Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

a june day on the tiny island of enoshima   2 comments

Saturday, June 10: Enoshima (江の島) is a small offshore island, about 4km in circumference, at the mouth of the Katase River, which flows into the Sagami Bay of Kanagawa Prefecture.  I take a trip down to the island this Saturday morning and end up at the bright red Enoshima Station.

Enoshima Station

Katase, the gateway city to Enoshima, is linked to the island by the 600-meter-long Enoshima Benten-bashi Bridge.  On another bridge, I get a view inland to Katase.

Inland waterway at Enoshima

After stopping by Tourist Information, I walk across the Enoshima Benten-bashi Bridge to the busy island.  The first wooden bridge to Enoshima was built in 1891.  Before then, when the tide was high, visitors rode on tiny boats or piggybacked on someone’s shoulders to travel between Katase Beach and Enoshima Island.  The vehicle bridge was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

A lot of water activities are going on from jet skiing to sailing to windsurfing.

Enoshima Shrine Memorial

Enoshima Benten-bashi

The Enoshima Island Spa looks a bit like an Italian villa.  A show-off guy on a jet ski roars around doing figure-eights around the anchored jet skis.

jet skis and Enoshima Island Spa

I don’t know how this has happened, but I have arrived here with hardly any money, so I ask someone at Tourist Information on this side of the bridge about a Japan Post ATM; he directs me under the Bronze Torii Gate and up the main pedestrian walkway. I find the ATM and get some money.  Now I can look for something to eat. 🙂

The Bronze Torii Gate at the entrance to Enoshima was rebuilt in 1821;  it is a cultural asset of Fujisawa City.  The plaque atop the gate has the name of the main deity: “Enoshima Daimyojin.” After passing through the torii gate, the bustling approach to the shrine is packed with marine product shops, souvenir shops, inns, and traditional restaurants. The width of the street has not changed over the years.

Bronze Torii Gate

I see people walking around nibbling on giant sheets, made of what looks like heavy-duty cardboard, with some kind of fish baked into them. They’re bizarre looking, and I wonder what on earth they are.  Later I find they are a type of rice cracker, Maruyaki Takosenbei, made using an entire octopus.

Bronze Torii Gate

Hydrangea season is upon us now that it’s June, so I’m happy to find a couple of the beautiful blooms here on Enoshima.

hydrangea

Anywhere you go in Japan, you can find a little shrine of some kind tucked away into a small alcove.

small shrine

I’m always drawn to wind chimes, especially colorful ones.

wind chimes

There are three different shrines on Enoshima that are collectively known as Enoshima Shrine. They are all dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, the island’s patron goddess all things that flow: words, eloquence, good fortune, wealth, music, and knowledge.  In the popular imagination she is the goddess of love.

According to Japanese mythology, Benzaiten created Enoshima Island as part of her battle with a troublesome sea dragon.

Zuishinmon

ceiling

part of Enoshima Shrine

Enoshima Shrine (Hetsunomiya) actually consists of three separate shrine pavilions: Hetsunomiya, Nakatsunomiya, and Okutsunomiya.  Each one is dedicated to a different goddess of the sea.  The main pavilion, Hetsunomiya, enshrines Tagitsuhimenomikoto.  The majestic worship hall was moved to the island by the Buddhist monk Ryoshin in 1206.  The present building was remodeled in 1976.

Enoshima Shrine (Hetsunomiya)

The Enoshima Benzaiten is one of three major Benzaiten shrines in Japan; the others are Hiroshima’s Miyajima, and Chikubushima in Shiga. Benzaiten is also popular as the only female among the Shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Good Fortune).  People in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) enshrined the eight-armed Benzaiten to pray for victims in battle. The character of Benzaiten worship later changed, and Edo era believers sought the two-armed (naked) Benzaiten’s help to improve their artistic and musical skills.

I pay an admission fee to go in to the Hoanden, or Octagonal Hall for the Statues: Hadaka (Naked) Benzaiten and Happi Benzaiten (Eight-armed Benzaiten). However, I’m not allowed to take pictures of the sacred statues, so I’ve included the sign with pictures below.

Hoanden (Octagonal Hall for the Statues)

Happi Benzaiten (Eight-armed Benzaiten) & Hakada (Naked) Benzaiten

Hoanden (Octagonal Hall for the Statues)

Enoshima Shrine offers pink ema with hearts on them, popular among couples.

