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Wajima at Letters from Japan

Archive for the ‘Wajima’ Category

Photography Trip to Japan #15: Highlights in Wajima   1 comment

Posted at 3:32 pm in Japan Photo Trip, Japanese Cultre, Wajima

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Wajima Port, Photo by Jeri

We spent three days in Wajima exploring the outskirts by van and seeing the coastal landscape and the paddy fields. During this season, the greens are just beautiful in the Noto Peninsula.

Here are just some of the thoughts our group has to offer about the experience.

Jeri shares her impressions about the ocean, zen temples, lacquerwares and more.


Cindy truly appreciated the time we spent together and expresses her gratitude about the trip:


Scott talks about his morning walk through the fishing neighborhood. We went out together one morning exploring as much as we could before breakfast:


Tom shares about his walk to the port as well as to the fishing neighborhood and about why he found this area the most inspiring in terms of photographing:


Lauren has observations about living in such a different environment. During our visit to Kami-Ozawa, she encountered  two older ladies living in a neighborhood of only 20 houses. For her, thinking about this life was simply mind-blowing and something most of us are not used to:


I immensely enjoyed photographing in Wajima. It was really refreshing to be up early in the morning and walk around the port. This is where I photographed most during the trip. I also comment on something I learned about one of the fishing villages we visited:

Written by projectbasho on September 22nd, 2008

Photography Tour to Japan #13: What the outskirts of Wajima offers   2 comments

Posted at 12:06 am in Japan Photo Trip, Japanese Cultre, Wajima

A lady in Kami-Ozawa, Wajima, Photo by Jeri

During our stay in Wajima, we also traveled outside of the city to explore the scenery of the Japanese countryside.

One feature of the Japanese countryside in this season are the golden rice fields. The rice fields are simply spectacular now a mixture of gold and green in color and ready for harvesting. The color and texture is simply beautiful during this season.

We also explored the smaller fishing villages along the Japan Sea. The fishing villages have only about 20 to 30 houses. One village where we stopped is Kami-Ozawa, and it is a village (technically it is called a town but I think village is more appropriate) with only 20 houses. It is a very tiny place and it has a wooden fence called, Magaki, all around it to protect it from the winter winds from Siberia. These bamboo fences are 15-18 ft tall and are taller than the houses in the village. Because of this, it looks almost like a small medieval town.

We walked under a gate and came across an old lady who has been living in this place since she was born. She was born in another house in the village, which is only several houses down the alley way and when she got married she moved to this current household. She lives with her son’s family who now works in Wajima. It is amazing to think what my life would be like if I were born in a place like this.

While the Noto Peninsula offers these beautiful features from the scenery to the people, it suffered from a major earthquake last spring. When you walk around Wajima you will still see the damage from a year and a half ago. One such example is Shoji-ji. When I visited last December, the meditation hall was about to fall down, and was only standing by wooden supports.

When we visited Shoji-ji this time, they were still working on the reconstruction of the temple. The meditation hall was covered with scaffolding and cloth now, and they were actually working on the building. I talked to one lady at a souvenir store, she told me the whole process including the small details will take over 10 years.

At Jeri’s suggestion, we decided to donate one roof tile, and wrote all of our names on it. We hope the next time we come back that most of the major reconstruction will be done.

Written by projectbasho on September 15th, 2008

Photography Tour to Japan #12: A Bath as bounding experience   no comments

After a long day of exploring the countryside of Japan, what we look forward to is a trip to the Onsen or hot spring. It is a public bath and the hot spring is rich in minerals.

In every city we traveled through we had opportunities to dip ourselves into hot bath tubs at the end of the day. Wearing Yukata, a Japanese robe, sometimes we walked together to the Onsen. Even though there were those who were not used to the idea and a little hesitant at first, this eventually became a daily routine.

Strange enough, it is almost hard for me to think of this as a part of daily life at this point as I am so used to taking showers. Even though I went out of my way to find a Japanese deep bath tub for my apartment in the US, I rarely use it to be honest. But getting back to this custom was such a great thing.

In Wajima, there is even a hot spring to just dip your feet in. Literally called Ashi Yu, foot bath, this city run facility is located in the middle of town. This is, of course, one of the few tourist attractions in the city, but it is also a place where locals go. It is a locus of the community where people gather and feel very comfortable talking to one another.

One of the participants pointed out that privacy issues at the public baths are interesting and can be a little strange. On one hand, everyone is naked and seems quiet comfortable. At the same time, the sound of the ocean is pumped into the women’s bathroom to overcome the sounds of what women do in the bathroom.

There is a Japanese expression, “Hadaka no Tsukiai.” It can be literally translated to “naked relationship,” and it refers to a trusted relationship among the same sex. I would assume that it came from this tradition of going to a public bath and having conversations about the many affairs in one’s life.

This trip is about bonding with other participants as well as the locals as much as photographing beautiful scenery.

