After Yokohama, I went up to Yamagata city by shinkansen (bullet train). The Tsubasa ('wing') shinkansen has made the trip to Yamagata city from Tokyo very easy since 1992. When I first went to Yamagata Prefecture, we travelled to Niigata and changed there - still the shorter route. The photo above shows the Tsubasa pulling into Tokyo station.
This maple in my friends' garden had impressive colours too.
Some families were already celebrating shichi go san at the shrine on Saturday. My friends' two eldest sons had their shichi go san at the same shrine in 1992. The colours of the children's kimono ensembles are now much brighter than twenty years ago - I think many of them are washable polyester now too. This little girl's ensemble is typical, but many of the boys were wearing brigher colours too.
The autumn colours were also magnificent around Yamagata castle.
The castle has been excavated and partly rebuilt.
In the exhibition, there were a lot of information panels, reproductions of old maps, photos of the restoration work etc. These roof tiles show the difference between old and new. The modern one is made to the same old design as the original - in the modern interpretation of the mittsu tomoe (triple comma) design, the commas are thicker and the edging dots larger.
I saw a lot of changes since my last trip. A new bridge is being built near my friends' home.
There are a lot of roadworks on in the city at the moment, as the main access routes are being dualled into the city centre. Some of the roadworks equipment is a bit different to ours - much more amusing!
Some parts of the city don't change at all. These Edo era merchants' properties are very characterstic of Yamagata city.
Some things are almost the same as in the UK.
We spotted the same Harris tweed handbags on sale in Yamagata city as you can buy in Perth!
I had a lot of fun just spending time with my friends Hiroko and Kazutoshi and their family, now all grown up. We went out for some delicious lunches.
On the first night we went to Kazutoshi's friend's bar/restaurant. Everything was cooked for us at the counter - so tasty!
Fabric shopping... I don't think Kazutoshi has seen quilters in action very often, as he was amazed at how many things I bought.
We visitied the Hirashimizu pottery district too. I first visited Hirashimizu, in a picturesque valley near Yamagata city, in 1991. When the weather is warmer, you can make your own pots in their open air studio and have them professionally finished and glazed. Hirashimizu pottery is in the peach Celadon style, with the iron particles showing through the celadon glaze giving the pottery a peach-skin effect. Click on the photos to see more detail.
Thanks to Kazutoshi for many of the last photos. I'm looking forward now to seeing Yamagata city in the spring, when I hope we'll see the cherry blossoms around the castle.