in a Post Office. Walked a few kilometres and found a plot with just grass on it. In Japan decided this was the promised land.
Sunday 27 September 1964
Yokohama – Tokyo
Fortunately no rain, and just walked out onto the road to thumb a truck. The entry was like going along Goldhawk Road but at 7.07am the truck stopped, and this was Tokyo. Just what or where was another question. Half an hour was enough to decide where I was and that a train was the answer for getting to Mass. To Yotsuya, which was exactly at Sophia University, so 8am Mass. Then a physics professor helped me find my bearings and I set off to investigate. At the new Atani Hotel (like an anodised Hilton) there was some major function and hundreds of taxis were bringing thousands of girls in beautiful kimonos. Quite a fashion parade. Then to the Songetsu Art Centre, which was delightful. As always the locals were doing their best to destroy it by erecting canvas awnings over the sculpture court – fortunately temporary in this case. On down Aoyama Ave. to find a real Belluschi building and an American supermarket, obviously for foreigners, with fantastic prices and many foreign faces. Then found the Tokyo Metroplitan Childrens House, which was the most amazing place I had seen anywhere. In the basement were a few mirrors and a robot for fun, but also machines to test the strength of all muscles, woodwork, electrical and scientific rooms, with equipment I would have no idea how to handle. There was always an instructor, but the children seemed to cope with transmitters, saws and flasks. A model plane was almost a complete trainer, and two cars were trainers (from the USA) with film etc. The main level had a hall and various consultation rooms. Then offices and on the second floor a display space with cars and other full size high quality exhibits. The third was like a section of the Chicago or Deutch Museum, but for displays such as butterflies it exceeded anything I had yet seen. The fourth had libraries, classrooms etc and an exhibition of children’s art on “My mother”. The competence, vision, and technical skill was quite embarrassing, and the NZ entries were outstanding for their lack of colour harmony and loss of freedom. The fifth had a superb music room, with a youngster solemnly listening to a symphony, and a fine arts room with dozens of children busy at easles. There was a tremendous sense of purpose, and law and order, though of course bedlam reigned in some sections. It was like a dream come true, and I felt every city should have one, though I still felt that nature remained the greatest teacher of all. Much fun obtaining a bowl of Chinese soup from a small dive.
Then to the national stadium for Tange’s shell roofs. Delighted. Wandered among the sculptural forms, unable to enter. The dull NKH and Olympic Building alongside. Then walked back into the centre of town, past thousands of antique shops, the havoc caused by the motorways, NCR buildings and the like. To the Imperial Hotel and completely captivated. It was raining by now and very dark, so fascinating to enter the serenity of this cave, seeming to be hollowed out of the rock; to sit in a quiet secluded corner to feel apart from yet related to all the activity on levels above and below. I must have sat for almost an hour watching the light playing on the sculptured, crumbling stone. (Frank Lloyd Wrights hotel was demolished in 1967, 3 years after I had been there.) Then a rapid walk back to Sophia in increasing rain, only to find at 9.05pm all was in darkness. I guess I had been too spoilt, so decided the reasonable thing was to ring Earl Taylor. A very warm welcome from Mrs, so armed with directions set out by tube and quickly located the spacious American apartment. TV, brief conversation, and then I was quite unnecessarily given the luxury of the girls room. Too soft to sleep.
Monday 28 September 1964
Pouring with rain. A “genteel” US breakfast and then after the children had left for school I also departed into the wilderness. Walked down Mejiburo, passing a new cathedral of hyperbolic parabaloid concrete shells on a rectangular concrete grid, expressed externally. At present it was completely enclosed by scaffolding, but it promised to be interesting. Then the new hall erected for the games in the grounds of the Imperial Palace. A total write off. The Science Museum alongside was almost completed and the pentagon was shrouded in a E D Stone skin with David’s star for perforation. The exhibits were worthy of a better home. To the NZ Embassy for a friendly welcome – even to “hello” from the Ambassador (Taylor?). Collected mail, my parka from Higeo. (160yen postage) Information. A long time reading the news. Off to Ueno, but found on the way great supplies of old and new books – a real Charing Cross Road style. Searched for and located exactly what I wanted. Roots and Rural Houses. Tempted by those on gardens also.
