Saturday, May 30, 2015

Delicious oden -- and more! -- at Takoume

What's simmering in those vats?

Does the food look more intimidating or the cook? ;b

All too soon, it was time to bid "sayonara" to Matsue and the rest of the San-in coast -- including sandy Totorri, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Iwami Ginzan, and the province of the gods that's Izumo -- about which I now have fond memories.  Three train rides later, I was in the now familiar territory of Osaka, a city I've come to love for the great food (and beer!) that's on offer!

Rather than sightsee, I elected to focus on shopping (for more English language books about Japan to add to my collection!), eating and drinking during my overnight stay in Japan's second largest city.  And while I was happy enough to do my book shopping at a Books Kinokuniya branch close to my hotel (and Osaka Station), I felt Dotonbori call once again to me as far as purveyors of food were concerned -- with visits to Osaka these days feeling incomplete without a pilgrimage to the Mecca of kushiage that's Daruma!

After inhaling several -- more than five but less than ten! -- tasty sticks of deep-fried decadence at the main Daruma branch that's located right on Dotonbori, I did some walking up and down the gastronomic street -- over the course of which I spotted a traditional looking eatery whose frontage I previously had photographed (see the fourth picture from the top here) but that I hadn't entered.  I had a feeling that it was a restaurant whose food I'd like.  But I nonetheless had to work up the courage to check it out because, among other things, it didn't have any signs in English (not even one showing its name) outside.

Upon sliding open its main door, I beheld a rustic looking establishment -- with pride of place being given to large vats of bubbling liquid, in which (semi-)floated chunks of interesting-looking ingredients.  "Oden?" I asked the intimidating-appearing fellow manning the vats, and was beckoned to a seat at the counter area overlooking the vats.  

After looking around and trying to make myself comfortable, I told him "nama birru, kudasai" (draft beer please) -- which got a smile out of him and a feeling that the ice had been broken, something that was confirmed when he started recommending a skewer of tako (octopus) to me and I said okay, and I'd also like some daikon (radish).

At some point, it was realized that I'm not Japanese -- whereby an English language menu (with helpful photos) was produced and handed to me.  Perusing it, I saw that this oden restaurant offered quite a number of oden ingredients that seemed unusual to me -- and I decided to try the bamboo shoot and yuba (tofu skin) but steered clear of all the portions of whale that were simmering in the same broth!  

In addition, the more I chatted with the cook, the more I realized that: for one thing, his English was pretty good; and for another, he was quite the funny and jovial fellow -- with the fun moving up several notches when two young South Korean women came into the restaurant, sat near me and got to ordering up a storm!  Soon, not only were we chatting to one another but the friendly cook -- who told us things like he's dark-skinned because he's from Kyushu! -- ended up making origami puppies from our chopstick wrappers for each of us!!

The more I stayed at the restaurant (which is named -- I found out via a business card I was given! -- Takoume and is more than 170 years old), the more I wished that I could eat more there.  Like Daruma, the food was delicious.  What's more, Takoume's atmosphere definitely has Daruma's beat since this oden place was warm and welcoming, the kind of eatery where one is encouraged to linger, whereas the kushiage place can seem conveyor belt-like, with people eating at a much more rapid pace.

So...while I still don't think I'll be able to resist paying a visit to Daruma whenever I'm in Osaka (the food is sooooo good; why isn't kushiage popular in Hong Kong the way sushi and yakitori are?!), Takoume's earned a place in my heart and is another Osaka dining establishment that I'm going to have to make a point to return to eat at! ;b

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sunset views of Lake Shinji as the icing on a beautiful cake (Photo-essay)

How good can one day get?  That was what I asked myself on the day that began with my waking up on a comfortable bed at the Dormy Inn Express Matsue (an extremely good value business hotel that offered free buffet breakfasts, complimentary bowls of ramen between 9.30pm-11.30pm and the use of such as a rubber duckie when taking a bath!) and heading out to Izumo Taisha and then Cape Hinomisaki before heading back to Matsue and venturing out to the banks of Lake Shinji to take in another beautiful sunset.

A short bus ride took me from Matsue's main train station to a designated sunset viewing spot at the Shimane Art Museum (whose exhibits I actually never checked out!).  But rather than stay put in a spot, I elected to walk several meters along the banks of the lake -- and thereby ended up seeing the sun turn the sky into a beautiful range of colors as it moved closer to and eventually below the horizon that evening... :)

 Firstly, here's sharing a photo I took on my first day in Matsue
-- and yes, this was when I had an inkling that sunsets in

The first evening that I went to view a sunset on the banks of Lake Shinji,
it was really windy and the water on the lake consequently pretty choppy

 ...and there were moments when it looked like the sky was on fire!

