We began our day with the usual hazzle of six people trying to ready themselves fast for a long day of sightseeing. Our first destination was Sakura city, and the National History Museum of Japan.
The museum’s main exhibition consisted of a more or less chronological representation of Japan’s history, with quite a few very well executed dioramas in all sizes, stylish retro 3d-maps with lots of blinking leds etc. I found the exhibits about eh Ainu people and the Ryukyu kingdom especially interesting, along with the Meiji era and the clash of traditional japan and the modern world. As Japan had been more or less closed to the outside world for centuries, the speed with which they adopted all the inventions the industrial world had to offer seems breathtaking. English narration through headphones was available as were discount tickets for students. All in all, I think the museum offers a thorough and honest look into Japan’s past.
After having lunch at the museum, Tatsuya, one of our ultra-kind student counterparts here, took us in his car to the Sakura Samurai Houses. The Samurai houses are a group of houses built in the Edo era for middle class samurai and periodically restored ever since. My guess is that not much of the original houses remain, but by sticking to the traditional methods of rebuilding, the houses have retained their original form. It was interesting to actually walk around in this type of building with its wooden floors covered by tatami and screen doors. Judging from how cold we all felt when not in sunlight leads me to believe that the samurai were not too bothered by cold weather. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that almost every wall had either a poster explaining something, a fire extinguisher or some other piece of modern paraphernalia rendering true “edo-era” photos impossible.
As the sun was already setting, we traveled to Narita-San Shinshoji temple in Narita, an hour’s travel by train from Tokyo. The temple was impressive for it’s size and style. With many courtyards and pagodas and various buildings of religious significance not always clear to us, Narita-San made an impression. By this time I was starving and freezing, but still managed to operate the camera well enough to snap some decent photographs of the mighty structures at dusk. After placing some coins into a wishing well in one of the main temple buildings, someone noticed what looked like a vending machine a few meters away. When asked, our hosts replied that it was a “lottery ticket vending machine”, how about that?