Thursday, April 9, 2009

Meguro Gajoen I

Hi Hi sisters ....... Thank you so much for your warm and comforting words. I am trying to write a little at a time, as physically allowed, so my brain and fingers won’t become idle :) You remember when Yong Joon was in Tokyo last month, he went to Meguro Gajoen (目黒雅叙園) to look at his teacher Mr. Jung Yun Bok’s art restoration work?

As the name suggests, Gajoen means ‘elegant meeting place’. It first opened in 1928 (Showa 3rd year) as a fairytale wedding palace adorned with beautiful paintings and decorative panels. It underwent major reconstruction and was re-opened in 1991 (Heisei 3rd year) with a ryokan-style hotel, traditional banquet halls, modern conference rooms and fine cuisine restaurants. A small original portion of Gajoen was preserved – Hyakudan Kaidan (100 Steps Stairway) and is incorporated as a Heritage Museum.

Since Meguro Gajoen is meant more for Japanese functions, so it does not make it into a busy tourist’s top 10 must-see attractions in Tokyo. 2 weeks ago, Olivia, cloudnine, our imooto-chan and me picked a warm sunny day to visit Gajoen and hoping to trace our Yong Joon’s footsteps. You can conveniently include Gajoen in your itinerary while visiting Gosireh and Park BOF. It is off the Meguro station, just 2 train stops from Gosireh at the end of the Namboku line or on the JR Yamanote line, then walk 5 minutes downhill, voila ......

Yes, this modern glass-paned highrise is the new Meguro Gajoen, totally different from the old Japanese architecture that I expected! Knowing me, as I walked in, I was already like ‘a monkey has its leash loosened’ and started wandering off, clicking happily everywhere. Our dear Olivia had arranged a sumptuous buffet lunch for us at 1pm in the Club Lounge, so we had 2 free hours to enjoy the heritage treasure Hyakudan Kaidan. Hehe, just in case you wonder why this is of interest to you, please let me translate an excerpt from a BOFi staff’s journal, who accompanied Yong Joon during this 12 days’ Japan trip :

"March 4 evening, Yong Joon arrived in Tokyo and checked into his hotel, he and his staff went straight to sleep. The next day, Yong Joon went to Meguro Gajoen to look at the renovated lacquer artworks of Mr. Jung Yun Bok. The mother-of-pearl inlaid artworks handcrafted by Mr. Jung can be seen everywhere in the banquet rooms, elevators, restrooms, even on the handrails. The art personnel described Mr. Jung’s work as graceful and refined, which attract many tour groups to visit.

Yonsama walked through the entire ground of Gajoen, fixating his eyes on these magnificent lacquer artworks. It also happened that the renowned traditional painter Hirayama Ikuo (平山郁夫) was hosting his art exhibition in Hyakudan Kaidan. Yong Joon inquired politely, "if I am not causing too much inconvenience, please let me look at the exhibition ....." Since shoes are not allowed inside Hyakudan Kaidan, he took off his shoes and wore one of the white slippers provided. He stayed inside the museum for 1 hour, enthusiastically going through the art exhibition."

So, 2 things we learned from this story :

1. You got to have impeccable pedicure at all times, because in Japan, you never know when you have to take off your shoes! OK for men, better make sure no holes in your socks :)
2. I should have tried on all 100 pairs of their white slippers, since I didn’t know which 2 HRH had put his royal feet into!

Enough nonsense from me, sorry no camera is allowed inside Hyakudan Kaidan, so I will use the pictures from Meguro Gajoen’s official website ( Btw, if you ever need to navigate through any Japanese website, you’ll find that they offer a lot more information and pictures than its English counterpart. I find these are extremely beautiful and elaborately decorated rooms by Japanese standards, I didn't even find these in Kyoto palaces!