Finally onward, fortified by peaches at only 2/- a can, and found the Kaikan and Museum of Western Art. Neither had any glamour at night. Rang Austin and found Ann was staying there. Back to Sophia to collect my pack, but at 9pm all was closed, so I was walking to the tube when Eugene Wong Doe saw me in the street. Caught up on the news, and located the flat, so did not reach Austin’s until almost 10pm. Talked until midnight in his luxury flat, but somehow I didn’t feel at ease. Glad to sleep, with hopes of a fine day on the morrow.
Tuesday 29 September 1964
With shutters covering the windows I did not wake until 9.30am. Breakfast with Ann and caught up on all the news. Then by tube to Sophia and took my pack to Eugene’s. More talk to waste the valuable hours of sunshine. Walked to town and photographed the Imperial Hotel. In daylight the ravages of time were too apparent, and much of the charm had gone. You certainly have to live with architecture to capture its many moods. Tokai Bank when located was not helpful, so dashed across the road at 2.59.9 and collected cheques from London. I could breathe again. Walked to the Kabuki Theatre and on seeing an individual clutching tickets I enquired in my best sign language how I could get one, and ended up being presented with a free 1,200yen seat. Rows of charming geishas and bowing men to welcome me, and present me with a programme and a towel. Within the theatre was remarkably intimate for its large capacity and the Odori was already under way. Many Japanese dances were presented, rather in the pattern of a Noh play with short intervals, and people staying out for an item to eat at one the dozens of Sushi, Tempura, or just plain dining rooms. Nothing though was plain, and prices might have been double those outside. A girl must have noticed my empty stomach and presented me with roast chestnuts, while explaining how the whole performance bored her. A change of accent, with Western dancing mixed with Japanese and the odd result did not appeal, as after a time you delight in the reserved symbolism of the traditional poses. Between every act a different immense embroidered curtain was lowered – each apparently donated by some firm. Changes of scenery during acts were by men in black clothing, and it always seemed odd that if the heroine’s clothing came the least out of shape a man rushed across to straighten the folds. Music by finger drums, fiddle and Kyoto. Lingered afterwards to enjoy the display of flower arranging and the various paintings. On departing about six people bowed and scraped and profusely thank me for coming until I actually felt the whole performance had been put on because they were so delighted I could come.
In search of the elusive Ginza, but Tokyo after 6pm was deader than any city I knew. Talked to the student doorman at the Queen Bee where clients spent on the average 4000yen for a few drinks. (Minimum 1,500yen for a drink and a 1,000 for a hostess.) There were 200 hostesses here. One result was an invitation to stay with a friend of his anytime just by looking him up at the Queen Bee. Walked back to Eugene’s and glad to sleep at 11.30pm.
Wednesday 30 September 1964
7.30 Mass and a wander among the Olympic Stadiums. Then found myself inside the National Stadium, to stay poised between the soaring roof and the althetes training for swimming, polo and diving. The small stadium was not as exciting and the floor was having a final clean before use. Passed the whole morning in the two buildings. Saw Austin at the Interview Centre. Trained up to Gakushuin, but disappointed. Called at Waseda, but the atmosphere was dull, so did not locate the school of architecture. Tram to buy my two books and then although only 5.30pm it was too dark to go to Ueno, so investigated a few cameras. Prices seemed reasonable. Raining, so paused in the telegraph centre to write up my diary. Tried to contact Mr Hewatt or Mr Jenkins of the NZ Press Association to see if there were any job prospects during the Olympics.
Back to the flat by 9pm. It was simply impossible to open the door with the very poor key. Tried again. Read “Roots” and familiarised myself with “Rural Houses”. Tried again. Wrote to Frances. Tried again. Provided with a blanket by the next door neighbour. Finally success at 1am. I was just getting off to sleep when Eugene arrived, so all in all spent the morrow half asleep.
Thursday 1 October 1964
Half a Mass and then to Ueno Park. Saw the museums externally as it was still too early in the day. Then to Keikan and fortunately there was a reception in progress. Mingling with the crowd I was able to spend the morning in the two halls. Interesting, but not world beaters. Through the park, with the crowds boating, and eating candy floss in a manner that could not decide between France and America. Tokyo University was large, but red-brick. Located the Architecture Department, but no one of interest, and failed to obtain any data. Down to the Ginza, locating the Tokai Bank and collecting cash from New Zealand. The department stores here were not nearly as impressive as in Osaka – they lacked any character – and Ginza just had nothing to recommend it. In fact I could not believe that this was the “fabulous” Ginza. No sense of quality. Bought film, looked at cameras and decided on an early night, which became 2am by the time some English practice with Eugene’s students was completed, and then Ron came home to talk. The wages Beverly earned as a hostess were really high and adding the tips and the lack of work entailed it was quite a proposition. Interesting tales of the gangster world, which tried so hard to be American.
