We're not very good with maps, mostly because we never check the scale first. I also suffer from the distressing tendency to assume that wherever I'm facing is North. This has led to numerous occasions where we found ourselves lost in the middle of absolute nowhere.
This time, we made sure to check which way we were actually supposed to head. We also attempted to make a go of looking for a scale, but the walking map was a very basic one handed out to tourists and didn't come with a legend. So much for that.
When we asked Daisuke-san what there was to see around the area, he asked us if we liked art, and artists like Picasso and Rodin. We said yes, and he indicated on the map where the local art museum (天一美術館) was located, as well as how we should go about getting there.
So we set off, leaving the Yado via the side exit. We ambled slowly down a fairly narrow road where the occasional car drove past. The museum only closed at 5 pm, so we figured we had more than enough time to linger over the flowers on the road-side.
Our little nature trail also included a small measure of creepy crawlies. I only just managed to duck and avoid this thing dangling by a gossamer thread as we walked along, and turned around to get a closer look at what I'd almost run smack into. Initially I thought it was some sort of small branch caught in a web, until I focused on it and it writhed. Normally I'm alright around bugs, but there was something about the way it twitched and twisted that gave me the heebie jeebies.
I told M & D about it, but from a distance away neither of them could see the worm even after some champion squinting. They gave up and waved me along to see yet another patch of pretty flowers.
It took us very little time to get to the stairway up the hill leading to museum, so we surmised the rest of the route wouldn't be all that long after all. There were lots of signs indicating which way to go, so we managed to navigate the forks in the stairs.
Since there was time aplenty, we had a look at our surrounding while on our way up, and saw this house in the distance. We wondered if it was an Italian restaurant or a place owned by an Italian, or if that person just really liked Italy because of the flag draped over the side of the balcony.
Daisuke-san had passed us discount coupons for our museum visit, so instead of ¥1000 per visitor, we only had to shell out ¥900 each. We decided that the ¥300 we'd managed to save would go to snacks for our train journey on the morrow.
Just as we entered, a couple of visitors had just finished their circuit of the galleries, so we wound up having the entire space to ourselves. It was fortunate, more for their sake than ours, because we get quite chatty in art museums. It doesn't seem like the done thing, but we can't help it. Sometimes you just have to ask "What on Earth is that?"
We were told explicitly that there could be no photo taking in the galleries, so we contented ourselves with pictures of the museum itself. It was designed by Junzo Yoshimura, a famous Japanese architect, and takes into account the beauty of the surrounding trees and hills.
The space felt big and airy, but it didn't take us long to go round all the galleries. Most of the works by the big name artists consisted of sketches or smaller-sized paintings or sculptures, and the traditional ceramics and lacquer ware section only showcased a piece or two from each major time period. It was interesting to see contemporary Japanese art again after so long, but my favourite piece in the whole museum was still a picture of eggplants done in a more traditional style. (What can I say, I really like eggplant.)
With our tour of the galleries complete, we poked around the outside and peered over a wall into the vegetable garden that seemed to belong to the old folks' home next door. Then we went back in to investigate why it looked like the "fireplace" in the museum looked like it had eyes. It turned out to be bronze places mounted on wooden stands, which looked for all the world like crab eyes on stalks.
We parked ourselves on the chairs arranged by the big glass windows to better admire the picture made by the hills that ringed the area.
After a bit, we ventured back to the reception and gift shop area, and were ushered to some chairs by the window facing the entrance garden. We were then given chamomile tea and chocolate, which is apparently part of what your museum ticket gets you.
We asked the lady serving us tea why there was a museum out here of all places, and she told us that the place was owned by Tenichi (天一) Tempura of Ginza, arguably the most famous tempura restaurant in the entire world. It was an interesting nugget of information, but it didn't quite answer our question.
We left and went back to the first fork in the stairway, this time going right instead of left. I think we were expecting a somewhat longer hike, but it seemed like we made it to the top of the stairway and to the shrine indicated on the map in no time at all.
We turned left and watched some people play a game of tennis. It cost ¥1570 to rent a court for an hour, which seemed quite dear.
But you have to admit that the view from it is rather spectacular. There were some clouds rolling in, but apart from that it was clear blue skies all the way.
We past by this modern-looking alpine lodge, and M took so many pictures of it from all angles. To keep as inspiration for future holidays perhaps.
I love looking at Japanese drain covers. The ones outside the major cities are almost always decorated with what their area is famous for, and these Minakami drain covers were no different.
What was special about it, was the fact that there was something to see whether you approached from one side of the road or the other. The first view we got was of the flowers and people enjoying hot springs, then when we went around we saw Mt Tanigawa, and stars.
We walked past a museum, but it has just closed ten minutes before our arrival, so we contented ourselves with peeking in. It was the Hiroike Chikuro Memorial, part of the Institute of Moralogy, whose main building was just across the road. From here, we followed the road back to Yado Kanzan.