The parental visitation, conclusion: from tech-crazy to traditional in Shirakawago

Shirakawago Village

They say there is something in Japan for everyone. Or perhaps more accurately, everyone can find “their Japan” somewhere. If your picture of Japan is the bright lights of Tokyo, rest assured you will find it (unless you visit in the midst of an energy crisis, that is). If you want ninjas and samurais, you will find them. Cute everything, cosplay, video games and anime? Check. If you want gardens, you will find gardens, everywhere. And if your picture of Japan is stuck in the 19th Century, don’t worry, even you won’t be disappointed.

So it happened that, as the first place we brought my husband’s visiting parents was arguably one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, the last place we brought them was one of the last bastions of traditional life in Japan: Shirakawago. This village, preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a window into the past, characterized by the thatched roofs and classical landscape. Thanks to the relatively recent influx of tourism, the tiny village in the mountains has been lifted from an impoverished, backwards-living forgotten existence, to a once-again thriving community. The rest is best described not with words but with pictures…

The typical scene in Shirakawago: large A-frame thatched roof buildings, built to endure throughout the seasons. The roofs are steep to withstand the heavy snowfall the village receives in winter.

One of my favourite things was this oldschool, fully operational waterwheel.

Another view of the waterwheel!

A small house in the distance past the flooded rice fields.

The coolest tractor I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they still use it.

This twisty tree art thing decorated the front of one of the buildings. It was pretty cool.

We walked on many paths through the rice fields. Some fields, like the one in the foreground, appeared to be no longer in use.

A closeup view of the thatched roofing style.

If you’re like me, thinking, man it would suck if those thatched roofs ever caught fire: not to fear! The town’s fire hydrant is here!

My husband looking pensive on the path from the lookout. Actually he’s most likely thinking “what the heck is taking my parents so long.” Or maybe I should subtitle this pose as “reflecting on the beautiful simplicity of rural life” since that sounds nicer 😉

We hiked for about 15 minutes uphill to reach the lookout point. Here is the view from above!

Another view of the flooded rice fields, as seen from above.

Me and the Shirakawago mascots. Possibly the only thing that applies everywhere in Japan, no matter how far back “in time” you travel, is that every place has a mascot. These dolls are like charms that give you good luck, future prosperity, health and long life, or various other things, depending on the colour. My husband and I bought ourselves a (significantly smaller) pink one that symbolizes “happy marriage and happy encounters!”

The bridge that brings you to the village from the parking lot entrance area. Bye bye Shirakawago!

And with that last experience, their time was up. We drove my husband’s parents to the airport the next morning, and then they were gone. As you may have guessed by now if you’ve been following this “series”, they did indeed survive, and we did indeed survive them. In fact, while it was at first stretching to share our tiny plot of the Japanese landscape (our apartment) with them, by the end we were pretty sad to see them go. As anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time living in a culture apart from their own knows, it’s like having two worlds, and when someone from one of your worlds comes to your other world, it can feel at first like an invasion. But by the end I think having them here left both of us feeling a bit more… balanced, as though our Japan selves remembered our Canada selves and both sides are now able to work through their schizophrenia together, a little bit at a time. Don’t mind me, just misusing the psychological terminology for the benefit of my psychology-educated in laws.

So, that’s all folks! Conclusion to the longest-yet blog series I’ve written! It was fun, but I am looking forward to getting on with my blogging life – there’s so much else to show and discuss, but I’ve felt I couldn’t move on until finishing this series. Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “The parental visitation, conclusion: from tech-crazy to traditional in Shirakawago

  1. Thanks for doing this.
    Most interesting this last village.
    We never got there.
    Hugs, Cathy Mark

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