Noilly Prattle: Getting Reacquainted 21 – End of the Line

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Getting Reacquainted 21 – End of the Line

our very economical Mazda Demio -
slightly dusted with volcanic ash
     Our son had to return to Tokyo after a short weekend getaway so we left Ibusuki around 10 o'clock in the morning and drove him to Kagoshima Airport for an early afternoon flight. I would inject a word of praise for our GPS equipped rental car which also turned out to be surprisingly good on gas. The car was a compact Mazda Demio model that I was very impressed with. (This is not a plug for Mazda, simply an observation.) I drove the car for three days (413 km.) and only filled the tank once in Ibusuki for about $35. The tank still showed full when I returned the car to the dealer in Kagoshima after driving 120 km. We drove about 533 km. for about $35.

        After dropping our son off at the airport, we headed back towards the city of Kagoshima, which is now the southern terminus of the Shinkansen, the Bullet Train, for which we had return tickets back home. Just before arriving in Kagoshima we stopped off at what was the summer “home” of the Lord of Satsuma during the Edo Period. I put “home” in quotes because the property is more like a small palace and commands one of the most unique backyard views that any amount of money can buy.—a volcano—Sakurajima.

a smoking and belching Sakurajima volcano

main house of Senganen with "borrowed scenery"
        Known as Senganen (仙巌園), it is a Japanese style landscape garden built by the powerful Shimazu clan in 1658 during the Edo Period (1603-1867) when Japan was ruled by the Shoguns of the Tokugawa clan. The Shimazu clan ruled the Satsuma domain (present day Kagoshima) for almost 700 years until the end of the Edo Period. The landscape garden uses the usual elements of a Japanese garden, ponds, streams, flora, rock and stone and, of course, Japanese style buildings including a shrine, tea houses, and the main house.

there were several of these huge, uniquely shaped
stone lanterns strewn about the garden

        These features can be found in most Japanese landscape gardens, even more modest ones in ordinary peoples homes. What is astounding about Senganen is the so-called “borrowed scenery”--a volcano and the sea—Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay. As one walks around the property these elements of borrowed scenery are almost always in view.

typically simple tea house for tea ceremonies -
the tiny entrance door is designed to show proper humility
in preparation for the ceremony

sweet potato flavored soft cream -
refreshing after walking around on a
surprisingly hot day 

        One thing that caught my attention while strolling around the garden was a lovely bamboo grove. The grove was obviously well tended, thinned to give it an airiness, dead and broken stalks removed—a kind of idealized bamboo grove. According to a posted sign the grove was originally composed of a couple stalks imported from China. Bamboo, it turns out are not native to Japan. All of the bamboo currently rampant in Japan are descended from the the original stalks imported into this grove. 

Japan's "ancestral" bamboo grove

our lovely view from the "Dreamy Inn"
a slightly distorted view of the
Kyushu Shinkansen
at Kagoshima Chuo Station
        After leaving Senganen, we returned our rented car to the dealer in Kagoshima which was just around the corner from our budget hotel, another "Dreamy Inn" (see Getting Reacquainted 17). The next morning we boarded the Shinkansen at Kagoshima Chuo station and returned home.

The End.

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