Hyakudan Kaidan, there are 6 rooms off various levels along the 100 steps. Hehe, no time to count if it’s really 100 steps :)

Juppo no ma

Gyosho no ma

Sohkyu no ma

Seisui no ma

Seikoh no ma

Kiyokata no ma

Hirayama Ikuo’s paintings were displayed along the walls in all 6 rooms. I heard from Olivia that he is renowned for his paintings depicting the Silk Road in China. In this particular exhibition, he chose all Japanese water colors with modern landscapes in mostly cool blue and white. Eventhough I felt that they were not in harmony with the rich ornate décor of Hyakudan Kaidan, however maybe it was the artist’s intention not to compete with such heritage beauty.

From Hirayama Ikuo’s museum website (

Time flew, I really wanted to go around one more time as I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of Hyakudan Kaidan, but our lunch reservation could not wait plus we still haven't seen any of Mr. Jung's artworks ......


myoce said...

Oh, Jaime ! you're back...

And what a post !! Thank you for the cultural feast of the eyes and the worthy information !

I really must upgrade the quality of my postings...they are almost all about my obsession of BYJ and Joongbo.

Sooo happy to see you posting again. Hope you are progressing well to recovery.

Love, myoce

Yee said...

Hi Lady,

So glad you are well enough to post again, with your touch of humour. I have a big smile on my face, thanks for the tip lady, I'll make sure to have a pedicure before I come to Japan ~__^
And THANKS very much for this posting of another precious Japan's heritage treasure. I love it and I agree with you, this is one of the "a must go" places in Japan.
I am so glad and proud of our HRH, how he loves and treasures the cultures and traditions. Love him more ....


jenny said...

Hi Jaime

I am sure you are on the way of your full recovery cause I can see your beautiful posting again and you manage to give us some jokes.

Very nice place and I think you will be very relaxing while strolling the place. Learn a lot of places in Japan from your blog. Really appreciate it.

Very fast is already going to weekend, hope you have a good rest and happy weekend.

Take care


chakachan said...

nice nice ms. jaime....
the place seems to be beautiful..something that i look forward to in my trips in the near future. It shall be a nesting ground for all our beasisters to see..another MUST SEE AND BE IN IT spot that we could all appreciate.

take care!!

Anonymous said...

it's good the your doing just fine.I visited other sites of byj and it seems that he is in hibernation mode.I notice that he is looking really thin and pale this days. What do you think bae sisters is our king in depression.
Hopefully he gets better and find happiness and peace.I know everyone suffer once in a while of Depression but hopefully we can be supportive and give him alot of space...


jaime said...

Dear myoce,

Thank you for your kind words, glad you like Meguro Gajoen. Hehe, we can't help our feelings for our prince (or princes, in yours and bb's case), they are just too addictive, eh?

Unfortunately, my health problem still persists and have to undergo more tests with my neurosurgeon now. Thanks for your concern and especially sharing your courageous experience with me. I am really drawing strengths from you dear sisters, Yong Joon and my family now. Please take care!

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Dear Lady Yee,

Hehe, so you want to roll Gosireh, Park BOFi, Gajoen into a one day trip? Think it will be a very pleasurable and leisurely day with feast for the eyes as well as stomach. Looking forward to you coming here sometime soon :) Please send my regards to your lovely family!

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Dear jenny,

Thanks for writing to me and your kind encouragement. Yes, I am writing my post a little at a time these days. No more strength to do 1 long post in a go. Hehe, if you don't mind my slow pace, let's look at some of Japan's beautiful places one by one through my slow postings :) thanks and take care!

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi chakachan,

nice to hear from you again. Yes, as Yong Joon comes here more often, there are more places for the Japanese sisters to visit now. Kamakura is still very popular. I am sure when Mr. Jung's museum in Morioka is reopened, it will be a wonderful and worthwhile place to visit. Hope you can enjoy these places one day.

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi HI newbie,

nice to hear from you again. Yeah, he seems to concentrate more on his personal matters these days. Plus I guess alot of background work for his upcoming projects. This long silence must be disturbing to a new fan, is it? Please take your time to enjoy his old dramas and movies, they are wonderful to re-watch. Have fun!

love .... jaime

gosijo said...

Glad to know you were out and about, dear Jaime, even if more tests (and I imagine symptoms) are needed.

