Doing the tourist thing in Komagane, Nagano

by Stefan Chiarantano, Aug 30, 2005 | Destinations: Japan

Today I did the tourist thing. I have written this piece from the Shibuta Kyukei Cafe Studio. It is located beside the Komagane Kogen Art Museum. It's a lovely café overlooking the town of Komagane and has an artist studio attached. The artist's wife, the manager of the café, was kind enough to let me have a peak at her husband's studio. He paints the male body on a large scale.

There remains just a little more than two weeks before my teaching contract runs out. I have decided to take in some of the cultural and historical sights of Komagane before I move on.

This morning I cycled to a locally famous Shinto Shrine. It is called Bijyogamori. Bijyoga means beautiful girl and mori means many trees. It is also called Omikemori. I have been told that Omike means God of Eating. I stayed a while exploring the temple grounds and walked through the grove that encircles the temple. There is a cedar tree on site that dates to 858 AD. It is huge. It is immense. It is awesome. It draws your attention. A fence protects it. The Japanese believe that God resides in cedar trees.

Before visiting the Komagane Kogen Art Museum, I re-visited the Kosenji Temple to take some photographs. On my last visit, I had forgotten to bring along my camera. Also, I wanted to have another look at the temple. It dates from 860 AD. I'm glad I did come back because I discovered that it has a lovely Japanese garden and a small museum.

"Do you want to see the garden?" asked a female attendant. "Sure" I answered. "It's 500 Yen." She said. "Here you are" I responded. She escorted me inside. The museum was fascinating. There was a life size replica of Hayataro, the wolf dog. If this really was his size, he was huge. Actually, there was a namesake, a German shepherd, housed in a pen in the museum courtyard. He didn't pay any attention to any of the goings on around him. He was sprawled out in his cage, eyes shut, and chilling.

There were only two other guests in attendance taking in the gardens and the museum. There were many altars with statues of Buddha and Buddhist deities. The garden was breathtaking. The pond was crystal clear, full of purple irises and goi. Some of which I was told were over 30 years old. There was a waterfall. Azalea bushes hugged the edges of the pond. In the background, there was the cedar grove. It was lovely! So, I stayed a little while taking in the beauty of the Japanese garden.

As I was leaving the Komagane Kogen Art Museum, it had started to rain. It was pouring heavily. As I was without an umbrella or a raincoat, I decided to just wait it out in the lobby. When out of the blue, the cashier/attendant presented me with a plastic umbrella. How kind and thoughtful she was to consider my situation! Actually, this is what makes the Japanese so special in my books. When I left the cafe/studio, it had stopped raining so I could return the plastic umbrella to the attendant with an arigato gosaimasta.

I enjoyed my visit to the Komagane Kogen Art Museum. It's a lovely museum. The exhibit of coloured photographs of Binares, India left me with a lasting impression in particular the one photograph of two dogs devouring a dead body with a crow in the foreground and the Ganges River in the background. They had on permanent exhibit works by one of my favourite Japanese artists, Yayoi Kusama.

While I was sitting in the cafe writing and drinking a cup of tea, the sounds emanating from the temple bell as the numerous visitors to Kosenji were striking it continuously kept me company.

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