Archive for the ‘Travel’ Tag

meigetsu-in: the temple of the clear moon (aka the hydrangea temple)   9 comments

Saturday, June 17:  This Saturday morning, I get up early to tackle an ambitious quest. My plan is to arrive in Kita-Kamakura by 9:00, visit the Hydrangea Temple Meigetsu-in, then take the Daibutsuzaka Hiking Course to the Great Buddha of Hase, called Daibutsu. After that, I plan to go to Hasedera for the second time to hopefully make it on the hydrangea walk.

It’s a hot day today, and I have a lot of walking ahead of me. Little do I know how exhausting it will be.  I get a bit of a later start than I intend, arriving at Kita-Kamakura at around 8:45.  When I walk out of the station, the crowds are already thick.  People seem to be in some kind of slow-moving queue, but I don’t think it can be a queue for Meigetsu-in because a sign indicates it is a half kilometer away.  At a certain point the loose queue takes a sharp left at a road where the sign points to Meigetsu-in. At that time, it dawns on me that these people are in fact in a queue for the temple.  People have been walking to the right of the queue and I’ve just been happily following along.  But at the point where the road turns left, the people I’m following peel off to the right and I realize I should have been in the queue.  I hope I can just blend in and join the queue at this juncture; I keep my head down and merge in, hoping I won’t arouse anyone’s ire. The Japanese are generally too polite to say anything.  I feel bad, but there is no way I’m going to go back to the end of that queue upon my belated realization.

Still.  Even though I join the queue at this juncture, it’s still another quarter kilometer to the temple. It’s already hot and humid, and the queue is moving slowly.  I’ve come a long way and I’m not about to turn around and give up, so I will myself to be patient and just go with the flow. It’s hard!  Patience and crowd-tolerance have never been virtues of mine. 🙂

Finally, at about 9:15, I pass through the entrance to Fugenzan Meigetsu-in (福源山明月院), a Rinzai Zen temple of the Kenchō-ji school (Wikipedia: Meigetsu-in). Meigetsu-in was founded in 1160 as the Meigetsu-an (Bright Moon Hermitage) by Yamanouchi Tsunetoshi for the repose of the soul of his father Toshimichi, who died in the Battle of Heiji the previous year.  This battle was part of the struggle for power between the Taira and Minamoto clans in the late Heian Period.

Meigetsu-in, the Temple of the Clear Moon

Meigetsu-in later became part of a larger temple complex called Zenkoji, which was abolished during anti-Buddhist movements soon after the Meiji Restoration, leaving only Meigetsu-in to remain as an individual temple today (JapanGuide.com: Meigetsuin).

The main object of worship is the Kannon Bodhisattva, the deity of compassion. This bodhisattva is variably portrayed in different cultures as either female or male (from the Meigetsu-in brochure).

hydrangea at Meigetsu-in

Famous for its hydrangea that bloom during June’s rainy season, it’s also known as Ajisaidera, The Temple of Hydrangeas. About 95% of the hydrangea here are of the Hime Ajisai (“Princess Hydrangea”) variety; they are thus named because of their pretty blue colors.

hydrangea heaven

blue hydrangea

Though the hydrangeas are beautiful, I am annoyed by the crowds, which make for slow going.  It is also nearly impossible to get pictures with the hydrangeas and the temple buildings together, which is the point of coming here.  I could see hydrangeas anywhere, but to see and enjoy them in this setting, in the midst of the temple complex, is the enticement for being here. However, it’s a challenge to take photos without people in them.

I love the ema at Meigetsu-in with their painted hydrangeas.

ema at Meigetsu-in

ema at Meigetsu-in

Buddha cradling hydrangeas

hydrangea ema

The founder’s hall (Soyudo) is a thatched roof building that enshrines the temple’s founder and stores mortuary tablets of the succeeding head priests (JapanGuide.com: Meigetsuin).

