Published posthumously on behalf of J. Patrick Ford

SEEING ANCIENT JAPAN GO MODERN

A group of architects and interior designers in San Diego organized a trip to Japan to visit the Imperial Gardens and some of the historic Japanese palaces. We arrived in Tokyo and spent most of the time experiencing the lifestyle of a busy modern city with many unusual cultural attractions.

It was quite a different city than the one I saw in my 1956 visit when the city was in ruins and much more Asian  with limited Western influence. The modern Tokyo is a booming society with a powerful economy created by General Douglas MacArthur encouraging the country to rebuild more on a Western-style.

We also visited a few Imperial Gardens, colorful marketplaces and had a day trip north to an important Buddhist complex with a famous temple displaying the original three monkeys of “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil” carved from wood. We also tested some of the unusual Japanese food items. Our Tokyo guide two directed us to restaurants that provided traditional Japanese meals and seated us on the floor with low-rise tables.

From Tokyo along the toguaeda road to see the large Buddha statue and stay in a traditional Japanese inn. Our bedroom had floor mats and we dressed in a kimono to go to meals or enjoy the extremely hot baths. The villages along the road to Kyoto were picturesque and offered interesting shops and galleries.

We boarded a bullet train to go to the Japanese Alps where we stayed in and historic Japanese village that had not changed for at least 300 years. Walking down the narrow streets filled with interesting shops, art galleries and numerous restaurants left an impression of what historic Japan was like.

A particular favorite was a noodle soup that every restaurant served as a basic menu item. When we arrived in a traditional Japanese village in the Japan Alps, our guide gave us a short tour of the historic sites then left us to explore the shops and to find a place for lunch. The amusing part of the walkabout was how the guide pointed out the traditional noodle shops that were identified by their curtain doors it’s been and the display and with window of their menu items. With his Japanese accent, he kept repeating “nudo” which was initially misleading!

We traveled by the famous Japanese bullet trains with a final stop at the ancient capital of Kyoto, today a very modern city. Since our tour was to visit Japanese gardens, there were so many that our group had to be split for most of the Imperial Gardens. The big benefit of our visit was the late blooming of the cherry trees. When we arrived the buds were beginning to burst and over the next three days we saw an incredible display of cherry blossoms all over the city.

We also made day trips to Osaka and other historic sites that were prominent during the Sumerai era before the Japanese royalty moved up to Tokyo.  The Meiji  Regime was a break from the restrictions of ancient Japan to begin a modern era that eventually led the country into World War II.

I was fortunate to see Japan at the end of its Imperial era and into the modern world.