Sunday, March 31, 2019

Out of my Gourd in Yoro

--Susan, every other Sunday

Last weekend, I pushed over the 90-summit threshold with climbs in Mie and Gifu Prefectures. Sunday's climbs took me to the little town of Yōrō, which is famous for four things:

Yōrō Falls (a 30-meter bridal-veil style fall that ranks among Japan's "100 Best Waterfalls") and its attendant spring, whose water apparently cures all ailments. (I drank some. I'll let you know.)

Mt. Yōrō (the reason for my visit)

A series of local amusement parks: "Yōrō Land," "Children's World," and "The Site of Reversible Destiny." (I'll be going back for the latter, which is apparently designed to help visitors 'encounter the unexpected'.)

And . . . gourds - which actually relate to item number 1.

Gourds hanging from the rail station platform in Yōrō. Because gourds.

According to legend, many centuries ago, a woodcutter discovered a spring in the mountains of Yōrō that ran with sake instead of water. He filled a gourd with the liquid and took it home to his aging father. When the father drank the miraculous sake-water from the gourd, he was instantly rejuvenated and all his ailments were cured. Since that time, the water--and the gourds--of Yōrō have been famous.

After climbing Mt. Yōrō (and two neighboring peaks) and visiting the famous falls, I stopped in a local omiyage shop to buy a souvenir and presents for my family. I settled on Yōrō cider (made with the famous water) for my family, and a tiny gourd carved into the shape of an ibis (the Japanese crested ibis, or toki, went extinct but has been re-introduced, using birds from China) for myself.

Because I bought so many items, the shopkeeper gave me a free admission ticket to the "Yōrō Gourd Lantern Museum (Only In Yōrō!)" which happened to be located right next door.

Since I'd finished my climb ahead of schedule, and I have a personal rule that requires me to follow as many rabbit trails as possible when I'm traveling, I headed through the gourded curtain (literally a bead curtain strung with tiny hollow gourds instead of beads) and into the museum.

Holy cow.

Part of the amazing collection at the Yōrō gourd lantern museum.

The one-room museum held a large assortment of illuminated gourds adorned with unbelievably intricate, detailed patterns.

It was hard to believe these were gourds...

The work was flawless - and amazingly detailed.

Carved from a gourd. Unbelievable.

The curator--who was also the carver--explained a little about the history of gourds in Yōrō, and also told me that his wife designs the patterns, while he does the intricate needlework required to create the designs.


He also pointed out the way that the lanterns are carved to cast specific shadows on the wall.

Yep, that's a gourd.

One of my favorite lanterns featured hotaru - fireflies - a symbol of summer here in Japan.

The hotaru lantern. Note the walls...

But for the shopkeeper offering me an admission ticket, I might not have noticed the little museum--and would have missed this lovely art. I also learned that the museum's curator made my little toki gourd, which makes it even more special.

My toki gourd, at home on my desk.

The adventure was just one more reminder that taking the road less traveled - and taking advantage of unexpected opportunities - often leads to the best, and most memorable, experiences of all.

1 comment:

  1. Susan, how beautiful!! And you scored two more summits into the bargain! This adventure of of your is riveting!!