February 13, 2021

Virtual trip to Gujo Hachiman (1/24/2021), Night scene (POSCA markers, white and scarlet Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore black Mixed Media paper–vellum surface)

Well it seems to me that my virtual trips around the world with my artist friends has taken on a life of its own. (Wondering if there is a pun or a bit of irony in that statement…). It’s so fun to go to a bunch of different places just about every other Sunday morning with my special bunch of artist friends. And I don’t have to worry about getting on a plane with people who are potentially sick with that dreaded pandemic virus, nor does it cost me a thing. Well, of course it costs me my time. But it seems that’s what I have more of these days of staying home so much. However, these virtual trips provide me with something to look forward to and I am so grateful for the mental stimulation. Our most recent trek was on January 24th, and we went to Gujo Hachiman, Japan. If you are like me, you’d have never heard of it. In all the excitement I forgot to ask our guide that day where you might find this night scene in Gujo Hachiman. So, I spent a couple evenings this week looking online to see what I could find out, wondering if I would see the exact location as seen at night. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but instead was treated to an amazing collection of photos of the town that included several 360 degree cams of various spots. (See gujohachiman.com and click on English, unless you know how to read Kanji.) In the end it didn’t really matter whether or not I could actually confirm where I had sketched. But, if I were to guess I would say it was probably part of the Sogi Sui Water shrine. If you browse the website I’ve shared it seems this PR marvel was created before the pandemic. Never mind the shameless and overly advertised information meant to attract tourists. It did strike me funny that they described all the year round sights and experiences in this way—snow in winter, cherry blossoms in spring and typhoons in the summer. (I think I snorted out loud when I read that last bit…)  For me, I could ignore the online enchanted sirens singing the praises of Gujo Hachiman (especially the summer sirens). I just went down almost every 2 dimensional alley/street, river and museum photo they showed. And I almost got dizzy from all my spinning around with the great number 360 degree cams available on their website. It was fun!

Virtual trip to Gujo Hachiman (1/24/2021), Cherry blossoms above river (purple watersoluble ink with Fude nib, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

For our next view we went to another unnamed area of town with a bit of carefully laid stone and moving water. Water is definitely key to this small town in the Gifu prefecture. It’s where three rivers (Nagara, Yoshida and Kodara) come together and much of the commerce for old and new Gujo Hachiman is connected to water. Our host explained that every city/town in Japan has their own manhole cover design. Gujo Hachiman’s manhole cover depicts “Fishes in the Clear River.” With all the water in the area, this design makes total sense. There were so many lovely things to see, with the waterways that surround the town being at the top of my list of loveliness. But, I was also struck by the way they used stones in and around the water. Some were quite round and smooth and looked like they had been polished over time in the rivers. They came in a variety of sizes as well and were used as hardscape, in intricate designs everywhere you looked. There were also stones that looked like identical geometric pavers. They were used to build retaining walls and cover walkways. Of course traveling to Gujo Hachiman is now on my bucket list. All that stone embedded in moving water next to silver looking wooden buildings with smaller structures painted bright red would be a pleasure to look at and sketch realtime someday.

So, here comes the really interesting part of my story. As I did research on the town I had a feeling I had seen something like it before. I realized I had read about the area a number of years ago. I found the actual article I was thinking of in a drawer full of similar bits of travel information I have saved over the years. The article was from the October 2010 Smithsonian magazine and it was called “A Walk Through Old Japan.” In the story a couple hikers go for a trek on The Kiso Road, which is part of the Nakasendo Way. I remember thinking at the time that someday I wanted to do some walking on that ancient road. It seems this old road, connecting Tokyo with Kyoto, goes right through Gifu prefecture. And guess what? Gujo Hachiman is in Gifu prefecture. OMG! It didn’t take me long to realize that going there was already on my bucket list. How convenient!

If you would like to see more about the area I am babbling on about, check out jtbusa.com/gifu-chiune. The information you will find there is another shameless attempt to encourage tourists to come visit. It all looks perfect to me. I hope to someday be able to go there—maybe see the snow in winter and/or the cherry blossoms in spring. However, I don’t think I need to see a typhoon in summer. So, I don’t think that time of year will work for me. But I wonder if the room rates are lower in summer…

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