Founder’s Hall (Soyudo)

water purification

hydrangea love by the Buddha

I love how the statues wear blue bibs and have hydrangeas artfully arranged around them.

hydrangeas at Meigetsu-in

Buddhist dignitaries

Buddhist dignitaries and hydrangeas

Buddhist figures

In the back of Meigetsu-in’s lush temple grounds stands the main hall (Hojo). The building features a nice circular window, which frames the scenery of the inner garden behind it. Sadly there is a huge crowd around the hall and a long queue to take a photo of the circular window.  Maybe if I have time, I can come back when hydrangea season is over and get a photo of this.

The Main Hall

The inner garden is known for its irises and is open to visitors only during two periods of about two weeks per year: in June when the irises are in bloom, and in late November/early December when the autumn colors are at their best (JapanGuide.com: Meigetsuin)

raked sand in the inner garden

pond in the inner garden

the inner garden

iris in the inner garden

irises

irises

I enjoy walking around the iris garden; I find a little waterfall on an adjacent path.

waterfall in the inner garden

From the inner garden, where the crowds are not so thick because of the additional entrance fee, I can see the round window of the Main Hall from the back side.  The round shape of the window means to be complete or perfect in Buddhist terminology.

the round window in the Main Hall – view from inner garden

the inner garden

Back in the main temple grounds, I make my way slowly to the entrance of the temple.  It’s slow going with the crowds and the many times I must stop to take photos. 🙂

There’s also a pretty bamboo grove at Meigetsu-in that towers overhead and glows in the sunlight.

bamboo forest at Meigetsu-in

bamboo looming

Oh, the hydrangeas at Meigetsu-in!  They’re so beautiful; I guess it’s no wonder Tokyo residents come out in droves to see them.

hydrangeas

hydrangeas

hydrangeas

hydrangeas

When I’m finally able to get a photo of a shrine at Meigetsu-in, there are no hydrangeas in sight!

shrine at Meigetsu-in

Due to the temple’s name’s connection to the moon (Meigetsu literally means “bright moon”; and phonetically can also mean “harvest moon”), rabbits are associated with it in relation to the Japanese folklore of a rabbit pounding a rice cake on the moon. Accordingly, rabbit designs are found on some of the temple’s decorations, while a few real rabbits are kept in cages on the temple grounds (JapanGuide.com: Meigetsuin).

rabbit at Meigetsu-in

rabbits at Meigetsu-in

At long last, I’m released from the crowds at Meigetsu-in.  Now I need to find the beginning of the Daibutsu Hiking Course, a 3km wooded trail that connects Kita-Kamakura with the Daibutsu in Hase, and passes several small, quiet temples and shrines.

 

asakusa: kappabashi-dori plastic foods & another buddhist temple {walking tour 8: part 3}   12 comments

Sunday, June 11: After leaving Senso-ji, I continue my walk toward Kappabashi-dori, a street full of shops supplying the restaurant trade. These shops sell everything from knives and other kitchen utensils to mass-produced crockery, restaurant furniture, ovens and decor, such as lanterns and signs. The street also has some shops that sell plastic display foods (sampuru, derived from English sample) found outside Japanese restaurants.

“Shop Planing & Antique” on Kappabashi-dori

I drop into one shop that actually sells the plastic food items to tourists.

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

desserts: plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

ice cream: plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

pizza: plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

sushi: plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

snacks: plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

plastic foods on Kappabashi-dori

I don’t buy any of these enticing but oddly unsatisfying plastic foods, although in retrospect, they might have made for some interesting gifts. 🙂

I continue my walk to the train station, stopping in briefly at Honzan Higashi Hongan-ji along the way.

Approximately 400 years ago, in 1651, the Tokyo Hongan-ji Temple was established in the city of Edo (modern Tokyo) under the patronage of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu by Kyonyo Shonin (1558-1614). It was then known as the Edo Gobo Kozuiji Temple. After a fire in 1657, Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple was moved to its current site in Asakusa and was called Asakusa Hongan-ji Temple. Then in 1965, Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple changed its name again to Tokyo Higashi-Hongan-ji Temple.

