Sunday, September 17, 2006

#38 Bullet train to Miyajima

September 14, 2006
When in Japan, do as the Japanese, i.e. ride the Shinkansen bullet train.
0908 Bullet train (shinkansen) at Shin-Kobe Station
And be on time. In 2003, the average arrival time for Shinkansen was within 6 seconds of the scheduled time including all 160,000 plus arrivals. Warned that the bullet train stops only for 90 seconds at each station, we hurry on. But with the car number on our ticket and the location of the door for each numbered car marked clearly on the platform with accompanying arrows for entry and exit paths, we successfully negotiate each entrance and exit 100% of the time.

Between Kobe and Hiroshima, my GPS records our top speed at 179 mph. At that speed, the ride is comparable to a commercial jet in smoothness. Passing another Shinkansen going that fast in the opposite direction is an eye-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it experience.

After Shinkansen, our passenger ferry to Miyajima Island tops out at 9.7 mph. The tame deer are waiting for us as we step onto the island. Entrances to island stores employ short wooden gates to keep the pesky critters out. They are not shy about ripping your entire box lunch from your hand, as several students learned.

After running the deer gauntlet, we walk through the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine. It was built in 1168 on a tidal flat giving the appearance that the long low structure floats on water at high tide. The vermillion gate is placed further out toward open water in a scenic spot. Cameras get a work out here.
0926 Shinto shrine on Miwajima
I’ve been reading about Frank Lloyd Wright’s visits to Japan and how this culture influenced his work. It’s not much of a stretch to see similarities in the architectural styles. Take Itsukushima, decrease the roof slope, fill the spaces between support columns with art glass windows, and you’ve got the basic prairie house form.

Wright documented his 1905 Japan trip with photographs, most focusing on the architecture of Japanese religious buildings. Then the never-give-credit-where-credit-is-due Wright went on to deny that Japan influenced his designs:
“I am not indebted to the Japanese – the Japanese are indebted to me.”- FL Wright
I am eager to visit the only remaining example of Wright’s Japanese residential work on Saturday.

Yours in wondering if Wright came up with the bullet train idea,


  1. This is interesting. I always wondered why some of the larger craftsman house seemed to have an asian look and feel about them, especially at the entrance.

  2. I've had the same thought. This Japanese castle looks like a bungalow on massive steriods. Check out the angled stone foundation, one of the coolest features, that you sometimes see on Arts & Crafts houses: