Worchester and Japan

An impromptu daytrip took me to the city of Worcester, fifty minutes from Birmingham.

On exiting the train station, I walked to the town centre then onto the riverside. I saw the cathedral in the distance — a striking sight — and walked along the River Severn to find it. The cathedral is free to visit.

The cathedral was first built in 1084. When I reached it, I walked around it and went down to the crypt. As I walked around, I noticed the different architectural styles — from Norman (11th century) to Perpendicular Gothic (13-15 century) reflecting the changes to the cathedral. The most famous person buried here is King John, the baddie in Robin Hood.

On leaving the cathedral, I headed for the Art Gallery and Museum because I’d read there was a Japan exhibition. The exhibition was small but interesting.

There was a print of the famous Great Wave by Hokusai, and three prints by Masami Teraoka. Born in the Hiroshima Prefecture, Teraoka, when nine years old,

looked up one morning and saw a second sun on the wrong side of the sky, which was the dropping of the atomic bomb in the city. He grew up during the US occupation of Japan and became fascinated by American culture, and its contrast and confrontation with that of Japan.

In 1961, he moved to America and created works about the collision of cultures, influenced by ukiyo-e and Pop Art. You can see three of his prints (made between 1991 and 1993) in the photos. They show traditional Japanese culture meeting modern Hawaiian culture. The intro goes on to say,

The differences of physique and body-language are of particular interest to Teraoka, the Americans seeming so big, expansive and free-and-easy compared to the more restrained and uncertain Japanese people.

In traditional Japanese society, there were four classes: the samurai (warrior), the farmer, the artisan and the merchant. The samurai were attached to feudal barons (“daimyo”), who had private armies to fight each other. As the merchant class became more powerful, the influence of the daimyo (and, therefore, the samurai) diminished. The samurai families, who previously had high status, found themselves living on small incomes. By the mid-1800s, the modernising government abolished the rigid class hierarchies and the position of daimyo, whose lands became government-administered areas. Further change began in 1853 when American warships sailed into Edo (now Tokyo) bay and, with threats of violence, forced the isolated country to open up to international trade and contact.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this little bit of Japan brought alive in Worcester. Japan is one of my favourite countries. If you haven’t already, you can see my Japan photo album.

After leaving the gallery, I made my way to the station, taking in a few sights to ensure my arrival at the station coincided with the train’s arrival. I saw the outside of the magnificent gold library (the Hive) but didn’t have time to visit it. I did have time to pop into Lush, where I had a chat with someone working there. She turned out to be from Staten Island, which was fresh on my mind since I was revisiting my USA trip photos. Her path had taken her from the USA to Worcester when she met her husband-to-be on a trip. And although New York and Worcester are like chalk and cheese, I sensed Worcester has a lot going for it and that it would be a good place to settle down.

I enjoyed my daytrip to Worcester and will definitely be revisiting it, perhaps for a longer walk along the River Severn and also to look inside that sparkling library!

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