Archive for June 4, 2017

last afternoon at kawaguchiko: fuji omuro sengen-jinja shrine   4 comments

Sunday, June 4:  After stashing my bag in a coin locker at the train station, I take the Green Line of the Sightseeing bus to Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine on the south shore of Lake Kawaguchi. On the bus I chat with a honeymooning couple from the States.  Distracted by this pleasant exchange, I miss the stop for the shrine. Another couple from Australia, listening in on our conversation, misses their stop as well.  At the next stop, I ask the driver about Fuji Omuro, and he waves for us to get off and go back in the opposite direction.  We’re lucky that as soon as we hop off the bus, another Sightseeing Bus pulls up heading in the opposite direction.  We all three hop on that bus and ride it back to Fuji Omuro, arriving at 12:30.

torii gate at Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine has over 1300 years of history.  It is the oldest shrine in the Mt. Fuji area. It was Fujiwara Yoshitada who dedicated the shrine, originally built on the second station of Mt. Fuji, in 699; for its eternal preservation, it was moved to its current location in 1974.

small shrine at Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja

cow sculpture

Later, as musubi no kami (deity of childbearing, easy delivery of a baby, match-making, and happy marriage), it was worshipped and courteously protected by the clans of Takeda, Oyamada, and Tokugawa.  On the spacious grounds, the main sanctuary (national important cultural property) has its backside facing Mt. Fuji, and the satomiya sanctuary (city’s important cultural property) has its backside facing Lake Kawaguchi.

Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine

characters at the shrine

temizuya (手水舎), a Shinto water ablution pavilion

dragon water spout at the temizuya

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

I love the ema here, painted with a snow-covered Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms.

ema at Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

Wandering around the grounds, I find an exit that looks out over a small cove.

out the far side of the shrine

Lake Kawaguchiko on the far side of Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

another entrance to Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

The modern part of the shrine, probably where the monks live and worship, is colorful and beautifully manicured.

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

cemetery at Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

cemetery at Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

bell tower at Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja Shrine

After wandering around every corner of the shrine compound, I head back to the bus stop. According to the posted timetable, I just missed the bus to the train station.  The next one isn’t for a half hour.  It’s quite warm and there is no bench, so the half-hour drags on for what seems an eternity.  While waiting, I wander around the adjacent area and capture a photo of Mt. Fuji at the end of a rural lane.

view of Mt. Fuji from the bus stop

Back at the station, I inquire about my options for returning home.  I can either take a 2-hour bus to Machida for a pretty cheap price, or I can take the reserved seat express train to Hachioji. The cost is considerably more expensive for the express train, but for some reason, I always prefer the train to a bus, maybe because a bus has to contend with possible traffic jams.  So I dish out 1,670 yen (~ $15) for the train ticket, leaving the station at 2:19 p.m.  I’m told the 1,670 yen price is on top of the regular fare to get to Hachioji, but I figure that can’t be much.  I scan the ticket and my Suica card at the same time to enter the station.  The train is lovely, as express trains always are, and the trip is hassle free.

my ticket home

When I arrive at Hachioji, I have to transfer to the Yokohama Line to get back to my stop at Fuchinobe. I do so, and at Fuchinobe I put the ticket and my Suica through the entry gate only to have a loud beep go off.  The flashing red light shows I don’t have enough fare on my Suica!  I put 3,000 yen on my Suica before I left on Saturday, so I should have nearly 2,000 yen left on it.  It can’t have cost me 2,000 yen in addition to the 1,670 I paid for that express ticket.  I believe a mistake has been made and try to get to the bottom of it with the non-English speaking ticket taker. Things are tense for a while until someone shows up who can speak a bit of English.  He tells me that yes, in fact, that express ticket was in addition to the normal 2,000 yen fare from Kawaguchi Station to Fuchinobe!  That express train really did cost me then, a total of $33.  I could have taken the bus for about a quarter of that price.  If I had understood that cost before I left, I would have certainly opted for the bus.

I’m finding that it is quite expensive to travel in Japan.  I wonder if my one week trip from August 1-8 will cost me whatever salary I’ve managed to save during my semester in Japan?

Total steps today: 16,360 (6.93 miles). 🙂

an early morning walk at lake kawaguchi, a kimono museum & an outdoor onsen   7 comments

Sunday, June 4:  As has been typical during my time in Japan, I wake up with the sun at 4:30 a.m. in my hotel in Kawaguchiko. Since Japan doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time, the sunrise here is normally at around 4:30 a.m. and sunset is around 7:00 p.m.  I prefer Virginia’s Daylight Savings Time, during which the sun rises at 5:45 and sets at 8:40 p.m.  What good is all that extra summertime light if it’s so early in the morning that you’re not even awake to enjoy it?

Lying on my futon, wide awake at this ungodly hour, I remember that I can see Mt. Fuji out my hotel window, so I hop up for a sunrise view.

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

I finally get tired of hopping out of bed for views in the changing light.  I guess I fall back to sleep briefly, because my next view is at 5:55 a.m.  Much more reasonable.  These sunrise views of Mt. Fuji are the only ones I get where the crown is not obscured by clouds.

Sunrise view of Mt. Fuji from my hotel room

After my 6 a.m. viewing, I can’t go back to sleep, so I put the hotel robe on to go down to the onsen.  There are no meals served at my hotel, so the sooner I get bathed and dressed, the sooner I can go in search of coffee and breakfast.