Ema at Enoshima Shrine

Ema at Enoshima Shrine

Ema at Enoshima Shrine

View of Enoshima Benten-bashi from Enoshima Shrine

artistic rendering of Enoshima

As I climb up the rocky outcrop that is Enoshima, I catch a fabulous view to the north of Enoshima Yacht Harbor and the Enoshima Shonan Yacht Club House, along with the mainland of Katase across Shonan Harbor.

view of Enoshima Yacht Harbor

view of Enoshima Yacht Harbor

Enoshima Shrine (Nakatsunomiya) was built by Jikaku Daishi in 853 to worship the deity Ichikishimahimenomikoto.  The present shrine pavilion was rebuilt in 1689 and then remodeled again in September 1996. In 2011, new items enhancing “the shrine’s magnificence” were added: the carved transom fences on both sides of the hall which depict the four seasons, and the “Suikinkutsu” which makes a mysterious sound when water drips into it.

Enoshima Shrine (Nakatsunomiya)

Enoshima Shrine (Nakatsunomiya)

hydrangea heaven

hydrangea

The Enoshima Sea Candle is 60 meters (196.2 ft) high and 119.6 meters above sea level.  I don’t go up into the lighthouse observation tower today because it’s hazy and partly cloudy so I doubt I’d be able to the see the views of Mt. Fuji to the west, the Miura Peninsula to the east, or Oshima Island to the south.

Onetime Sea Candle (Lighthouse Observation Tower)

Looking out over the harbor from Enoshima Island, I can see a sailing regatta. Apparently, Enoshima will be the sailing and surfing venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

view from Enoshima

The branch temple of Enoshima Daishi was established by the Shingon Buddhist temple Saifukuji in Kagoshima in 1993.  A pair of red-faced Akafudo statues stand fiercely at the entrance.

red character at Enoshima Daishi

Enoshima Daishi

Figure at Enoshima Daishi

flowers at Enoshima Daishi

Statue at Enoshima Daishi

I am inspired by my Japanese Instagram friend Yukie, who adores Portugal and is always posting pictures of laundry throughout that country, to take photos of this laundry blowing in the strong wind near Enoshima Daishi.

laundry on the balcony

Yama Futatsu (Ridge between the Island’s two highlands)

Looking down over the south coast of the island, I can see sailboats in the distance.

Yama Futatsu with sailing regatta in the distance

Shrine along the way

stone lantern and hydrangea

Atop a “dragon cave” on Enoshima is a fierce-looking dragon.  The dragon is the stuff of legend on Enoshima.

According to Wikipedia:

The Enoshima Engi (江嶋縁起) is a history of the temples and shrines on the island.  It was written in Chinese, the scholarly language of the time, by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kōkei in 1047 AD.  The Enoshima Engi consists of two parts. The first tells the story of the tribulations of prehistoric villagers who lived in the vicinity of  Enoshima. The villagers were plagued for a period of a thousand-some years by a destructive, five-headed dragon in a nearby lake. Aware of their suffering, on May 31, 552 AD, the Goddess Benzaiten caused the island of Enoshima to arise from the bottom of the bay to serve as her abode. She then descended onto the island amidst a series of spectacular terrestrial and aerial phenomena. The dragon fell in love with the beautiful goddess and asked her to be his consort. Benzaiten, who was widely known for her persuasive eloquence, rejected the dragon’s proposal and made it understand that it had been doing wrong by plaguing the villagers. Ashamed, the dragon promised to cease its wrongdoing. It then faced south (devotedly facing the island where Benzaiten lived) and changed into a hill. To this day, the hill is known as Dragon’s-Mouth Hill.

fierce dragon

inner shrine

shrine at Enoshima

manhole cover at Enoshima

The wind is blowing fiercely today and, as I’m walking up a sandy path, I’m pelleted by stinging sand.  I feel like I’m in the midst of a desert sandstorm.  When I come to a high clearing, I find Koibito no Oka, the Love Bell, sitting pretty with a good view of Sagami Bay. It is customary for couples to ring the bell together for good luck in romance. It’s also a tradition for couples to write a message on a lock and leave it hanging at the site.

locks overlooking the sea

I stop at a restaurant overlooking the south side of the island. I’d like to sit at a window seat in open air, but the wind is blowing so fiercely that the restaurant has closed all the windows on the balcony and is not seating anyone out there.  So I sit inside and order my favorite go-to meal of shrimp tempura with some accompaniments.

a tempura lunch

While going down the stairs to the southern coast, there are some stone monuments on the landing overlooking the Chigogafuchi Abyss.  The second one from the right has a haiku poem by the famous poet Matsuo Basho (Edo period).  Hattori Nankaku is famous for his verses.  He was born in Kyoto and studied under Ogyu Sorai in Edo.

