I settled into my seat on the train, happy to be in Japan where public transportation makes it easy to explore all parts of the island nation. For intercity visits under three hours, I'll always take the 200+ mph Shinkansen.
Called the "bullet train" for good reason. Stand near railroad tracks as a Shinkansen passes and it feels like a jet on wheels is streaking by. Inside, when I'm sitting in a comfortable seat, reading a book or snacking on a bento box, I forget how fast we're traveling.
As we walked on the bridge that stretched into Mikawa Bay, Hadano Hiroaki from the Gamagōri City Hall Tourism office took out a bag of chips. I thought he wanted us to sample one of the region’s local treats. But the chips were not for us.
A dozen seagulls appeared out of the dark grey sky, swooping low and grabbing the chips from his outstretched hand. With a smile, he said he likes to feed the black headed gulls that migrate from Russia and pass through Gamagōri.
Revered as a national treasure, the island is the home of the Yaotomi Shrine. Hiroaki explained that the shrine was established in 1181 with a group of five Shinto shrines around a main plaza. Famously, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) stopped at the shrine to pray for victory before the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. His prayers were answered because he won that battle and went on to become the first shōgun of a unified Japan.
After the soup, there was a salad that balanced European and Japanese ingredients. Hatano combined soy sauce, grated apples, ginger, orange juice and salad oil to make a bright tasting dressing. Radicchio, shredded Savoy cabbage, carrots, daikon, cucumber, red radish, bitter green mizune and frisée, cucumber, red and green leaf lettuces, green and red peppers and taro leaf were tossed together, with tiny, translucent whitebait on top. Such delicious flavors, so many wonderful textures.
Transportation in those days was mostly on foot. When nobles traveled, they required a great number of workmen, servants and retainers to accompany them. And since the journey could take many days or weeks, inns called honjin were constructed along the roads.
For over two-hundred and fifty years, the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1837) ruled Japan. But in the mid-19thcentury, the world was changing and the tightly controlled system created by Ieyasu wasn’t nimble enough to adjust to internal pressures and to the arrival of American and European nations. With their superior weapons, the Western powers demanded that Japan open their markets to trade and that was the beginning of the end for the Shogunate.
In a rough-hewn space with life-sized human figures, the museum had recreated a waki-honjin where servants and merchants would stay.
When a lord and his family left home, as many as eight-hundred members of his household would accompany them. Along the way, more help would be required. According to records preserved in the museum, sometimes as many as six hundred additional workers were hired. That meant the trip could require as many as 1,400 servants. For the most important daimyō, even more would be needed.
Seeing the displays, it was easy to understand how the trips bankrupted the feudal lords, forcing them to be financially dependent on the shogun.
We all pressed close to the glass display cases so we could appreciate the wonderful detail of his portraits.
Lists of activities in the Shoryudo Region are available on https://www.jtbusa.com/shoryudo/.
Staying in Nagoya makes exploring the area easy and convenient. Comfortable accommodations and reliable transportation are very available. Consult the Nagoya Information Center website: https://www.nagoya-info.jp/en/icenter/
Information about the Gamagōri area is available on http://www.gamagori.jp/en/index.html.
http://www.nagoyajo.city.nagoya.jp/13_english/. The meticulous restoration of the castle celebrates its architectural and artistic excellence.