Friday 2 October 1964
Tokyo – Nikko
At 6am a New Zealander arrived, whose wife of one weeks heritage had tried to murder him and commit suicide. After coming from Iran through India I simply rolled over and went back to sleep. He seemed equally unperturbed and more concerned about the clothes she had ruined, but then what meaning can marriage have without moral standards.
Struggled to Mass and returned to pack and sort gear, minimizing and leaving a parcel at Eugene’s. At 11am caught a train to Ueno and began to walk. A succession of quick and short rides brought me through Nikko to Chuzengi, with the final stretch a spectacular alpine climb of some thirty hairpin bends. (Irohazaka Drive) One of the best yet seen. At the top was a lake with a commercialised corner, surrounded by hills clad in the first colours of autumn. Fortunately all was peaceful and serene. The sun set amid the threatening clouds so down the hill again to Nikko to write on a street bench. Even here it was cold, but at the lake it was bitter. Befriended by a storekeeper and eventually a policeman came along and told me to camp at the Toba Station, so down the hill and, provided with some old benches, set up in an old maintenance shed on the platforms. Tremendous, and warm, so off to sleep. Given 500yen by the crew at the station.
Saturday 3 October 1964
Nikko – Koriyama
The early morning was the most precious time of day, yet the world squandered it on sleep. Walking through the town there was the mist just clearing from dark buildings. Rushing, gurgling water. A cheery greeting from the shopkeeper and up to the shrine – deserted and peaceful. Rinnoji Temple is heavy, large, red and uninspiring. At the Niomon Gate the garish splendour revealed itself fully, as heralded in the pagoda. The Futarasan Shrine showed a little more reserve and then the Daiyuin Mausoleum fell back to the gilding, though the spaces could be fine in the early morning. All this for free as nothing opened until 8am. Then climbed the hill with the Tomb of Leyasu on top. The full splendour of Nikko was revealed on seeing the roofs nestling at the bottom of this majestic natural setting. Even Toshogu Shrine was captivating when seen from above in this light. Back down to find the crowds flocking in to shatter the serenity. (“I wish I loved the human race….”) A sidewalk artist was producing dragons with unbelievable speed forming the entire body by one stroke with a broad brush and four different colours on it. Downtown, with a few Olympic athletes looking mystified at all the tourist shops, and on through the lane of cedars. (Cryptomeria Avenue) Olympic buses had a police escort and the road was lined with cops in anticipation of one. Where so many were found is a mystery, unless every box with a little red light was empty. The police in these boxes seemed to spend a lot of their time giving directions to locals or tourists anyway. A lift to Utsonomiya and as a result provided with a meal. Talked and then on through the typical town, calling at a Masda Car Sales Showroom on the way. It was festooned with garish paper wreathes to announce a new model (Familia). Models here are only changed about every two years. 14,000 people receive invitations to come along and collect a gift and inspect the cars, and all these will be followed up, so sales pressure is obviously “on”, though all I brought away was a great bag of cookies. Walked several miles, but worth it to find a tremendous farmhouse and another just a little further on. Short lifts but finally a truck to Koriyama and an invition to stay with the driver. Along the way were excellent farmhouses with great thatched roofs.
The family was poor and unspoilt by sophistication. The son’s fiancé came along, after a steaming hot bath in a wooden tub, immaculately adorned in a lavish kimono, with chicken, fish and cakes, with a local port wine. What a feast, but it was embarrassing to have all this provided just for me. More excursions and the meal ended with a beef steak. The father and mother were wonderful people, mature, experienced in a hard life, and I had never felt such an atmosphere since my Christmas dinner in Canada. The yakata I was given was thick, and lavishly lined for the cold. The son and I slept in a wonderful attic, with exposed rough beams, blacked from time. Very heavy quilts were provided and the dashing damsel helped us into bed, and arranged the blankets perfectly after we were settled. Such luxury, but rather wasted on a sleeper who likes to toss about. Winters here must be hard on the people.
