Text by: Lucía Rodríguez
Photos by: Lucía Rodríguez and Silvia de la Fuente
Another day as a participant in the Mirai Program starts. As we get on the bus, the guides of the yellow group, Kei-san and Tomoko-san, would explain the schedule for the day, the places we were going to visit, and other interesting data so we could understand better the idiosyncrasy of the Japanese people.
On our third day in Japan we visited the National Museum in the morning, then we had a break to taste some delicious salmon and a variety of salads and desserts at a Japanese restaurant, and after a visit to the Roppongi Hills Observation Deck at Mori Tower, our group divided in two and we got on the bullet train, traveling to Hiroshima and Kyoto respectively.
Tokyo National Museum.
Among the different buildings, sadly we only had time to visit the Honkan, the main gallery. The building itself is worth visiting due to its beautiful architecture, and there you can find pieces from the Jomon times to the Edo period. We saw from delicately embroided kimonos and ancient poetry anthology writings, to impressive Ukiyo-e works that displayed not only natural scenery, but images of the daily life of Japanese people from the 17th century.
We got a bit disappointed because after looking for the noh´s masks for a while, we were informed that they were temporarily out of exhibition (fortunately, we were lucky enough to learn about noh theatre during our visit to Kyoto).
As a side note regarding the cute mascots from the museum, they´re called Touhaku-kun (トーハクくん) and Yurinoki-chan (百合の樹, named after the tulip tree). Touhaku-kun features “Dancing people”(terra-cotta tomb figurine) called haniwa. It struck me I had seen it somewhere, and then I remembered that it appeared in some manga (I remember that in Takahashi Rumiko´s work “Ranma ½”, sometimes, as the characters become disappointed at a certain point, instead of simply turning into stone or appear as frozen figures, they transformed into these haniwa sculptures). It is interesting the influence of ancient pieces like these on pop culture, I really admire how diligently Japan treasures its folklore.
Another curious detail I learnt from Japan is that they give importance to their mascots (some neighborhoods in Tokyo have one, as Ueno has its panda, the kappa of Asakusa´s Kappabashi street…). The Tokyo National Museum mascots even had their merchandising available at the museum shop: keychains, pins, cookies with their shape… and in some products not only these adorable characters images were displayed, they even contained some sort of bibliographic card with their names, hobbies, and such.
Even if it is not directly related to the visit itself, I have to mention that we were lucky enough to enjoy the colour change in the foliage, called kouyou (紅葉), which made the scenery stunning even though it was at its final stage. In Japan, every season has its appeal, and autumn is a great time to visit the country. I was really keen on experiencing the momijigari (紅葉狩), literally “autumn-leaf hunting”, and after having a taste of it, I am determined to plan my next trip to Japan in this season to fully enjoy it.
Here´s a link to the National Museum webpage in English so you can explore it´s buildings and learn about the outstanding pieces of cultural property and intangible heritage it contains.
That day, after lunch, we visited the Roppongi Hills Observation Deck. There, on the 52nd floor, we enjoyed the indoors observation deck, which offered a great view of Tokyo´s skyline, astonishing despite the fog.
Afterwards, on the 53rd floor, we had the chance to take a glimpse to some contemporary artworks displayed at the Mori art museum and “play” with many of the interactive pieces exhibited, such as the “ghost classroom”.
Then, we went to the rooftop, where we were impressed by the vastness of the city of Tokyo, which reaches far and wide to the horizon.
Around five pm we got on the Shinkansen (the bullet train, I cannot remember whether it was a Nozomi or a Hikari) and about two and a half hours later, after traveling the roughly 500 kilometers of distance between Tokyo and Kyoto, we reached Kyoto. It was already dark when we arrived, so we had dinner at a buffet near the station, where I was finally able to eat some tasty Japanese curry, and then we went back to the hotel to get some rest after and exhausting yet exciting day.