Thursday, 25 February 2016

History Museums in Japan

I spent a few days wandering around cold empty museums and empty cold ancient temples. Late February is not the coziest time to travel on the wet west coast of Japan.

Wet snow in soggy parking lots.

The main attraction of the area was the Izumo Taisha. This is the area where the Japanese state originated. The waves of immigrants would have come from the mainland and the Korean peninsula and found a relatively flat area suitable for irrigation and growing rice. An ocean for fishing, mountains for timber and a local population of stone age hunters and gatherers. There was iron ore (and even silver ore) to be smelted and forged into good old weapons and horse trappings. The specific-to-the-place Shinto religion was born here with all the myths of creation along with it.

All fascinating but they still make me nervous. A lot of power, a lot of ignorance, a lot of exploitation and a lot of violence. But the continuous ingenuity is impressive. Stability and a rich culture evolved still filled with these things over hundreds and then thousands of years.

Driving a rent-a-car through the ancient depopulating rice farming villages and stopping at a 7-11 to get a plastic bottle of tea and some chocolate almonds and a few rice balls.....was disorientating.

Shinto shrines spook me more than a little. Organized primitive religions....rituals and priests etc.

There was a lot to digest and talk about. My goal was textile research. Textiles don't last that long in the climate of Japan so much of my time was spent looking at the culture that produced the textiles. The woodblock prints are always a good source of textile patterns.

This Samurai had some seriously great stencil patterns on his indigo dyed clothing.

There were some 5th century spinning whorls and a few iffy looking 6th century fishing dudes challenging the local bearded authorities in a diorama. Only the guy with the sword had a blue tunic that indicated that indigo was on someone's farmland near the rice and hemp.

The ancient weathered wooden buildings with the studied grand understatement and perfect architectural balance and flawless craftsmanship made the hair on my arms lie flatter in respect.

The wood should have been knotless and there was a perfect wooden patch over the one knot found on the hundreds of screen pillars. Jeeeeeeeeeeesh. Don't offend the perfect gods with a small knot. 

Aghhh Japan.


  1. The wood grain pattern, never mind the patched knot. Truly divine.

    1. Those places are divine. And the details are heavenly.