May 23: Shirakawa-Go, Toyama house, Takayama
Our futon experience went better than expected. Sitting twelve inches off the floor to take a shower was another new experience, but accomplished without discomfort. As we left the Kagaya Hotel we were waved off by a regiment of hotel staff all in a row. I remembered a similar sendoff at the Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur, India.
Off by motor coach to a local rice farm cooperative where we were treated to a Power Point presentation demonstrating the several varieties and uses of rice, including particular varieties for sake. For centuries rice has been both a currency and a cultural mainstay of Japanese identity. A koku of rice ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koku ) was the quantity sufficient to feed one person for a year – about 330 pounds. Wealth was once calculated in koku. A Samurai might expect collectively from peasants under his protection a yearly koku tax in the thousands. One koku was packaged in a bale as shown in the Shinto Temple on Miyajima Island, Day 2.
Rice paddies are passed from one generation to the next. Rice is now planted by machines – I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to catch a picture of several as we passed by. Paddies are filled with water by irrigation; water is plentiful. After the harvest, the irrigation ceases and the remaining stalks and roots stay in place as fertilizer for the next planting. In this way, for hundreds of years, there is no need to enrich the paddy soil.
Amy volunteered to manually plant a trio of rice plants.
Next we visited Shirakawa-go Village. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_Villages_of_Shirakawa-gō_and_Gokayama I was impressed by the roof construction which is reminiscent of old farm house roofs in parts of Germany and Lithuania. Amy once lived under such a roof. We learned that to repair a roof here in Japan would cost the equivalent of over $100,000, requiring a subsidy from the government for this UNESCO site.
Lunch today was at a ski resort. After lunch we visited a 400 year old family house built in the traditional fashion seen at Shirakawa-go. The cooking was done on the first/ground floor; smoke was vented through bamboo grates in the middle of each of the upper three floors and through the roof. Nearby was the massive Miboro Dam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miboro_Dam .
Finally we arrived at The Hotel Associa on a mountain overlooking the 16th century town of Takayama.