Sunday 4 October 1964
Koriyama – Furukawa
Breakfast was again a “special” meal. Coffee has been bought especially and I could not explain that I preferred green tea. Then meat and eggs. Photographs of the house and family – perfect counterparts. About the town, but no sign of a church. Photos of some street scenes, an old thatch roof completely covered with moss (north side only) and a woman and child wearing one of the beautiful cloaks seen everywhere around here. The old part of the town had great character, and good fortune had permitted me to sleep in the centre of this area. A slight mist had lifted, so out on the number 4 with some long walks and a myriad of small rides to Furukawa. The scenery was dull and Sendai seemed endless when on foot, but the sun set over a panorama of rice fields with thousands of “haystacks”, with bundles stacked across each other around a central post. A lift on a bus and then some students arranged for me to sleep in a restaurant for the night. Matsushima was very close but too difficult to reach, for more scenery.
Monday 5 October 1964
Furukawa – Fukuoka?
Awakened about 6.30am with the offer of a lift, so bundled out of bed and by 12.00 reached Morioka. At first fog, with fields of rice, almost all harvested and stacked in a spiral. The grand rural houses continued in small patches. The asymmetrical type had now returned to the symmetrical. Obviously Tona was an area in which to spend some time, but by now it was raining heavily and discretion took the day. Morioka was large and ugly, like Sendai. Sat in the railway station to mend my saddle bag and finish a letter to my folks. It was still raining so walked a little, decided it was senseless, and returned to continue out of town. Rides were short and difficult to obtain, so I got drenched, occasionally seeking shelter under a great thatched overhang to stare at the rafters exposed in the gloom. Often the great void over the barn was packed with vegetables hanging to dry. On the rough black beams some horses, and in the floor a hearth with a magnificent iron kettle. These kettles were a speciality of the area and in the lavish store/ restaurant complex beneath Morioka station it was tempting to buy, but it was harder to imagine anything heavier. North from Morioka there was much open land and one magnificent group of houses, with both L and rectangular type. Walked through Ishinohe and found fish roasting over charcoal. As magnificent as any tasted, with the atmosphere set by the cold and the wet. Then a lift with some engineers and an extremely welcome invitation home. A steaming furo and we sat around the open hearth. A heap of charcoal was placed in the centre of the ashes and live coals were brought from the heater. A typical evening meal, but the mother did not join us. The women in this country work from dawn to dark and always have a smile (toothless??) as they perform every task which could be asked of them. They seldom eat with the menfolk.
Tuesday 6 October 1964
Fukuoka? – Hokkaido
A real Japanese breakfast with curd soup, seaweed, rice and pickles. Photos to show the use of a corridor as insulation, so that it can be added to the room in any direction; the hearth set in the floor; the heater in the kitchen backing onto the furo and the rather chaotic “old English” kitchen.
Walked out of town (photo of women digging a drain) and a lift to a pleasant thatched town, right on the Aomori Prefecture boundary. Photos of three typical houses. Several lifts to Towada, which was notable for little except more delicious fish. Some dusty port towns on the way. Then with a salesman. A view of the sea and followed the coast much of the way to Aomori. There by 3.30pm, but my host insisted on providing me with coffee, and from the very western coffee bar we moved to a restaurant for a fillet of pork, eaten in our own special room, with sake and dried cuttle fish as a hors d’oeuvre. Then taken to the terminal and given a 290yen ticket to Hokkaido. At 6.30pm the luxury boat sailed. Amusing to find carpeted rooms for folks to squat in or sleep, just like the back of a Noh theatre. The “Tsugaru Maru” (Tokyo) is apparently new on the run, and hence it was interesting to find such extravagances as full reclining seats in the first class reserved lounge, only one deep on each side of the aisles. The only entertainment was a drunk who invited me for a pepsi, bought me two bottles of beer, and then disappeared. I gave away the beer, and ended up talking to another friend. We arrived about 10.30pm and everyone else seemed to belong to some sort of group. There was no suitably patriotic flag which seemed to deserve my unanimous support, so wandered off to fight my own battles. My immediate encounter was with an offer of milk and supper, with a taxi ride down town for sushi. The lodging follow-up fell flat when I determined that this was sake generosity. Wandered back past sexy nightclubs and an unusual variety of pavement cooking (mainly fish) to finally relocate the wharf terminal. The drunks were just being moved from the railway station waiting room for midnight closing so a definite “no” was changed into a comfortable padded bench with only the minimum persuasion.
