Ajaccio art

Sunny Ajaccio’s old streets are lined with beautiful, mellowed, old buildings. Muted shades of ocha and cream have been faded by decades of sun.

As well as attractive architecture you can also find a wealth of detailed wall art too. Whether it is an ornate Stormtrooper or a weathered woman.

A pretty door in faded baby blue provides the perfect backdrop to display local produce while the combination of brick red and air force blue makes an eye-catching sight.

The husband is once again dispatched as a photo prop (he loves it really!) while the iconic Corsican symbol can be found everywhere.

The eyecatching symbol is called ‘La Testa di Moru’ – the Moor’s head.

It originates in the Kingdom of Aragon and has also been used in neighbouring Sardinia since the Aragonese conquest in 1297.

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Lonely Church

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Sometimes you stumble across something amazing, literally in the middle of nowhere and that is the case with the lovely Santissima Trinità di Saccargia.

On-route from Alghero we spot this stripey marvel from the main road and can’t help but pull over for a closer look.

The church is the most important Romanesque site in the island and makes for an arresting sight sat all alone.

The striking stripey construction is entirely in local stone – black basalt and white limestone, with a typical Tuscan Romanesque style.

The church was finished in 1116 over the ruins of a pre-existing monastery, and consecrated on October 5 of the same year.

Spanish touches

Alongside the stunning cathedral, Alcazar and other beautiful sights to be found in Seville, there are also a wealth of tiny details to be found everywhere you look.

Whether it’s the eternally fascinating, detailed alazulejo tiles that serve as everything from wine adverts to house numbers, to the old tourist posters from yester-years.

Even rows of cheap leather cuffs take on a more exotic enticing air under the Spanish sunshine.

Multi painted plates, tiles and even thermometers are given the colourful treatment.

Even though the days of straw donkeys and plastic maracas might be a thing of the past you can still find plenty of sterotypically Spanish items to buy.

I love the tiny little Spanish dancer outfits! And a final drizzle of Seville’s Spanish flavour.

 

 

Hida folk village

Our final outing from Takayama is to the Hida folk village, a pretty, open air museum showcasing the architecture and lifestyles of the area.

It’s also an excuse (as if we need any) to dress up in some traditional costumes . .  don’t we look cute

Covering approximately 99,000 square meter site of sloped- and thatched-roof houses, this model of a folk village has over 30 buildings, recreating Hida’s historical look.

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You can try your hand at some traditional crafts as well as having a go with some toys!

The man gets to grips with stilts, amusing as his tiny legs are almost the same width . . .

In each building, everyday articles that recall the life and culture of mountain farming villages are displayed.

Many of the buildings were brought from their original sites to preserve them and the structures range from 100 to 500 years in age.

Some of the homes are used to host different activities or experiences, such as crafts or seasonal events.

Rather belated I spot the (still cute) warning signs about snakes . .  after traipsing through all the long grass!!

The folk museum is worth a visit to see the variety of architectural styles of the region.

Tiny and traditional

A last look at the wonderful village of Ogimachi now. Just a glut of photos of all the quirky little sights.

Below are several statues of Studio Ghibli, famous anime creations.

To the left is No Face from Spirited Away, the large cuddly looking one is BIG Totoro and the little witch is Yubaba.

The rows of houses look straight out of a fairy tale. You almost expect a wicked witch to beckon you in.

Water lilies fill a picturesque pond while a pretty field of pink Cosmos forms a carpet of blooms.

Just drink in the views of these adorable abodes.

A whole host of magically scrotumed raccoon dogs are discovered around a corner!

Just outside of the main village you can find a more peaceful, verdant scene as lush rice fields stretch into the distance.

Heading back for a final wander through the village we find more tiny details.

A traditional Japanese garden fills us with some zen peacefulness as the bamboo water feature gently and hypnotically ‘boc bocs’.

Water is everywhere around this tranquil spot, from rivers to streams, ponds to water features.