By about 8 a.m., following a leisurely soak in the onsen, and after getting dressed, I ponder whether I should check out or keep my room while I go out for breakfast. I don’t know where I’ll end up going for breakfast, and it might be a pain to have to make it back to the hotel by the 10:00 check-out time.  Finally, I decide I’ll just check out, leaving my bag at the hotel desk.  I head out toward the lake to explore. Baffled, I find, just as I found when looking for a dinner restaurant last night, that no cafes are open until 9:00.  I have nowhere to go!  I stop back by the hotel, since it’s not far from the lake, and ask if I can have my room back.  At least I could lie around until 9:00.  But the lady tells me they’ve already started cleaning it, so I can’t have it back.  I complain that I can’t find any breakfast or coffee, and she points me in the direction of the Family Mart, where I have a cup of coffee and a doughnut with pink icing while sitting at the perimeter counter.

After leaving Family Mart, I head straight for Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge, which I walked over yesterday; I’m still hoping to get that upside-down view of Fuji.  At this point, I’ve been up for hours and it’s only 8:30 a.m.!

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

I still can’t find the sacred mountain reflected in the lake, no matter how much I want to see it.

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge

This time, I’m heading to the northwest side of the lake.  I want to visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum and an onsen near the museum that has an outdoor bath.  I don’t know why I can never resist soaking in a hot bath in an outdoor setting.

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge – view west

The weather today is fabulous, just like it was yesterday.  I lucked out this weekend.  It’s in the low 70s with a nice breeze and low humidity.  In my book, that’s the perfect weather, although the high 60s is even better. 🙂

early morning walk across the Kawaguchiko Ohashi bridge – view west

western part of Kawaguchiko

After crossing the bridge, I follow the brick walkway to the west, where I find this painted manhole cover featuring Mt. Fuji.

manhole covers at Kawaguchiko

The views from the northwest shore are beautiful this morning, although much of Fuji’s top is hugged by clouds.

walk along the shore of Kawaguchiko

path along the shore

Mt. Fuji through the weeping willows

Italian cypress trees along Kawaguchiko

I find a tiny shrine tucked into the trees along the path.

ema at a small shrine

small shrine at Kawaguchiko

view of Fuji from the northwest shore

view of Fuji from the northwest shore

By 9:30, after quite a long walk, I come to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.  This museum features huge kimono with intricate scenes created with labor-intensive silk dyeing.

According to the museum’s website, Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) is considered the most important Japanese textile artist of the 20th century.  He revived the lost art of Tsujigahana silk dyeing, used to decorate elaborate kimono during the Muromachi Period (1333-1573).

According to japan-guide.com, in his early twenties, the artist was so inspired by a Tsujigahana textile fragment exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum, that he devoted the rest of his life to recreating and mastering the labor-intensive silk dyeing technique.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

The Gaudi inspired museum is a natural shrine to the artist’s work.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

The Kubota Collection consists of 104 artistic kimono including kimono from the Mount Fuji series, some individual pieces and Kubota’s lifetime project “The Symphony of Light.”  A masterpiece left incomplete at the time of his death, this series consisted of 36 kimono (he had intended to make 80).  Each work is designed to be an atmospherical painting of a certain season, element or setting, but is also part of a more important landscape which is magically unveiled once the kimono are placed next to each other  (Collection Highlights).  This project of scene-painted kimono reminds me very much of the silk screen paintings I saw in the Nezu Museum.

As is typical in Japanese museums, I’m not allowed to take photos.  Sadly, the gift shop doesn’t even carry any postcards of these wonderful kimono.  Visiting the website seems the best option to experience these masterpieces. 🙂  You can also see some photos here: is japan cool? Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

There is also a beautiful garden attached to the museum, with free-floating doorways offering glimpses of shaded leafy pathways.

gate at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

thatched wall at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota’s former workshop is now a tea room where one can sit and enjoy views of the waterfall, pond and tropical foliage.

Architectural features are scattered throughout the garden of the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.

pavilion and garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

gate without walls Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

garden at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

After leaving the museum, I trudge up a steep hill to Tensui Kawaguchiko.  Although I already had an indoor onsen experience at my hotel this morning, I’m enticed by the outdoor bath.  Though I enjoy it, I’m a little too antsy to stay long.  About half the pools are warm and the other half are cool, and there are ants swarming all over the rocks.  I don’t stay long enough to get my money’s worth out of it.

I catch the Sightseeing Bus back to the Kawaguchiko Hall of Herb & Fragrance, where I enjoy a lavender and vanilla soft ice cream cone.

lavender & vanilla ice cream at the Kawaguchiko Herb Hall

I feel tired from all my walking yesterday and this morning, so I think I might just go back to the train station.  After all, how many views can one see of Mt. Fuji?

pretty hotel at Kawaguchiko

I return to my hotel, pick up my bag, and ask the owner if I can get a ride to the train station. Before I leave the area, I plan to catch a bus from the station to Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine, a shrine dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity associated with Mt. Fuji.  When I inquire about this bus, I found I have just missed it, and the next one won’t be for another hour.

I tell the woman at the ticket counter that I might as well just get my ticket to return home.  After all, I don’t want to wait around at the station for an hour. She tells me there are a number of Sengen shrines around Fuji and I can easily visit another one, Fuji Omuro Sengen-jinja, on the Sightseeing Bus. I was just on the Sightseeing Bus from the museum, and I could have just stayed on it to the shrine.  I’ve wasted all this time going to the station and now have to backtrack to the southwestern side of Lake Kawaguchi. I debate as to whether I should go to all this effort and in the end I decide it’s probably too early to return home when there is more I can see here.  As it’s probably unlikely I will ever return here, I might as well make the effort.  I put my bag in a coin locker, and hop back on the sightseeing bus for Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine.

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