One in the MORNING?!?!?!

Trip Start Nov 02, 2009
Trip End Jan 06, 2010

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Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009 – Part One

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!

You all know how much I love morning. Wait, scratch that. You all know that I can be up until way past one in the morning but I am so NOT used to getting up to do something at one in the morning but that is just what I did yesterday! I  took a little nap after work and woke up, showered, dressed and got ready to meet the Mano family at 1:00 a.m. for a fantastic trip. The group was Mama-san, her sister, one of her friends, the two girls, Michiyo and Meg and Toshi and me – all loaded into the Mano's van and off we went. Toshi and I took the wide back seat and soon we were dosing as Meg drove into the night.

Japan has the most wonderful rest stops. They are nothing like what we have at home – these are little malls in the middle of no where. There are rest rooms, restaurants, little kiosks selling all sorts of treats from sweet potato soft ice cream and coffee vending machines that make the coffee right there from grinding to brewing, There is also a bakery and a small grocery store. These rest stops all feature some little regional foods or sweets and are stocked with "souvenirs." The Japanese are very big on bringing something to friends or family after a little trip – in fact after our trip I was loaded down with things that they had bought for me. Well, the women we were with wanted to stop every hour or so to shop and use the rest room, about 20 – 30 minutes each time.

At around 7:00 a.m. we stopped in a town called Hida Takayama, “Home of the Japanese Spirit.” It was too early to do any shopping in this really cute town but there was a farmers market open and we stopped and stretched our legs and looked at the fresh foods. Japanese radishes (daikon and another variety that looks like ours but more the size of a turnip), chili peppers, huge apples that are very tasty, all varieties of pickled foods, bok choy cabbages the size of basketballs, many other things I didn’t recognize.

(Side note: I just passed someone in the lobby on my way to put clothes into the dryer and he asked me where my jacket was. It’s a lovely 57 degrees out! Who needs a jacket?!)

So we drove another hour or so and arrived at an area called, Shirakawa-go, specifically Ogimachi Village, a very old town in central Japan. More than 600 people live in this village. They have preserved rice fields, and houses that withstand the heavy snow called, gassho style houses. Gassho style houses have a large, steep, thatch roof that resembles hands folded in prayer, thus the name “gassho” which to means to pray. These houses are between 300 and 500 years old and have to be “re-thatched” every 40 years, a process that takes about 4 days and the help of the entire community.

The houses are huge, usually 3 and 4 stories tall with a great room on the first floor with a fireplace in the center. The smoke from the fire rises up through the 2nd and 3rd floors which have vented floors. After many years, this smoke and soot creates the black interiors and help to preserve the wood and thatched roofs. It also makes the house free of bugs that might eat the wood and roof. Many families raised silk worms in the uppermost floor – the one we visited had antique tools and instruments used to raise worms and spin the silk into fabric. It was a wonderful town and the people there were very proud to show off their history. Fire obviously is a big concern for these kinds of villages so they are super cautious and have people who walk around the village at night in the spring and summer to look out for any fire that may have started so it can be put out quickly.

After a while walking around this we did a little shopping and had saki – at 9:30 in the morning! It was delicious and strong! My trips with the Mano family are always filled with interesting (and sometimes scary) food and drink.

More later . . .
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Brooklyn on

So cool. Thanks for all the pictures of architectural details! :)

Mary Kennelly on


Patti on

Amazing pictures. What a wonderful adventure. Keep having fun and keep your blog going. By the way - have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

aunt gloria on

Ginny sent your blog forward. Thanks for sharing with all of US bound folks.
Happy Thanksgiving! aunt gloria

m2paws on

love the pictures..xoxo

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