Written by projectbasho on September 13th, 2008

Photography Tour to Japan #10: Views of Wajima through a ground glass   no comments

Posted at 5:26 am in Japan Photo Trip, Wajima

Looking over Wajima Port, Photo by Scott

Wajima is a small port city located at the northern edge of the Noto Peninsula. The population is about 7000, and fishing is one of the largest industries here.

We stayed at a hotel located on the top of a hill looking over the port with the fishing neighborhood on one side and an expansive view of the Japan Sea on the other. In the morning, you can see sunrise over the mountains making the the port and the neighborhood backlit. In the evening, the sun sets beautifully over the beach on the other side. It just simply has gorgeous views in both directions.

I woke up at five in the morning during my stay in Wajima to explore the fishing neighborhood and walk into the narrow streets and alley ways. When I say they are narrow, I mean that they are about 4 ft wide.  Not having grown up in a place like this, I find it amazing how people live in this environment. I am sure that everyone knows everyone in this kind of living situation, and there is a mixture of community, obligation, and support.

I also walked into the port with my camera and talked to as many people as I could. I asked some of them if I could photograph them. A lot of people were shy about it, but they were not defensive at all. Some of them  welcomed being photographed. I photographed one man who was working on a ship in the dock. He was shy about it, but after several minutes of waiting and asking over and over, I got to photograph him against the ship that he was working on. He looked very serious staring at the largest camera he has seen in his life.

One of the typical shots that I did was the view looking over the port. I climbed up on a water tank in the hotel’s parking lot. I set up my camera and took a couple of shots of  sunrise every morning. The city is quiet this early in the morning except for the port: you can see some of the boats are going in and out of the port and people are driving in their tiny cars. Luckily we had great weather during our stay in Wajima which made this view from the the water tank a lot more dramatic with clouds.

Front of Tokikuni House, Wajima, Photo by Lauren

Written by projectbasho on September 12th, 2008

Photography Tour to Japan #9: If you were a cat…   no comments

Posted at 12:49 am in Asakusa, Japan Photo Trip, Kanazawa, Wajima

If you were a cat, Japan would be a pretty good place to be.

We have come across many street cats during the trip. Most of them are very well taken care of and just hanging around where they feel comfortable. If you walk in the neighborhood small streets and alley ways, you will come across at least a few cats every a half hour.

They are friendly and a part of each of the neighborhoods we have visited. The encounters with these little creatures in the back streets certainly make the walks more enjoyable. Here are the some of the cats we have encountered during our trip.

At Omi Market, Kanazawa

Asakusa, Tokyo, Photo by Jeri

Nanso Collection, Wajima

In paddy field, Kami Ozawa, Wajima, Photo by Jeri

Alley, Kanazawa, Photo by Jeri

Written by projectbasho on September 12th, 2008

Photography Tour to Japan #6: Landscape of Wajima   no comments

Posted at 10:12 pm in Japan Photo Trip, Wajima

Two other destinations on this trip are Wajima and Suzu. They are located deeper in the Noto Peninsula along the Japan Sea. This region is called Oku Noto, Far or Deep Noto, as it is located on the northern edge of the peninsula.

This region is notorious for having bitterly cold winds blowing from Siberia which make the ocean here very rough. In this environment, people’s lives are tougher. This was captured in the photographs by Shozo Tomioka which we had at our gallery a few months ago. These images from the late 50’s show the simple lives of fishermen and women in this area and the roughness of their environment. Even the words, “Nihon Kia” (Japan Sea), give me a bit of a shiver.

While in Wajima, we hope to explore the coastline by  chartered bus to see what the area has to offer. We will visit smaller fishing villages as much as we can to see how people live and to observe the interesting regional features like the traditional Japanese houses in the countryside and the picturesque sunrise and sunset over the sea.

Speaking of  typical Noto scenery, there is a movie which gives you an idea of what the landscape of the Noto Peninsula looks like. It is “Maboroshi” directed by Hirokazu Koreda who has been receiving international acclaim lately. This movie shows the calm and often barren landscape of the Noto Peninsula. Images of paddy fields on the coastal hills, small fishing towns, and even morning market in Wajima are featured in this movie.

The beautiful images from the movie are from winter to go along with the somber atmosphere of the movie. But this time, we are visiting the area in September and the scenery has different colors and textures. As the paddy fields are ready for harvest, we will see a much livelier color of green grass on the paths and golden yellow fields of rice.

Wajima is also famous for lacquerware production. If ceramicware is called “china” in English, then lacquerware should be called “japan.” There are small production facilities all over the city. Most of them are studios where one or two artisans are making beautiful pieces in the traditional Japanese way. We will try to visit and perhaps even create our own lacquerware while we are here.

Our stay in Wajima will take us to the morning market and fishing port and allow us time to appreciate the coastal beauty. Hopefully we’ll also be able to particapte in some of the local highlights like creating lacquerware and touring the sake breweries.

Written by projectbasho on September 5th, 2008