It is presently the headquarters of the Jodo Shinshu Higashi Honganji Sect with a following of some 400 temples.  The door to this living Buddhist temple is open to all races, nationalities and people of the world.

Higashi Hongan-ji

Higashi Hongan-ji

I continue my walk to the train station, admiring all the offerings of plates and crockery along the way.

dishes for sale

Total steps: 11,834 (5.02 miles) 🙂

tokyo’s oldest buddhist temple: sensō-ji {walking tour 8: part 2}   4 comments

Sunday, June 11:  After enjoying my conveyor belt sushi lunch, I head to Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest and most popular temple.

According to legend, in the year 628, two Hamanari brothers, Hinokuma and Takenari, fished a statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it kept returning to them. Consequently, Sensō-ji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, although most of its main buildings were rebuilt with concrete after they were burned down in World War II.

The temple’s first gate, the vermillion Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate), boasts a huge paper lantern, or Chochin, which is illuminated at night.  Chochin are Japanese lanterns traditionally made with a bamboo frame covered in silk or paper;  that have been crafted in Japan since 1085.

Kaminarimon Gate

After the Kaminarimon Gate is a long shopping street called Nakamise-dori, the Inside Shops Street.  This shopping street is within the temple compound.  Lots of people come here dressed in yukata, mainly to take pictures of themselves on the temple grounds.

the yukata stroll

Nakamise Dori

Nakamise Dori

Nakamise Dori

Every sort of thing can be bought in the 150 shops that line this 984-foot-long street: masks, fans, Buddhist scrolls, combs, traditional sweets, woodblock prints, kimono and other robes, sandal socks, mobile phone straps, traditional sweets and meals.

masks on Nakamise Dori

fans on Nakamise Dori

fans on Nakamise Dori

what-nots on Nakamise Dori

socks on Nakamise Dori

Down one of the side streets, the Tokyo Sky Tree is visible, an ever-present reminder of a modern city encroaching on a traditional temple.

Nakamise Dori

painting at Senso-ji

At the far end of Nakamise-dori is the Hozomon Gate, the Treasury Gate, of the temple.  The upper level still stores some 14th century Chinese sutras (Buddhist scriptures).  A large paper lantern hangs in this impressive gate.

the Hozomon

the Hozomon & the crowds

To the Hozomon’s left is the five-story Asakusa Pagoda, which was rebuilt in 1973. The pagoda contains bits of Buddha’s bones, a gift from Sri Lanka.

the Goju no To five-storied pagoda and a corner of the Hozomon

the Hozomon

lantern in the Hozomon

I encounter a couple of monks playing tourist on the temple grounds.

monk at Senso-ji

lantern in the Hozomon

Between the Hozomon and the Hondo (Main Hall) is a large bronze incense burner.  People stand around the incense sticks burning in the burner and, with their hands, waft the smoke toward afflicted parts of their bodies.  The smoke from the incense is said to have curative powers.

The Hondo (Main Hall of Senso-ji

Bronze incense burner with curative powers

I even do some wafting of the incense smoke, even though I don’t have any ailing parts to my body. 🙂

The Hondo

lantern in the Hondo

The temple is also known as the Kinryusan Senso-ji, the Golden Dragon Mountain Asakusa Temple, due to the legend of the dragon’s descent on the finding of the small golden Kannon.  Because of this, a dragon has been painted on the ceiling of the Hondo, the work of Kawabata Ryushi, while the angels and lotus flowers surrounding it are by Domoto Insho.

Dragon painting by Kawabata Ryushi

Angels and lotus flowers on the ceiling of Senso-ji, by Domoto Insho

The Hondo (Main Hall) of Senso-ji

Honda of Senso-ji

the five-story Asakusa Pagoda

Hozomon Gate

the yukata stroll

On the backside of the Hozomon Gate are two oversized straw sandals, a gift from a provincial village to the temple.

giant straw sandals made to fit Deva Kings

monks in front of the pagoda

the Hondo

It’s fun to watch all the Japanese men and women here who are wearing the yukata, a casual summer kimono usually made of cotton or synthetic fabric, and unlined.  Yukata are worn by both men and women.

beautiful yukata in front of a food vendor

Yogodo Hall is where Buddhist divinities who support Kannon Bosatsu are enshrined.

grounds of Yogodo Hall at Senso-ji

Yogodo Hall at Senso-ji

Little shrine

Inside Yogodo Hall

Yakushido Hall, built in 1649, is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, a Buddhist divinity of medicine.