I can’t get enough of these beautiful, huge houses. They are so different to anything we’ve seen before.

Many of the houses are now open as museums so we head inside one of them to get some views out.

Up in the eaves you get another perspective on this bustling little village. Briefly getting some respite from the crowds of tourists that throng Ogimachi.

Just as we prepare to leave, the rain starts, which is a good excuse to get out the very girly umbrella.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Ogimachi life as much as we loved visiting.

Tiny Takayama details

This post is mainly random shots of more delicious details from around Takayama.

Above the man sticks his head in a regional icon – a Sarubobo – AKA monkey baby!.

These are red human-shaped dolls, with no facial features, made in a variety of sizes.

Traditionally, sarubobos are made by grandmothers for their grandchildren as dolls, and for their daughters as a charm for good marriage, good children and to ensure a well-rounded couple.

Some more raccoon dogs with their magical expanding scrotums can be found hiding around corners.

Meanwhile sumptuous coloured fabrics are piled high in local shops, ready for making into kimonos.

A pharmacy window attracts my attention with its display of old medicine labels.

Back in the little Sanmachi Suji District now. This consists of three streets in the heart of Takayama’s old town, which lies just to the east of the Miya-gawa River.

The streets are lined with traditional houses, shops, restaurants, sake breweries and cafes. These three quaint streets are among the most picturesque in Japan, and gives you a feel of what Japan looked like around the turn of last century.

But modernity is never too far away in the shape of wacky posters and eyewateringly priced meats – ‘high priced parts’ anyone?

Plus there’s always some graffiti paste ups for me to enjoy too,

Next up we’re catching the bus and heading for the hills to explore the staggeringly beautiful Shirakawa-go, an area with over 100 traditional thatch-roof houses, known as gassho-zukuri in Japanese.

Final details

A last look now at the sumptuous shrines and temples of the UNESCO World Heritage site at Nikko.

Toshogu Shrine, one of the main sites at Nikko, is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.

Ieyasu is enshrined at Toshogu as the deity Tosho Daigongen, “Great Deity of the East Shining Light”.

Initially it was a simple mausoleum but Toshogu was enlarged into the spectacular complex seen today by Ieyasu’s grandson Iemitsu during the first half of the 1600s.

Nikko is very different from other shrine complexes in Japan.

The ornate wood carvings and large amounts of gold leaf that decorate the buildings is seldom seen elsewhere in Japan, where simplicity has been traditionally stressed in shrine architecture.

Detail is everywhere from the subtle patterns of shutters to the beautifully ornate multi layered roofs.

Outside of the shrine complex modernity intrudes once again with the man sizing up a vending machine in a random car park! Seventeen ice was one of our favourites . . . .

We’re drawn to stalls selling a variety of food on sticks. Easily identified are salted fish but I am not sure whether the white things are marshmallows or mochi.

Next up we’re off to Kanmangafuchi Abyss to admire the line of statues of Jizo, a Bodhisattva who cares for the deceased.

Nearing Nikko

After the excitement of our first ever bullet train ride we arrive in the small town of Nikko.

Nikko itself is a fairly average Japanese town, nothing too unusual (EXCEPT IT’S IN JAPAN!)

We’re actually heading to Nikko National Park, a scenic place of natural beauty and ornate shrines.

We meander through the town until we reach one of the first tourist hot spots.

The red bridge across the swollen river at the gateway to Nikko National Park is Shinkyo – The Sacred Bridge.

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It crosses the Daiya River and belongs to the Futarasan Shrine and is known as one of the three most beautiful bridges in Japan.

The bridge was registered as World Heritage in December 1999. Shinkyo measures 28 meters long, 7.4 meters wide, and stands 10.6 meters above the Daiya River.

After admiring the striking red structure for a while we head onward to our destination.

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It’s a grey day but that only seems to make Nikko even more mysterious and lush.

