Today our schedule saw us travelling during the course of the day on eight trains and a few buses. To make every connection while travelling alone would be no mean feat and the fact that Robert had even considered it with fourteen children in adult bodies in his charge says something for his fortitude and skill as a tour leader.
Naturally in a group of this size when timing is all, one person will choose to arrive just sufficiently late that all planning must be thrown aside, and so we missed our first train by less than a minute, he accepted that with considerable patience and the sort of diplomacy that I suspect were one in his shoes, one would fail to muster. Those precious seconds meant that each connection took an extra ten minutes or so, hardly earth shattering in the context of a lifetime, but none the less reducing the time we had at our destination by almost an hour.
Our destination in this case was the Meiji-mura museum near Nagoya, where a huge collection of buildings from the Meiji Era (no, look it up yourself!) have been rescued and reconstructed on a vast lakefront site in the forest. We were never going to see all of it, that would take days. The constant drizzle which turned our planned picnic into a bit of gobble’n go would have hampered a lot of our wandering. We did wander through a few buildings and had a tour beneath the stage of a Kabuki theatre and saw the emperor’s train, but really we were only there to do one thing: to have tea and cake in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel.
One cannot fathom the sort of insanity that was behind the preservation of this building but thank goodness it exists. Imagine demolishing a complicated brick and stone building, packing it in containers, shipping it several hundred kilometres and rebuiliding it close enough to twenty years later. Here it sits as far from its original urban environment as one can imagine. Beautifully preserved, still with remnants of Tokyo smog etched into the facade, the tea room above the foyer in perfect working order. The detailing was everything those books that I was sure had misled me so badly a week or two ago had promised.
Come back Frank, all is forgiven!