Monuments overlooking Chigogafuchi Abyss

walking down to the sea

The name “Chigogafuchi Abyss” comes from the tragic tale of a chigo (a young Buddhist page) at the Sojoin Temple in Kamakura.  His name was Shiragiku and he killed himself by jumping into the deep water here.

The wind is so headstrong here that the waves are hurling themselves over the rocks and a man is shouting things I don’t understand through a megaphone.  The path shown in the photo below is closed off; I’m disappointed as I hoped to walk along the rocky coast here.  It turns out the man is trying to round-up all the people on the rocks and have them move to higher ground.  When he finally succeeds, he cordons off the area and we have no choice but to stand observe the unruly sea from above.

the restless sea

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

I love watching the roiling sea while the wind whips my hair all about.  I love windy days!!

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

the sea at Enoshima

After enjoying the crazy antics of the waves against the rocks, I climb the steep stairs back to the top of the island.

climbing the long steps up again

hydrangeas at Enoshima

all abloom

On the way down from the top, I catch another view of the Enoshima Yacht Harbor and the Enoshima Shonan Yacht Club House.

View of Enoshima Yacht Harbor

Enoshima Yacht Harbor

another shrine on Enoshima

Olympic Memorial Fountain

Sagami Bay from the beach at Enoshima

I finish my walk around Enoshima and though it’s been a long day, I decide I should take the Enoden train to visit Hasadera, a temple that is known for its fabulous hydrangea walk.  As it’s the season for hydrangea, I figure I should go since the temple is not that far away.  Little do I know the hassles I will encounter, and that I will have to visit Hasadera three times to finally be able to do the hydrangea walk!

Most of the information in this blog post, unless otherwise indicated, is from an excellent tourist brochure, the “Enoshima Illustrated Map,” created by the Fujisawa City Tourist Center: Katase Enoshima Tourist Information Center.

 

a weekend at fuji five lakes: fujiyoshida & the chureito pagoda   8 comments

Saturday, June 3:  On Friday morning, when I saw a perfectly sunny and cloudless weather forecast for Saturday, I immediately booked a hotel to go to Fuji-Goko, a collective term for the five lakes along the northern foot of Mt.Fuji.  The five lakes are Yamada Lake, Kawaguchi Lake, Saiko Lake, Shoji Lake, and Motosu Lake.  Kawaguchiko Lake is the easiest to get to from Tokyo and is the core of sightseeing in the Fuji-Goko area.  Thus I booked a hotel, Taiheikan, at Kawaguchiko.

On Saturday morning, I do my usual Google Maps search and find I can get to Kawaguchiko by train.  I see there are many more options by bus, but most buses seem to leave from Central Tokyo. That would mean I’d have to go northeast when my ultimate destination is to the southwest.  As this doesn’t seem logical, I opt for the trains.

I’m supposed to go seven stops west from Fuchinobe to Hachioji, but right away I make a mistake.  I accidentally get on a line that terminates at Hashimoto, meaning I have to wait a good long time for another train to Hachioji.  When I finally make it to Hachioji, I get off at the station and immediately see a train whiz past the platform; on it, people are sitting comfortably in reserved seating.  It looks like the Romancecar, but the Romancecar doesn’t run in this direction. I go up to the ticket window and ask if it’s possible to get a ticket on THAT train, but the man tells me that sometimes on holidays they run a special express train, but all the tickets are sold. Bummer!  It’s so disappointing sometimes to be foreigner and not to know these things.

I get on another line that stops short of my destination at Takao.  Thus I have to disembark and wait again.  The trip to Fuji Five Lakes is supposed to take just over 2 hours, but already, with these two mistakes, I’ve lost a half hour.

When I finally get on the Chuo Line at Takao, the train sits in the station for what seems an eternity.  After it finally takes off, it then makes a very extended stop at the first stop, Sagamiko.  I can tell this is a local line in a more rural area; it’s further removed from both the city and all semblance of order. After sitting at the station for such a long time that I have time to do another Google map search, I find that I can catch a bus to Kawaguchiko from this station.  I hop off the train and ask the man at the ticket booth about a bus to Kawaguchiko.  He can’t speak much English but he immediately hands me the hand-drawn map shown below.  He indicates that I have 10 minutes to catch the highway bus and waves me in the right direction.

the map from the train station to the bus stop

The train station on the map is in the bottom left corner.  The “freewey,” beside which the bus stop sits, doesn’t look that far on the map, but it seems like a long and frantic hike as I try to find my way, stopping and asking several farmers along the way.  Finally, I see the highway above me, and I climb the steps to the top, finding a decrepit bus stop whose weathered timetable shows the bus should arrive in 2 minutes. However, there is a traffic jam on the highway and the traffic is inching south to the Fuji area.  Oh dear.  One of my colleagues told me a nightmare story about taking a highway bus to Fuji and having it delayed an hour or more.  I wonder if I made the right decision to get off the train.

The bus doesn’t arrive anywhere close to when the timetable says it will, so I’m worried.  I wonder if a bus will stop here at all.  Finally, belatedly, a bus arrives, and I climb onboard, only to be told the bus is full.  However, the kindly bus driver indicates I should wait a second.  After placing a phone call, he tells me the next bus has a seat. I step off the bus, disheartened, but then I see the promised bus is directly behind the first bus. I get on, pay the fare, and take the last seat on the bus. 🙂

Oh my gosh!  I should have taken the bus earlier.  Soon, the traffic clears and we enjoy a smooth ride, arriving at Kawaguchiko only an hour later than I planned.

My hotel has a pick-up service from the train station, so I ask Tourist Information to call them.  When I check in,  the lady at the hotel is very kind; she reads some things about the hotel from a piece of paper, including: “Blessed with weather, hope that the Mt.Fuji is visible from guest room.”  I do have a view of Mt. Fuji from my room, but it is a city view, with a busy commercial road, power lines, businesses, and houses between me and the sacred mountain.

I ask the woman at the hotel if I can get a ride back to Kawaguchiko Station because I want to take the Fujikyuko Line to Shimo-yoshida Station to visit Chureito Pagoda. She kindly drops me at the station, but as it’s lunch time, I opt to try the signature dish of Yamanashi Prefecture: Houtou.  It consists of thick white chewy noodles and vegetables: pumpkin, mushrooms, potatoes, and onion in a thickened miso broth.  It’s served in a big cast iron pot with a ladle and chopsticks.  It’s delicious. 🙂

Hoto Fudo

Hoto Fudo

Hoto

After eating that fine lunch, I return to the station, and get back on the Fujikyuko Line.  Out the window, I get my first glimpse of Mt. Fuji, though its crown is engulfed in clouds.

the train to Shimo-Yoshido

the train

Four stops later, I’m at Shimo-Yoshida, where I get off and follow the signs through a rural neighborhood about 10 minutes to the steps leading to Chureito Pagoda.

the walk through Fujiyoshida to Chureito Pagoda

crossroads

The Chureito Pagoda is a five storied pagoda on the mountainside overlooking Fujiyoshida City, with Mount Fuji in the distance. The pagoda is part of the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built as a peace memorial in 1963.  The pagoda sits nearly 400 steps up the mountain from the shrine’s main buildings (japan-guide.com: Chureito Pagoda).

torii gate to the shrine

As soon as I start walking up the steps, I can see Mt. Fuji.

view of Mt. Fuji from the steps up

Mt. Fuji through the trees

a little shrine on the mountain

It’s a long climb to the top, with many views along the way.

the steps up

views of Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji

At the top, I’m rewarded with a view of the fabulous Chureito Pagoda.

Chureito Pagoda

the view from the trial to Chureito Pagoda

Even better are the views above the pagoda, with Mt. Fuji in the distance.  The light isn’t favorable, but I am able to adjust the photos a little.

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Because of the challenging light, I take one photo on my iPhone with HDR Fusion.  This is my favorite one.

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda

Chureito Pagoda

Chureito Pagoda

Mt. Fuji

the little shrine on the way down

I stop in at the Arakura Sengen Shrine before continuing down the mountain.