Wednesday 7 October 1964
Hakodate – Sapporo
At 4.30am people began arriving, but so what, and back to sleep for another hour. The sun was just breaking the clouds, playing a spectacular game with the narrow lanes and drainpipe chimneys. The town was almost New Zealand and tram tracks quickly disappeared and open land was reached. The “cream truck” stopped at all the interesting houses, with moss covered thatched roofs, so there were ample opportunities to photograph. Silos of more recent vintage, and moderate sized mansard roof barns. Weatherboards were the rule, though of very thin section. Paint was never seen, and the timber weathered beautifully. White shoji were only seen through the glass so the general atmosphere was sombre. The Mondrians had gone.
The hills were covered with autumn foliage of a thousand hues, though the impression was not as brilliant as NE USA. A lift to Mori, past some spectacular still lakes with the surface scattered with lilies. The peacefulness of Scotland. An invitation to breakfast with eggs, fried luncheon, rice and coffee. The house was small and old, with tremendous character, and we sat around the stove looking at albums of his wartime exploits, which he did not intend to show, but which followed some photos of Manila and Canton. Friends leaned through the vine shaded window to add a comment or two. Downtown had some fine buildings. Sketched a roof detail and several photos with the barren mountain in the background. On past delightful fishing villages of uniform grey, with vast racks drying seaweed or fish. Capstans hauled the boats ashore and everyone worked on nets or seaweed. Paused a while at Ochamambe to wander down the backstreets. Sake jars. Across the dull landscape with more barns and silos but the thatched roof had gone and now there were iron “tile” roofs. Slowly the form changed to pitch or gable and appendages broke the form. The roof lost its dominance and you were back at NZ. The north coast was followed for miles. Delightful bays, craggy rocks, tunnels, and oh those road works!! Slats disappeared from the windows and the form became so typical of Canada or Finland – except sliding horizontally. Kitchens became lean to. Entries were often added, in the manner we know so well. Small work camps had all the flavour of NZ, with the addition of a drain pipe chimney. One resolution of the day was to begin a serious study of “The Roots of NZ Architecture”. We know too little about ourselves. Otaru was just a large town and darkness fell, although it was only 5.30pm. A final lift, after a long walk, ended in a fruit warehouse with a small tatami room and more grapes and apples than I could eat. After unloading the truck we drank o-Cha around a stove, which was worthy of any sculpture exhibition.
Thursday 8 October 1964
Sapporo – Aomori
Up with the dawn, just before six, but the market was already alive and most trucks were already off to their shops. Sapporo was a very dismal town, of grid-iron plan, with regular Canadian, Finland, NZ buildings. The centre had a wide boulevard, isolated by traffic streets. The axial climax of the TV tower blinked out the time: the loudspeakers on the telegraph poles garbled on unintelligibly, with occasional bursts of music. Walked on encouraged by an entertaining hydrant. Walked and walked, keeping a sustained pace for some hours. Little hope of a lift in rush hour traffic. Finally a meat van stopped and it turned out that I was on the wrong road thanks to a lousy map from the Tourist Office. They took me on a tour of the city (merely confirming the previous void) and finally I was landed on the right road on the outskirts of the city. A short lift and then an entertaining ride with a spiv who thought I was American and would give him a ranch as a result. Glad to step out into the brilliant autumn colours of Jozankei, rendered dull by the mist, but much more exciting. This was a real spa resort town with lavish hotels and gilded trimmings. At the end of the vast stretch of tarmac a sad sign confirmed that the gravel path carved out of the bush was the 230. A lift to the top of Nakayama Pass, where a muddy bear, a deer, some tourists and Abdul were eventually left wondering just who was supposed to be amusing who. Then good fortune brought a lift all the way to Hakodate, finally arriving at 6.40pm. At first rolling country decked with autumn colours, then Lake Toya and over a short hill to the sea. Some seascape and across the hill to descend on Oshamambe. Dark and wet following the magnificent fishing village just north of Mori. Deposited my bag at the Ship Terminal and a drunk came along and firmly attached himself to me. Around the town, which was a dismal port city with a sordid night life, and tried to shake him off by letting him pay for sake and pipis. No luck, so I tried a hard line, although he was so likeable it was difficult. When I tried to sleep he came back, and finally I was so exhausted I went to the police. The end result was no sleep, but at least the peace and quiet of an office to write up my diary in. At 11.20pm the boat sailed, but an hour before that I was the first person sound asleep on the tatami floor.