The second time around, both the sky and waters appeared calmer
(and should you wonder, that's a Jizo statue in the picture too :b)

 I guess it'd not be so symbolically cool to call a place the
Land of the Setting Sun... but I do love sunsets,
and being able to take a photo of the sun like the one above! :)

This view almost left me lost for words...

This is one dreamy picture by my book ;b

But if I had to pick one favorite Lake Shinji sunset shot,
this would have to be it -- and yes, I think Yomegishima's presence
in the picture does add something to the overall composition :)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lots to see at Cape Hinomisaki (Photo-essay)

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, there were greater highlights to the day that I visited Izumo Taisha than my actual visit to one of Shinto's most sacred shrines.  More specifically, they came after I took a scenic ride along a bus from near Izumo Taisha approximately 8 kilometers out of town to Cape Hinomisaki, a picturesque part of Izumo Province that's home to another large shrine (this one vermillion-lacquered), a smaller shrine on a sacred island with hundreds (if not thousands) of seagulls, and a lighthouse that is Japan's -- and maybe even Asia's -- tallest.

However weird it may sound, I had actually thought prior to getting there that the lighthouse was part of the shrine complex -- and hadn't realize that it was as tall as 43.65 meters (over 143 feet).  At least, I did figure correctly that the coast around it would be beautiful -- and was happy that I had time not only to view the scenery from the top of Hinomisaki Lighthouse (the first lighthouse I've climbed up in my life!) but also the nearby park (which, rather surprisingly, has very little fencing or such despite its path being very close to the cliff edge at times!):-

 Although Hinomisaki-jinja was the first sight I saw upon getting off
the bus at Cape Hinomisaki, I actually only explored its grounds
after I had first been up to Hinomisaki Lighthouse and its environs

Upon viewing the manhole cover I saw at Cape Hinomisaki, 
I think it's safe to surmise that the area is indeed 
most famed for its lighthouse, and seagulls ;)

 The sounds of seagulls draw one's attention to Fumishima

A close-up shot of the torii of the shrine on Fumishima
together with some of the island's avian denizens

Cape Hinomisaki's beautiful as well as tall stone lighthouse 

From the top of the lighthouse, I also got this view and 
upon spying the path, decided that I had to walk along it! :)

The path led to an observation point where I took this photo of 
Puppet Ponyo that may well be my favorite from this Japan vacation :)

 This last shot is for those of us who can get impressed by rocks :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Izumo Taisha - the chief shrine in the province of the gods

Izumo Taisha was the place on the San-in Coast I visited which had 
the most visitors to it -- with the majority of them being Japanese

 Puppet Ponyo poses with a pair of rabbits (or hares) 
who face the Honden (Main Hall), inside which the shrine's 
main deity (who's also associated with fertility) is enshrined 

The circles on the ground mark a spot where giant wooden pillars 
for what used to be an even larger main hall used to stand

 The sound of drumming drew me to a subsidiary building,
where I found a Shinto ceremony taking place

It's rained nearly every day in Hong Kong since I returned from my recent Japan trip, with the one mainly rainless day being this past Monday - Buddha's Birthday, Taoist god Tam Kung's Birthday, and also the Cheung Chau Bun Festival's Piu Sik (Floating Colors) parade which I went and checked out.  And the gods were kind to me too when I visited Izumo Taisha, a large and ancient Shinto shrine where it is believed that all of the gods go and congregate during the tenth month of every lunar year (making it "the month of the gods" in that province but "the month of no gods" in the rest of Japan).

Of all the places close to the Sea of Japan that I planned to visit on my recent vacation, Izumo Taisha appeared to be the best known by far to my Japanese friends (not least due to its sake connections)Enshrined in its Honden (Main Hall) is the kami (god) known variously known as O-Kuni-Nushi-no-Kami, Okuninoshi, Daikoku and Daikoku-Ten.  The Shinto deity of abundance, medicine and luck, he's also associated with happy marriages and -- as can be attested to by the high number of kawaii (and also rather kitschy!) rabbit/hare figures in the shrine's grounds -- fertility.