Arakura Sengen Shrine

sake barrels at Arakura Sengen Shrine

I end up buying one of the Chureito Pagoda/Mt. Fuji ema shown below (bottom left); usually you’re supposed to write a wish on an ema and leave it at the shrine, but I ask if I can buy one to take with me. I’m told I can, so I do.

ema at Arakura Sengen Shrine

ema at Arakura Sengen Shrine

ema at Arakura Sengen Shrine

“temizuya” water pavilion

I continue down the mountain, following the path through the neighborhoods until I’m back at Fujiyoshida Station.

passing through the torii gates on the way down

maples and torii

pruned trees in the neighborhood

personal rice paddy

rice paddy, house and Mt. Fuji

lupines

lupines

back at the train station

the train back

I take the train back to Kawaguchiko, where I’m now ready to explore the lake and the attractions around it. 🙂

 

a weekend in hakone: the magical choanji temple   2 comments

Sunday, May 28: My hotel, Hakone Onsen Sanso Nakamura, doesn’t have a restaurant or any breakfast offerings.  Luckily I thought of that as Lee and I stopped at the Family Mart during our walk back from dinner last night.  There I bought some milk tea, orange juice, and a doughnut for my breakfast. I have these this morning with some trepidation since I was unable to refrigerate the drinks overnight.

My room also has a shared bathroom and no shower; I must use the onsen downstairs to get ready for my day.  I’m happy this morning to have the onsen to myself; I shower thoroughly, as one is supposed to do before getting into an onsen, and soak in the small public bath for a bit.  The water in this onsen is really hot, so I can’t take too much of it.

Before long, I’m ready to go.  I have a lot of places on my list to visit today before I catch the Romancecar back to Machida at 3:20.  I intended to visit two places in my hotel’s neighborhood last night, but instead, I’ll try to squeeze them in this morning before continuing on the circuit around Hakone.  It may be too ambitious, but I’ll just have to cut things out if I feel too rushed.  I don’t want to lug my backpack with me all day, so I ask if I can have it sent back to the train station; the hotel owner, a woman with a smidgen of English, tells me my bag will be at the station after 1:00.  That works perfectly with my schedule. 🙂

My first stop is Choanji Temple. I have it almost entirely to myself!  This is highly unusual in Japan, where everything that remotely resembles a tourist attraction is packed on weekends.

the entry to Choanji Temple

Choanji is a temple of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism; it was established in 1356 in a quiet area at the base of a hill.  The Sōtō school emphasizes Shikantaza, (which means “nothing but precisely sitting”) –meditation with no objects, anchors, or content. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference (Wikipedia: Sōtō).

This atmospheric temple has a circuit of pleasant walking trails which wind through its wooded grounds and cemetery.

The “temizuya” water pavilion

The “temizuya” water pavilion

What makes Choanji particularly charming and quirky are its over two hundred statues of rakan (disciples of Buddha) scattered around the temple grounds. According to japan-guide.com, “the statues began appearing in the 1980s and have been accruing ever since. Each statue has a unique face and shape, some contemplative and serious, others casual and humorous, and many show a modern edge in their artistic style and expressiveness compared to other collections of rakan statues.”

statue of rakan, a disciple of Buddha

pond near the entrance to Choanji Temple

pond at Choanji Temple

I thoroughly enjoy walking through this magical place and discovering all the rakan characters with their telling expressions.  The setting is fabulous, with its abundance of green foliage, its setting on the hillside, its various shrines, its towering pines and moss-covered rocks, and its meandering steps and pathways.

rakan

rakan

rakan

rakan

at Choanji Temple

Choanji Temple

stone pagoda

rakan

pavilion

rakan at Choanji

rakan at Choanji

rakan at Choanji

rakan at Choanji

steps to the shrine

rakan at Choanji

steps to the shrine

shrine at Choanji

more steps

rakan

pathway through Choanji

rakan at Choanji

Choanji

rakan at Choanji

more rakan

rakan at Choanji

rakan at Choanji

more steps

rakan at Choanji

rakan at Choanji

rakan at Choanji

more rakan

glaring fellow

rakan at Choanji

I’m sad to leave this place behind, but I have a tight schedule.  I spend too much time trying to figure out how to get a bus to the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, with several bus drivers telling me that I’m at the wrong stop and need to go elsewhere.  I finally give up and end up walking there, quite a long haul.  🙂

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