Nara – Naramichi 2

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Clothing, quilted bedding and mattresses hung on lines to dry in the sun. Typical daily life continued here. However, it was strangely quiet. This is the magic and charm of this preserved Naramachi. Cosy tea and cake shops allowed time to rest and soak in the atmosphere. There are several temples and shrines hidden amongst these alleyways. Museums, sake breweries, gift shops and “onsen” are scattered in this area. One museum we visited was the “Naramichi Koshi no- le”, the Naramachi Lattice House. It is a restored traditional “machiya” townhouse of a merchant’s house. It was just past closing time but the caretaker allowed us entry. I loved the dark wood floors and staircase. There is a certain ambiance that it creates. A small but refreshing inner garden, “naka-niwa” complete with water basin and stepping stones, occupied the centre of the long townhouse. From the upper floor, the slated windows allowed for views of the tiled roofs, garden and light to enter into the rooms. At front of the house, slatted wooden lattice windows allowed for views of the street but concealed the interior.

A White gem unknown of man –
Be it so if no one knows!
Since I myself know its worth
Although no other –
Be it so if no one knows!
– a monk of the Gango-ji Temple

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We stumbled into a temple gate. Gangō-ji Temple site used to occupy a large area in the present – day “sitamachi”, old town. We had no idea if this temple was part of that former complex. It was a serene site with large trees and well-kept grounds. A few stone lanterns decorated the place. An ornate stone footprint lay at the base of an aged tree surrounded by buttress roots. At another street, we entered Toku- ji Temple. These are little surprises we encountered as we strolled aimlessly in Naramachi. Tourist shops are always exciting – little mementos and gifts to take home. We found a “noren” maker at a street corner. These are curtains (usually made of cloth). They are hung at the entrances of houses or as partitions between rooms. Here, there were hand woven hemp cloths, either plain or dyed with vegetable colours. However, we were unable to get the size we wanted. These would make great gifts. Traditional Japanese gifts abound at every corner. On the streets, there were few local tourists today. The walk around is a perfect way to end the day, wandering in leisure. Nowhere to go, but succumb to the charms of ancient Japan!

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