Visitors are generally not allowed into the Honden and, instead, must content themselves with viewing what can be seen above and through its two sets of fences.  Happily, however, there are ample other sights to see in the shrine's spacious grounds, which include other impressive buildings, giant torii (gates), statues of Okuninoshi, many rabbit figurines, and more.  There's even a lovely pond where koi and turtles swim, and on the banks of which flowers bloom -- and, to the side of one of the giant torii, a statue of a man in military attire that I found rather mysterious on account of it not having been marked or mentioned in the complimentary guide to the shrine and area map that I was given at the local tourist information office.

What with it being the second least populous prefecture in Japan, Shimane Prefecture is these days looked upon as regional backwater -- with its capital city, Matsue, being the smallest city that I've used as a base while visiting the country that many Westerners think of as being super high density but I'm often find to be on the quiet and uncrowded side relative to Hong Kong.  But it, particularly the old Izumo province part of Shimane, has a major place in Japan's mythology and history -- prompting Lafcadio Hearne to label it "the province of the gods".

Days before I visited, the Daisairei (Grand Annual Festival) took place at Izumo Taisha.  For three days every year, official messengers from the Japanese emperor bring offerings to the shrine and convey his prayers.  But although I missed what I'm sure were occasions of great pageantry, I'm not upset.  After all, the day that I visited, I came across at least one happy wedding party (who posed for formal photos in front of the shrine's Kaguraden (Sacred Dance Hall), where reputedly the largest Shimenawa (sacred Shinto straw rope) is to be found), a few proud mothers carrying their precious babies to be blessed at the shrine and also one Shinto ceremony that involved impressive drumming and stately moves by religious functionaries! :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Surreal sand sights in Tottori, with crossing camels as a bonus! (Photo-essay)

Ever since I read about Tottori in The Sun in My Eyes: Two-Wheeling East, cyclist-writer-cook Josie Dew's follow-up to the very enjoyable A Ride in the Neon Sun: A Gaijin in Japan, I've wanted to go to that unusually sandy part of Japan.  And should you think it: no, it wasn't (just) because its name gets one thinking of Totoro!  Rather, the thought of seeing -- and walking on and up -- the sand dunes there sounded really appealing to me, and all the more so when doing so in a seemingly unlikely place!

At some 16 kilometers in length, Tottori's sand dunes are the largest in Japan, and part of the Sanin Kaigan National Park.  The writer of the Totorri section of the 3rd edition of the Rough Guide to Japan hadn't been too impressed by them though and dismissed them as "not worth going out of your way to see" but I'd beg to differ and say that, coupled with a visit to The Sand Museum nearby (and an incredibly good value 2,000 Yen uni and ikura-don lunch at an eatery located in between the two attractions), my day trip there from Matsue made for one of the highlights of my recent Japan vacation!

 Can you believe that this Coronation of Charlemagne piece 
created by Chinese sculptor Zhang Yan is made of sand? :O

 And that it's just one of a number of large works of art created
by an international team of sand sculptors on display at the museum?!

 Prone to collapse and temporal, I think their non-permanent nature
endears these amazing sand sculptures all the more to a people
whose culture celebrates such as the flowering cherry blossoms

Puppet Ponyo poses in front of a backdrop of sand sculptures
of German castles and court scenery -- and yes, the current exhibition's

Now for the natural sand wonder -- and what it 
lacks in finesse it makes up in size!

Some people try -- and fail? -- to go up 
the steepest part of the sand dunes

 I, meanwhile, opted to head first to one of the sections
of the sand dunes where wind ripples can be viewed

One last surreal sight as I was leaving Tottori --
camels crossing the road at the end of their work day! ;b

Monday, May 25, 2015

A very quiet graveyard and giant tortoise at Gesshoji

Sometimes I like to put Puppet Ponyo in a photo so that 
one can get a good idea of the size of something else in it!

Another panoramic photo that I hope you'll click on to enlarge
for a better look at the subject :)

I know most superstitious Hong Kongers would never believe it but there are cemeteries and graveyards in many parts of the world that have become tourist attractions -- and I've been to a few of them (including London's Highgate Cemetery and more than one of New Orleans').  And while in Matsue on my recent Japan trip, I made a point to head out to Gesshoji -- a Buddhist temple whose fame looks to stem most from its atmospheric grounds being the final resting place of nine feudal lords of the Matsue domain and the first lord's mother Gessho-in, after whom the temple (originally called Touunji) was renamed.
Located approximately 800 meters to the west of Matsue Castle, Gesshoji feels distinctly off the beaten tourist track.  Or, as the author of the Frommer's Japan guide put it: "What I like most about [its] cemetery is that it seems ancient and forgotten; you might find yourself the only living soul here" -- and this despite the cemetery being more likely to attract tourists than the temple buildings (though visitors really should check out the Treasure House, especially as there's no extra admission fee to it, as is the case for many other temples I've been to in Japan)!  