Ancient stone shrines are coated with verdant green moss and twists of paper wishes adorn the trees.

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Before we reach the first shrine, its presence is signalled by the obligatory wooden stalls selling good luck charms and amulets.

Certain amulets are known as omamori (お守り) They contain a small prayer inside a decorative silky cloth, they are stamped with the site’s name, and hang from a thread.

They’re for  putting on or in your phone, purse, wallet, home wall or pocket.

Above and below you can also see detail of a kumade, a wide rake made of bamboo, traditionally used to sweep the fallen leaves or grains.

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During the Edo period, people started decorating kumade with good luck charms and selling them at shrines, to help “raking in” success, wealth, safety and happiness.

Below are some more multi coloured omamori, just waiting to provide wealth, wellbeing or other good luck to a shrine goer.

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We’ve reached the magical site of Nikko now so prepare to be inundated with decorative shrines and mossy details!

For Sakes sake . . .

Another of my Japanese obsessions is the beautifully ornate Sake barrels often found displayed close to shrines.

There is a particularly impressive Sake barrel display close to the entrance of Meiji Jingu Shrine in Shibuyu.

When displayed near a Shinto shrine, such barrels are called kazaridaru, which means “decoration barrels.”

The barrels on display are empty of wine but they do have plenty of spiritual significance.

In some of Japan’s oldest texts the word used for sake is miki, written with the characters for ‘god’ and ‘wine.’ People would go a shrine festival and be given rice wine to drink.

These days, the word miki is reserved for rice wine used in Shinto rites and festivals and drinking it is an act of symbolic unification with the gods.

Therefore Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers have a win win relationship where the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the Sake that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

Brewers will tend to provide a single bottle, or an empty barrel for display as it’s the kimochi (gesture) that’s important.

Empty barrels received as donations are stacked and bound together, then fixed with rope to a simple frame to keep them from falling over.

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A brief note about the shrine itself – Meiji Jingu Shrine  is a Shinto shrine located in a 175 acre forest. The peaceful forest has around 120,000 trees of 365 different species and is a great people watching spot.

The shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.

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Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi

 

After briefly stopping to admire the Imperial Palace we head to the quirky little areas of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi.

Briefly stopping to ponder what on earth this rather graphic billboard is advertising!

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The area was unharmed during the firebombings in WWII, so there are plenty of temples and old buildings from the Edo Period still standing.

There are also a lot of cat themed shops and sights to be found dotted around!

Whether they are golden good luck kitties nestled in with Dara dolls  . .

Or painted multi-coloured felines reminding us that No Cat, No Life!

We also experience our first ever Japanese cemetery. They are incredibly calm and beautiful.

A Buddhist gravestone usually has an obelisk with the deceased person’s family name carved in it, and sometimes an image such as a Buddha or family crest.

If family or friends are physically unable to visit a love one’s grave they can pay a Buddhist priest to write a special prayer on a wood plaque which is left at the gravesite.

These are the tall wooden sticks you see behind the stones above and below.

Below are a selection of deities found in the cemetery including a cozy looking fellow in a red knitted cap. This is a common sight.

In Japan, the color red is associated closely with a few deities in Shinto and Buddhist traditions, and statues of these deities are often decked in red clothing or painted red

The wrappd up little dude above is most likely to be Jizo Bosatsu – Protector of Children, Childbirth, and the Torments of Hell

One of Japan’s most beloved deities, Jizō is the guardian of travellers, the hell realm, children, and motherhood.

Everywhere in Japan, you will find statues of Jizō Bosatsu wearing a red or white cap and bib, adorned with toys, protected by scarfs, or piled high with stones offered by bereaved parents.

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We then enjoyed a quick jaunt around Shinobazu pond in Ueno Park where you can rent a kitsch swan boat!

Mega cute! The boats were packing up for the night so we couldn’t hire one though.

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Then another selection of wooden Ema. Wishes written by the devout and the hopeful.