Looking Back: Tuesday 21 May 2002

Near my work in Nara

As we will not to be able to travel widely for some time, this week I have been looking at some mementos to sketch from the times I have been able to travel overseas. I have sketched many items I’ve brought home from places visited in the past, so I needed to find one I had overlooked. Ah ha! The chosen one is a very old (and rather grubby) fabric doll I bought in Japan, when living and teaching in Nara, several years ago. It was a special time, as an old friend from New Zealand had come to stay for a week or so, and we enjoyed tripping about when I had time off work.

the approach to Hōryū-ji

Adrienne was a great planner, and this day we were going into Nara from Ikoma (20 minute train ride) then a bus (a stop and start hour), to take us to Hōryū ji, the oldest surviving wooden complex of its type in Japan, founded by Prince Shōtoko in 670. It did have a nasty mishap around that time when it was seriously damaged by lightning. Fortunately the central buildings were reconstructed, some 1,300 or so years back. The kondō (main hall) is recognised as the world’s oldest wooden building. In 1993 the complex was recognised as Japan’s first UNESCO World heritage site under ‘Buddhist Monuments’ in the Hōryū-ji area, and we felt most fortunate to visit such a large and illustrious site.

We stopped off at a fantastic fabric shop on the road leading to Hōryū-ji. We were perhaps trying to escape the swarms of school children we could see around the entrance (I have written that there appeared to be ‘”thousands of them” in my diary), but it may have been to escape the heat, as the day was hot and dry. This little doll, was purported to have been a plaything of an emperor’s child, though whether that was the case or not, the silk-covered doll is most certainly old. And has aged almost twenty years since I first saw him. I may even sketch him again, as I know I could improve on this one.

My Japan diary

I have to add (taken from diary) that my friend “Adrienne controlled herself admirably and came home with a very nice scarf and bookmarks only”. Whereas I, by contrast, not only bought the doll but, as we walked through the Nara arcade on our return, I stopped in to buy the colourful summer dress (second hand) which I had tried on a few days earlier. ‘

“Quite a fifties number” I wrote. The last line for the day of 25 May, on our return to my Ikoma apartment, went like this … “Adrienne now, is stretched out resting on the couch, while I surprisingly enough feel pretty perky!” Made a change from all the entries where I mentioned being tired all the time! Not surprising, as I worked six days a week for months! Not that lovely day however. I mean, I have it in writing.

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