For the record: on the two occasions I visited (because my first visit was too close to its closing time), I spotted a total of just three other visitors to Gesshoji!  And so quiet were things at the sprawling temple grounds that the first time around, it did feel uncomfortably eerie while the second time, the loudest sounds that could be heard were the muffled ones of tennis balls being hit during the physical exercise period for what appeared to be all of the students at a nearby school!

There must have been -- even still are?  -- times when the temple renamed as Gesshoji in 1664 is a more bustling place.  For instance, I can imagine that the funerals for the nine lords buried there must have been big affairs based on how large and elaborately decorated several of their tombs are.  In addition, it's mentioned in the temple brochure that Gesshoji's the site of annual formal memorial services held for used tea whisks (on account of the seventh Matsue lord, Matsudaira Harusato, having been a renowned tea master, under the name Matsudaira Fumai) and also is famed for its hydrangeas (so the local people may be most likely to visit when those flowers are in bloom)!

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if Gesshoji is usually as, well, dead as I found it to be for the most part.  And if so, I can easily imagine that this would have contributed to the temple having supernatural tales associated with it, notably about the giant tortoise statue erected in the vicinity of the sixth Matsue lord's grave that was given to nocturnal wanderings -- including to drink water at a pond located elsewhere within the temple grounds -- until a large and heavy stone monolith was placed atop it! 

There's another legend that good luck will come to those who pet the top of the giant tortoise's head and I figured this was worth doing.  Puppet Ponyo, on the other hand, opted to sit atop the creature's head.  I guess she was emboldened to do so by no harm having befallen her after she sat on the neck of an admittedly smaller tortoise effigy at Hanoi's Temple of Literature! ;D

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Beyond sushi on the San-in Coast

 Not the kind of lunch one'd expect to eat at a craft beer place, right?

 Soba with a variety of delicious toppings 
from a roadside stall at Iwami Ginzan

A delicious set lunch in Matsue

A closeup shot of the gray pile next to the prawn 
-- and yes, there are a lot of EYES in it! ;O

Whenever I think back about my holidays in Japan, meals are very much a part of the good memories of my visits to the Land of the Rising Sun. Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that I've yet to have a bad meal while in Japan -- though, sadly, it's also true enough that I may have had one of my least satisfying meals in the country on this recent Japan trip... and it was at a sushi-ya too!

What appears to have happened is that the sushi chef-owner at the one man -- and very traditional looking -- sushi joint in Matsue that I decided to try out one evening couldn't believe that a foreigner who wasn't fluent in Japanese could actually be familiar with and really love sushi.  So when I asked for an omakase (i.e., chef's choice) meal, he started the dinner off with foreigner-friendly -- but, frankly, rather dull to my mind -- choices like salmon.  

And although about two-thirds through the meal, the chef got to realizing -- thanks to a friendly fellow regular customer who helpfully acted as our interpreter -- that I wasn't a sushi novice (because I told them that my favorite sushi toppings were kani miso (sometimes translated as crab innards and other times as crab sperm), uni (sea urchin...gonads) and ikura (salmon roe)), and started offering up more interesting options like mackerel roe, it felt like a little too late -- alas!

Happily, pretty much all of the rest of the meals I had on this trip were more enjoyable -- including the first lunch I had after arriving in Matsue.  In truth, I wasn't expecting much of the food at Ji Beer Kan since the main draw there was, as the establishment's name makes evident, the jibiru (craft beer).  But the set meal option which included various pickles, slices of chikuwa (fish meat stick) and ochazuke (rice with green tea) really hit the spot along with the Beer Hearn sampler (of pilsner, amber ale and weissbier) that was the first thing on the menu that I ordered!

