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Obuse (oh-boo-say) is a small but dynamic town located in Nagano Prefecture. Obuse blends culture and the arts with an atmosphere of camaraderie, for good food, sake, and the company of friends is appreciated.
Katsushika Hokusai, internationally renowned ukiyo-e (which means “pictures of the floating world” and is a type of Japanese woodblock art print) artist, lived in Obuse during his later years. His huge ceiling painting of a Chinese Phoenix, done in 1848 when he was 89 years old, can be seen in Gansho-in Temple. It is recommended that visitors observe the painting while lying on tatami mats. This not only allows a view of the whole painting, but is a better position from which to discover its hidden illustration. While at Gansho-in be sure to stroll through the beautiful gardens. It is said that Issa, the haiku master, wrote one of his most famous poems after being inspired by frogs living in and around the garden’s pond.
The Hokusai Museum is devoted to work completed by the artist during his stay in Obuse. The collection includes about forty paintings that were done on screens, hanging scrolls, and frames. Two festival floats with ceilings painted by Hokusai are also on display.
Housed in a renovated storehouse, the Japanese Lamp Museum has a collection of almost 1,000 antique lanterns, lamps, and candle stands used through 1926. Visitors will see a variety of unique styles and designs which range from the simple, to unusual, to sophisticated.
Floral Garden Obuse is comprised of 15,000 square meters (161,475 square feet) of beautifully landscaped flowerbeds, a hill garden, and expansive lawn. Its greenhouses contain 300 varieties of tropical plants, with more than 5,000 plants altogether. Local flowers are sold from a shop, and the mansion has a tea room.
Joko-ji Temple, built in the early Muromachi period (1392 - 1573), stands at the foot of Mt. Karida. Well worn stone steps lead up to the temple, which has a thatched roof. Its forested setting provides a quiet atmosphere.
Sarah Marie Cummings, an American woman nicknamed “Typhoon Girl,” has made Obuse her home. In 1994 Sarah joined the Masuichi brewery, which was founded in 1755, and has been instrumental in reviving craft skills, preserving ancient buildings, and forming beautification committees. Her efforts have helped to create an atmosphere that seamlessly blends classic Japanese culture with modern innovations.
The countryside surrounding Obuse abounds with apple, chestnut, and grape orchards.