Setbacks often teach us wisdom so, even though you didn't choose this particular detour, it seems you are already making the best of a challenging situation. Wonder who your teachers were!!?

I see your wonderful gift of empathy in your answer to newbie. This slow time is a little daunting and we may be tempted to project onto our dear YJ our own 'hole in the heart'. I get the sense, however, that he is currently charged with wonderful energy from visiting his country, learning new aspects of its beauty and trying to find ways to translate that into a compelling book.

Therefore, your exploration of Japan, dear Jaime, and sometimes even of the places he has visited there, are wonderful adjuncts to our emotional journeys. They widen our horizons and suggest itineraries we could take with even the most unsuspecting (of our interest in BYJ) travelling companions ;-)

Wishing you improved health soon, dear Jaime, on this sunny Good Friday morning in T.O.


p.s. Ha ha, just days after seeing Fukuyama Masaharu's picture on your blog, I saw the movie Suspect X. Excellent whodunit!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Jaime and Bae Sisters:
Happy holidays!
Wish you happy Easter and happy Passover. On sunday morning, I attended an Easter Catholic mass in our parish. This is the day, the Lord has made. So we sang: Let us build the city of God. May the tears turn into dancing. As the God of light and love. He has turned night into day. I wish you Jaime the best of health, double your portion.
In the evening, I was invited to a Jewish Passover, for the first time in my life. But this seder is unique because besides the usual Passover readings and rituals, it was held in the pattern of a group dynamics class, like a three unit graduate school course.
I have taught oriental religions and culture for twenty years -- Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, Confucianism and Zen Buddhism. But I never tried learning the Jewish religion. I have never been to Israel, although I have visited a lot of synagogues. and even donated a tree to be planted in Israel.
So I learned a lot from this seder -- on how Jesus Christ must have celebrated the Last Supper like a Jewish seder.
We ate matza or unleavened bread and drank wine, and drank wine, and drank wine into the night.
Our thoughts are with you all.
Sarang hamnida.
josephine pasricha

jaime said...

Dear gosijo,

sorry for my late reply, I am sure you understand. I am trying to take it easy as my condition is not like before.

Really? You are so update on your Asian drama, I guess Toronto really has one of the best offerings outside Asia. I read about Suspect X everywhere here as Fukuyama is very popular. I have to confess I never really sat down to watch any TV here. I will do my catch up when I return to Toronto.
Please take care! Thanks for writing to me.

love ... jaime,

jaime said...

Thank you Josephine for your kind wishes and your prayer. Best of health, double my portion - I really need that, thanks. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience with us. I am glad you had a very holy Easter. Please take care!

love ... jaime

yudi said...

Dear Jaime,

I am very late because I just came back from a trip to Washington DC. I am very glad to see this long beautiful post, I take it as a sign that you are under recovery, but I am also a little worried about your new tests. I can see you have the courage and wisdom with you during this hard period of time in life. Hope you are getting better soon.

Yes, I do learned a lot about Japan from your blog, and I know the future trip to Japan will be totally different because of BYJ and you. After I met BYJ, I started to read and learn very carefully everything about Korean and Japan, and I realized the history of these two country are very closely connected with China, so now I come back to read the history about my own country which I did not pay enough attention before. This is the beauty of the journey with BYJ and all Bae sisters, the whole world becomes matter to me.


Hyds said...

Dear Jaime!
I'm glad you are feeling better and been out. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience in Meguro Gajoen. The place and painting all looked astonishing.
You must excited in retracing YJ's path.
Take care and keep well.

jaime said...

Dear yudi,

thank you for reading this story, I am trying to write part 2 but have such a hard time. I am glad you like the history of Japan. Yes, a lot of Japanese and Korean history can be linked back to China, very fascinating! Please take care!

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi Hyds,

I am always happy to see and read about Yong Joon. Being able to see what he's experienced makes me love him more. hehe, maybe too much :) Sorry haven't been checking other blogs lately, hope you are doing fine :) Please take care!

love ... jaime