Friday 9 October 1964
Aomori – Sakata
Concluded the night’s sleep (?) in the waiting room and left at 6.15am. The markets were coming to life, with a delightful array of fish. Short lifts through Hirosaki, a post town, though almost destroyed. Some very fine large thatched roofs on the way, but then the country was dull and the roads rugged. Followed the rice fields past the lake but no sign of the Nara House. Then south of Akita the road followed the coast, passing glorious fishing villages. The dying sun was just breaking through bold clouds to form a tremendous backdrop to a sea whipped up by the wind. Roofs often nestled into the sand dunes. The villages were on the shore and yet expressed a great desire to be protected either by siting, fencing or even the placing of the tall rice drying racks a few feet from the walls. South of Honjo, where the road again followed the coast, high palisades of thin timber poles or split timber, often with unusual triangular doorways, stood almost against the houses. Their rugged silhouette against the wind torn sky, like the brush fences to the north, was man’s defiance to the desolation of the area. Pine trees, rough roads and perhaps the waves scattering spray across the new road, built as always by the women, but now with black mouth cloths as well as forehead bands, so that I reminisced about the Muslim world. In the dark and wet, dropped in the wilderness, somewhere outside Sakata. Bought some filled bread rolls, the usual banana and coffee, and provided with free cocoa by the storekeeper. Talked and wrote a little in the light. Walked a few miles and decided on an almost completed building. A good dry Thai bed.
Saturday 10 October 1964
Sakata – Shimoseki
A threatening sky, some rain, and the isolation of being alone in the almost finished building. To look, to absorb – that is good, but to build – that is reality. Decided I must try for that boat, for to wait was to let life slip by. Out into the rain. A lift through dull country back to the coast, and then walked through small fishing villages. The sea was crushing the road embankment and sinking the concrete spurs into the sand. Some boats were drawn up on the beach or sheltering at the protected entrance to a river; stone roofs to the houses; glass carboy floats to the nets, a solitary house poised perilously on a rock as though waiting to be swept away. A forlorn cemetery with some conventional tombstones, but mostly just wooden pillars protected by a small roof. Crowded, like everything in Japan. A police jeep stopped to give me a lift and then wanted passport details, which left me laughing merrily as they copied down my height and colour of eyes assuming these to be number and name. Took the vehicle’s number, and left them to sort out their own problems, by calling headquarters on the radio.
Back into the hills and the character of the towns changed radically. (though nothing similar to Tamajimata which was close by, but on a road I could not locate) Red, of deep bodied colour, so contrasting to the vermilion laquer, was a pleasant change from the completely uniform grey. After photographing a new house to show how timber framing here was based on the 4x4 post with the infill panel, and the morticed joint rather than the nail, it was a long walk into Murakami. The main street was a delightful zig-zag which turned each section into a small precinct. I hoped that the bypass road would be completed soon.
A few kilometres out of town there was a junction, and after half an hour extracting doubtful information, a bus appeared over the horizon, squeezed me on, and disappeared down the side road, across the hills, with views of the snow capped mountains beyond, to emerge at Shimoseki. Pouring with rain and by 4pm there was little enough light in Japan anyway. Delighted with the earthiness and reality of the Sato house. Everyone should visit these houses to see how beautifully a space can express a way of life. What a delight to cross the street and be invited to stay the night. All worries about the necessity of being at Niigata by nightfall disappeared. Gathering around the raked ashes of the hearth, logs were brought and soon the kettle was bubbling while the smoke wandered up into the black void interlaced with encrusted beams. In the spacious kitchen, lined with pots and pans, a meal was prepared and we retired to the dining room, taking hot charcoal to fill braziers of knarled wood and the pit beneath the table. Through the grille the flickering of the highly polished dull red surfaces. A bath at the hot springs. On TV we watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Then to bed in a room opening onto the garden, containing the shrine of the recently deceased father of the family, with burning joss sticks and offerings of fruit and cakes surrounding the decorated photograph. Photographs always seemed to have been a feature of Japanese life as we perused not only the present album but also the old family albums. Outside the house a rattan screen and small wooden sign indicated the period of mourning, but within there was almost jollity about the death. The Japanese don’t show any emotion at all, and the exterior tells you nothing about the interior.
