Day 47: Looking for George, Nakashima, That Is (19 April 2019)

Kondo-san warned me that the mountain climbs in Kagama prefecture were the steepest of the journey because their shapes were more cone-like. He was right about the paths up and down from Temples 84, Yashimaji, and 85, Yakuji. On the way down from Yakuriji, the road sign stated – 21% grade – the highest number that I have ever seen. The walk down jarred my legs at every step.

While at Temple 84, Yashimaji, I thought about Notre Dame cathedral. Just like ND, most of the temples on ohenro are at least 500 years old or more. Some notable exceptions come to mind such as Temples 55, Nankobo, built after WWII; 61, Koonji, and 69, Kannonji, with their modern concrete hondos.

Amazingly, these wooden structures have survived. The description for Yashimaji’s hondo stated that it was renovated in the 17th century and again in the 1950’s. Hopefully, Notre Dame’s basic structure will be found to be sound and can be rebuilt to capture the essence of its beauty.

Temple 85, Yakuriji, was beautifully set into the mountains. It was quiet and peaceful. On the walk up, a woman offered osettai in front of her home. We talked about my mother’s family coming from Yanai. Turns out that she is from Yamaguchi as well. She gave me a small figurine of an ohenro to bring home. Another moment of unexpected kindness.

After seeing the temples, I was on the hunt to find the George Nakashima Memorial Gallery. Sharon and I first became acquainted with his work in the Japanese Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. We sat on one of the eight conoid lounge chairs surrounding a large somewhat circular table. I write “somewhat” because Nakashima kept the natural shape of the wood.

We were still living in Brooklyn in 1988 when we went to New Hope, PA to visit his studio. We made an appointment three months in advance. At 1 PM, we met Mr. Nakashima. We described what we wanted. He took us to the basement where rows of wood were aging. He pulled out a dusty piece of wood. He told us that it was claro, a type of redwood. We agreed on the wood and he sketched out the table and two chairs. Thirty months later the pieces arrived about a year before he passed away.

The Nakashima Gallery has an extensive collection of his work. Why here in Takamatsu? He was invited in 1964 to visit and returned several times to see people and hug trees. On the first floor, you can have coffee or tea chatting with friends on original Nakashima furniture. Upstairs are examples of his work through the decades and a timeline of his life.

While there, I asked Michiko, the gallery director, about where my hotel was located. I thought it was nearby in the neighborhood. Turns out it was five JR train stops down the line. My guidebook only contains maps directly on the ohenro route. I was 8-10 miles off.

Luckily, I had passed the nearest train stop about a half mile back. Like many of the high schoolers on board, I was commuting “home.” The hotel is located right next to a large city park on the seashore. I had the best sleep of the trip so far listening to the lapping waves. Here is a view from my window at sunrise. The modern day ohenro can travel nicely. I thought about the ohenro from the past because the most of the paths trodden are along the same route.

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