The next day's lunch at an eatery near the Adachi Museum of Art consisted of warigo soba -- a cold noodle dish that I became eminently familiar with over the course of my stay on the San-in Coast thanks to the hotel that I was at (the Dormy Inn Express Matsue) offering it daily as part of the breakfast buffet that had been included in my room booking.  While tasty, I have to admit to thinking I've had enough of this dish, so that I may now want to have any more soba for the next six months!  But it's also was the case that the bowl of hot soba -- topped with such as an egg, pieces of sweet tofu, a portion of mountain yam, thin strips of seaweed and spring onions --  I had at a roadside stall in Iwami Ginzan was nicely comforting; particularly since that day turned out to be on the unexpectedly cool side temperature-wise.

And the day after I had the unsatisfying sushi dinner, I had a lovely lunch at Kyoragi, a restaurant located across the road from Ji Beer Kan.  Like the majority of the eateries I ate at on this less visited part of Japan, it didn't have an English menu.  But it had a really helpful picture menu -- and I felt pretty safe in knowing that I had ordered the sashimi and tempura set; with the only surprise turning out to be the pile of tiny -- and gloopy textured! -- fish that was placed next to a large prawn.  And yes, even though their gray color and (relatively) big eyes reminded me of O-totoro, I ate them anyway! (Sorry!!) ;b

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Floral and green delights at Daikonshima's Yuushien

Puppet Ponyo posing with a few of Yuushien's 
eyecatchingly large Japanese peonies

Oher beautifully cultivated flowers found at the garden

 Of course, as I've come to expect of Japanese gardens, 
there are lovely views to be had

Yuushien's the kind of place where I like to linger for a while
to enjoy the calming as well as pretty sights :)

As some of this blog's readers may have gathered, I like to plan my vacations.  At the same time, I don't strictly stick to the itineraries I make.  For example, I had hoped to hike from Iwami Ginzan's main (mining) area to one of the two port towns that the silver had been transported to and, from there, to the rest of the world.  But the copious number of "beware of snakes" -- and in some cases, "beware of wasps too" -- signs that I saw the day that I went there caused me to abandon my idea to go along the (also noticeably overgrown) old transport routes between the mining area and the coast! and this especially since I additionally observed way fewer visitors about than I thought there'd be at 

Opting for something tamer the morning after my excursion to Iwami Ginzan, I decided to head out from Matsue once more; this time to Daikonshima (Radish Island!) to spend some time strolling around Yuushien, a Japanese "circuit style" garden famed for its peonies -- some of which were in bloom when I visited.  And although the weather forecast had been for a largely cloudy day, it was beautifully sunny for much of the time that I was there -- something which added considerably to my appreciation of the place!

A small volcanic island located on Nakaumi (a brackish lake that is Japan's fifth largest), Daikonshima appears to be a giant plant nursery -- and is famed for being where prized ginseng as well as peonies (Shimane's prefectural flower) grow.  Near the entrance of Yuushien, women offer up free cups of ginseng tea and in the facility's main buildings, there are exhibits on ginseng and areas where one can buy all kinds of ginseng products.

But my focus was on the garden's flowers and landscaped areas -- which I had a lovely time checking out.  For although I hadn't quite realized it when reading its brochures and such, Yuushien's actually my favorite type of Japanese garden: i.e., those designed for strolling around and revealing different vistas as one does so.  And while it's neither as old nor large as the likes of Okayama's Korakuen and Kanazawa's Kenroku-en, it still struck me as pretty lovely and impressive!

The morning that I was there, there were lots of senior citizens enjoying the garden's offerings.  Some of them were wheelchair-bound while others could get about pretty well on their own two feet.  Close to all of them, male and female, had floppy hats on to ward off the sun -- something I've come to see as characteristically Japanese! -- and quite a few were snapping photos of the sights and their parties.  

At no point though did I see anyone brandish a "selfie" stick.  And I have to say that I hardly saw any on this Japan trip -- unlike the case when I visited South Korea last September or when I'm in more touristy parts of Hong Kong (e.g., the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront). Actually, the general impression I get is that "selfie" sticks actually aren't that well known or prevalent in Japan.  And yes, I consider this state of affairs adds to Japan's charm! ;b 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Iwami Ginzan's silver mine, woods and cultural landscape (Photo-essay)

In what can seem like another lifetime, I was a tourism planner whose job involved meeting with government officials and telling them what getting the area where I worked on the UNESCO World Heritage list would mean.  I remember being shocked and horrified by one senior government official ignorantly asking if getting on the list really would have much impact -- and recalled our discussion as I made my way to Iwami Ginzan (by train and then bus from Matsue, as had been the case the previous day for the Adachi Museum of Art).      

