Mie Prefecture - Viewpoints
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Our travels continue on a different way back to Ise from Toba, one that follows the coast. This route with its sea views, evolved in the days of travel on foot, and must have been pleasant for those journeying to or from their pilgrimages. But much later on, all motor traffic was forced to a slow crawl along its narrow, winding way. A four-lane bypass has reduced the time yet it has also isolated Futamiura.
Here, close to a residence built for the Emperor, was the Iseya Inn. The sheer size of the three-story, wooden building echoed its past as a popular stopover. It could accommodate 700 travelers, with a main entrance to rival a temple. Guests crossed a flowing stream by a red, indoor bridge, to what we now call Reception. Two smaller, yet no less ornate, entrances were in the right and left wings.
Viewpoints? My sub-title has two meanings. One is that of the building for the print - an attempt to give a straight-ahead view of each floor disregarding true perspective (therefore eliminating many lines) – and the other is the very different viewpoint regarding the actual sighting of the inn itself. It could have faced the beach… a narrow stretch of sand going down to the expanse of the bay. Yet no thought of architectural or scenic beauty was given to this seaside aspect. The contrast of the grand “front” and the functional “back” - with its later-added drainpipes and air conditioners further degrading the whole sea-facing side – showed that guests of days gone by had not visited to stroll the beach or take a holiday. Had there been a fence to hide this ugliness?
The story of the inn was told by the owner’s son, as he showed me around the vast building. He had recently been forced to return from studying in England and was not enthusiastic about taking over the management of such an “out of the way” place. School parties had replaced pilgrims and, in some rooms, urgent repairs were needed. There was no car parking and the “stream” under that bridge had long since been only pebbles.
I chose to record the road-side aspect, starting on the left, for a multi-print set. The ground floor was no problem for “my” perspective but what about the other floors? I persuaded the people at a souvenir shop opposite to allow me use their roof… o.k., except that they added it was “impossible” to use their stairs. This was resolved by the nearby electricity pole and some borrowed steps to reach the first rungs of the pole. Once settled on the roof – behind the shop sign, out of view – I began. It took a long time, as there were just so many windows, with their decorative railings. I also had to go a little higher up the roof at times, for details of the top floor (to the amusement of some children, who shouted “Look, a gaijin, on that roof!”). I’m not sure if sketching while balancing on roof tiles is the safest way to create art, but never-the-less I worked on until dusk when lights started to come on. Then, I saw how to capture the Iseya...
Finally, I had enough sketches for re-drawing at ground level. The problem was how to get over the shop sign and down to those steps in the semi-darkness (no space to relate this now - I’ll just add that someone had taken the steps away)…
Note: The inn has been replaced by a business hotel… also with its back to the sea.
Woodblock print. 14 blocks, hand-carved and printed Title: Dusk, the Iseya Inn
David Stones, Woodblock Printer, Okazaki.