Sunday 11 October 1964
Shimoseki – Niigata
The light flooded in, transforming the whole house and it seemed to indicate the same hope for the day ahead as does the sun falling through the early mist onto the forest floor. The scale here was also grand; the space not limited but just defined. After breakfast watched NZ being defeated in the rowing fours, and Finland winning the basketball. Back to the Watanabe House to see the interior and spent hours just absorbing and sketching the transition from street to rough atrium, to tea room, to garden. This was living, but it seemed almost too immaculate.
Walked on out of town, photographing the tall rice racks, and came running back onto the road to just catch a car to Sakamachi. Shibata was dull, but had a great take-away tempura shop. More flat fields and then buildings begin to appear at odd angles. This was Niigata – a crazy, crazy city, at least around the railway station and port where the earthquake damage had been heaviest. Nothing was vertical or horizontal, and many buildings had subsided into the sand, and could more easily be entered from the first floor. Some structures were already being demolished, some were being braced and underpinned preparatory to lifting or lowering; many were still occupied. It was a tremendous example of the useful life of a city, and building for the inevitable replacement. Across the river life was normal with pleasant shopping verandahs and more humble markets. To Mass in a small church of revolting St Suplice art and you were left wondering at the contrast between the beautiful simplicity and practicality of Shimoseki and the ugliness of a priest in Renaissance robes clambouring up steps to reach a foolishly high plywood imitation gold, liturgically bad exposition throne while the organ groaned out bad music. So we were baptising a culture were we?
Back to the city to leave on the 8.44pm train, timed by a guard with a stopwatch. A change at Niitsa and then in a moderately comfortable seat of the second class unreserved type wrote and read a little, trying to sleep off the darkness after Nagaoka.
Monday 12 October 1964
Niigata – Yokohama
Exactly on time we reached Ueno at 6.37am. No additional fare to go on to Yotsuga for Mass at Sophia University. Woke up Eugene and Ron to talk for a while and then left my pack as the lock had finally succumbed and was no longer useable. On to Shibuya and by tram to the Komazawa Stadium. The atmosphere was magnificent, but everything was so immaculate you just could not believe it. The setting was a superb background for a great diversity of people, each with their own attitude towards the games. Watched some hockey and then back to Shibuya. Rather confusing to emerge on the fourth floor of a department store, but sorted it out and ended up at the National Gymnasium which was revelling in the atmosphere and now surrounded by a host of sculptural works. Decided that there was no time to go to the National Stadium, so direct to Tokyo Station and Messageries Maritimes. To put it politely the woman was most unhelpful, merely saying it was impossible, that the boat had been fully booked, and that there was no time for the many formalities anyway. Depressing to say the least, but they refused to answer any further queries, so finally I wandered off, deciding eventually to try the boat at Yokohama. At 2pm began buying cameras and at 3.30pm finally closed the deal. It seemed very reasonable. Now there was obviously no time to go to the embassy, so direct to Eugene’s. There could have been nothing of importance anyway. Collected my pack, books and parcels left while I was in Hokkaido, emerging after a few whirlwind minutes feeling like a camel. Back to Yotsuga and on to Yokohama, changing at Tokyo. Yokohama Station was still a long way from the docks, so changed to a Sachomachi train and finally plunged into a taxi for a last desperate attempt. The Silk Building clock said 5.25pm and sailing time was 5pm. Panic. The south pier was crowded with the Olympic ships – Oriana, Iberia, Fair Sky and several others – and no one seemed to know where the Laos would be. Back to central pier by taxi and there was the friendly funnel. The sailing time posted as I dashed up the gangway was 10pm. Relief. From person to person and finally a ticket was issued, but I could not believe I was really to go until after the ship had left. A meal to relax and then downtown to find the Kaikan, but though I must have been within a few blocks it is too elusive. A photo of the Olympic ships and back on board before 9pm.
Cargo delays. The farewelling crowd dwindled a little and the singing deadened. It was almost midnight when the ropes were released and finally the reality dawned. My magnificent Japanese holiday was over. They say “The world will end not with a bang but a whimper” but this trip seemed to have ended with a bang. So desuka?