For the fact of the matter is that I wouldn't have known of the existence of this historically important silver mine and its distinctive cultural landscape -- which includes a small town with roots back into the Edo period (Omori) where, unusually, samurai, merchants and craftsmen (and their families) would live on the same street rather than in separate neighborhoods -- if not for it having been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2007; this despite this one mining area being said to have supplied one third of the world's silver in the 16th century.

Beginning from 1526, silver was extracted at Iwami Ginzan for close to 400 years.  Despite all this mining taking place and such as mountain fortresses to protect the silver as well as mining towns being built in the area, today it is largely wooded -- thanks to forestry management that, in the past, ensured a steady supply of the vast amount of timber used for fuel when refining the silver and such. 

While no visit to this site could possibly be considered complete without going down a mine shaft, it's also very much part of the experience to make the hike through the woods to one of the two mine shafts that are open to the public -- and also to check out the other human-created sections of what feels these days like a most bucolic area...    

On my woodland trek, I expected to have my third 
Japanese snake spotting (after ones in Ogimachi and Bitchu-Takahashi
-- especially after seeing signs like that pictured above! :O

The Shimizudani Refinery Ruins got me thinking

Inside the Ryugenji Mabu Mine Shaft which dates back to 1715

Dedicated to Kanayamahiko-no-mikoto, the god of metal refining,
Sahimeyama-jinja is one of Japan's largest mountain shrines
-- and completely (and eerily) deserted when I visited!

 The town of Omori's so picturesque it can look like
it's part of a historical theme park rather than a place
where people still live and work!

 Eisen-ji's one of a number of Buddhist temples and
Shinto shrines to be found in Omori (and yes, there also 
are many places where flowers grow within the town)

 It's hardly the largest or most historic building in Omori but I like 
how this house looks, with its pretty lace curtains and unpainted wood

Puppet Ponyo by one of the wooden bridges to be found 
in this town that comes across as an attractive place 
to live in, bar for its distance from other human settlements! ;b

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Plenty to see and admire at the Adachi Museum of Art

The Kikaku Waterfall and other aesthetically pleasing 
garden elements to be found at the Adachi Museum of Art
 Prepare to be awestruck when you click on the above photo 
and view an enlarged version of it! :)
 Puppet Ponyo says that you also should feel free to click 
on the above photo of her to see a larger version of it (and her)! ;b

Back in 2006, I chanced on an exhibition of works by Yokoyama Taikan when I visited the Fukuoka Art Museum that was by far the most impressive museum exhibition that I viewed that year -- and may well be the most impressive museum exhibition I've seen in Japan to date.  (It's either that or the also pretty breathtaking Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs special exhibition that was on at the Ueno Royal Museum when I visited Tokyo in 2012.)
So when I found out that the Adachi Museum of Art is home to the largest -- and, many believe, best -- collection of works by the distinguished Japanese artist (whose real name was Sadai Hidemaro), I had one more big incentive to visit this museological institution located on the outskirts of the small Shimane Prefecture city of Yasugi, whose biggest claim to fame is its breathtakingly beautiful Japanese gardens.   And yup, those of you who know me will be able to easily guess what was Shimane Prefecture's top attraction to my mind!

Thus it was that on the morning of my first full day in Shimane Prefecture, I made my way by train, followed by free shuttle bus, to this museological establishment whose layout makes it so that one spends time mainly feasting one's eyes on its six gardens (which are approximately 165,000 square meters in total) first before venturing upstairs to view the major works of art that can be found inside the museum buildings.
Although I had imagined that people would be able to stroll in these amazingly landscaped gardens, the truth of the matter, of course, is that visitors are only allowed to view them from a distance -- and mostly only through the glass of admittedly large windows.  After getting over the disappointment of this discovery, I thanked the stars that at least photographs are allowed of these wondrous gardens -- so I could capture images to remember them by, and share them with others.
On the other hand, no photography is allowed of the interior of the museum and the art works on exhibition.  So I'm glad to have found images online of the pieces I saw there that I ended up spending the most time admiring: namely, Yokoyama Taikan's Mount Fuji (1932) -- which actually is a pair of paintings: one of the snow-covered peak of Mount Fuji peaking out from the clouds and another featuring a reddish-orange sun peaking out from another group of clouds floating above the foothills of the sacred mountain -- and the lesser known Shunkyo Yamamoto's Good Omen (1931), whose azure colors (for the water, flowers and roof tiles) I found striking along with the very idea of a mythical landscape as though it was one which humans could readily visit.