Saturday, January 12, 2008

Finding Tochigi Prefecture

We did plenty of exploring in Ashikaga, and we also visited some of my favorite nearby cities as well. A big thing on our Ashikaga list was the Ashikaga Gakko.

It is the main tourist attraction of the whole city. The place is marketed as "the oldest university in Japan", but in a much repeated pattern, most of the original structures on the grounds were destroyed by fire with only a couple small original structures remaining. I believe most of what is currently standing was built sometime in the 70's. The school functioned as a Confucian academy in its day, with a couple really old likenesses of Confucius still on display. Upon telling Angelica that I had become a Confucian master and rattling off some fake "Confucius says" proverbs, Angelica replied that I was more like a master of confusionism. Funny funny.

A statue of the big man himself.

The main gate of the gakko is a symbol of the city.

"Seated Confucious dated 1535. Muromachi period. Wood, crystal eyes. Height 78.0 cm", stated a terse little sign.

"Seated Ono-no Takamura. 18th century, Edo period. Wood with polychromy, crystal eyes. Height 71.5 cm"

It seems that this place is owned by the city, which means I can have one of my bosses call ahead of time so that my guests and I don't have to pay for tickets to enter. This is really nice, and it definitely takes the edge off going to the place so many times. I would be sad if I had to pay even after my 5th visit. English explanations of the buildings are available but limited, so I'm sure that I don't know the whole story. The buildings themselves, though, are very classical, with few other examples existing in the city that I have seen so far. Walking through the buildings gives me a nice relaxing feeling. Its very tranquil, but sometimes I pretend like I'm a ninja and hum Kung Fu music as I try to sneak up on people. You know how it is.

The roof on this building is kinda cool. It seems to be one big compressed mass of straw.

Here is a place to lock your umbrella. You can buy an umbrella at 7-11 for like 2 dollars, so I rarely even bother to carry one from home. More trouble than its worth I think.

A peaceful little pond with an island at its center.

Here's one of my favorite shots from the whole winter vacation. I'm so dramatic and deep sometimes.

I had to show Angelica the big local electronics store. There are a few entertaining oddities to see. Here Angelica is test driving a horse riding machine. I think it is supposed to tone your leg muscles or something, but it seems kinda silly.

We were super hungry from all of our touring, so I took Angelica and a couple of friends to an okonomiyaki place a block away from my apartment. Here she is behind the counter with the staff.

Me, Ang, Tung, and Holly from Canada, respectively.

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