Yakushido Hall

Awashima-do is the shrine of the guardian deity of women; this deity attends to female ailments.  Women often bring dolls to shrines such as this, which have proliferated all over Japan, so their dolls can serve as substitutes, taking on the donor’s ailment.  Eventually the dolls are burned in a religious ceremony in order to offer up prayers for relief from the ailment that has been transferred to the doll (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City).

another small shrine

a yukata gathering

colorful yukata

Tokyo Sky Tree

the five-story Asakusa Pagoda

The Asakusa Shrine is dedicated to the two fishermen brothers, Hinokuma and Takenari Hamanari, and their master, Hajo-no-Nakatomo.  The Honden, or Spirit Hall, is said to hold the spirits of the two brothers who found the Kannon image and their master, who enshrined the image.

Asakusa Shrine

ema at Senso-ji

Shafu are seen dashing down roadways pulling large carts behind them, usually with a tourist or two along for the ride. These rickshaw-pullers in Japan, usually slim muscular men who have to run long distances each day with passengers in tow, are considered appealing by many young Japanese women, according to the Japanator: Japanese ladies love them some rickshaw-pullers.

Shafu, rickshaw pullers in Japan

In front of Asakusa Shrine, a young lady in a hat and yukata is selling some fruity gelato bars.  I help myself to one of them and sit on a bench to enjoy.

ice cream for sale near Asakusa Shrine

the Hondo of Senso-ji

the Hozomon at Senso-ji

Two large bronze images of Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings who postpone entering nirvana so as to help those still living) sit on the temple grounds near the end of the Nakamise shops.  They were a gift from a rice merchant in honor of his deceased master in 1687.

Two Bodhisattvas

I am in awe of this shrine and the people who have flocked here to visit. Though it is one of Tokyo’s major tourist sites, it also seems to be a place of active worship and a symbol of tradition.

I leave the temple to explore a bit more of Asakusa, stopping at Kappabashi-dori and the street’s purveyors of plastic foods. 🙂

asakusa & a conveyor belt sushi lunch {walking tour 8: part 1}   6 comments

Sunday, June 11:  On this dreary Sunday, after my long Saturday at Enojima and Hasedera, I have just enough energy to attempt Walking Tour 8: Asakusa, Kappabashi and Minowa from my much-used book: Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City. The main sight to see in this area is the ancient Buddhist temple Senso-ji; other than that the walk doesn’t cover much territory.  I don’t intend to cover the Minowa part of the walk.  I figure I can handle a limited stroll today, especially as it’s cloudy and not too hot.

As soon as I take exit #1 from Asakusa Station onto Kaminarimon-dori, I see a typical Tokyo street scene.

first view of Asakusa

I walk toward the Sumida River and onto the bridge, where I can see two of Tokyo’s iconic landmarks: The Asahi Beer Hall and the Tokyo Sky Tree.  I’m glad to see the Asahi Breweries offices, as Asahi has become my go-to beer while in Japan.  I love it!

The Asahi Beer Hall, one of the buildings of the Asahi Breweries, is also known as Super Dry Hall or Flame d’Or.  Designed by French designer Philippe Starck, it was completed in 1989.  The shape of the building is that of a beer glass, designed to complement the neighboring golden beer mug-shaped building housing the Asahi Breweries offices.  It is noted for the Asahi Flame, an enormous golden structure at the top, said to represent both the ‘burning heart of Asahi beer’ and a frothy head (Wikipedia: Asahi Beer Hall).

The Asahi Flame is often colloquially referred to as “the golden turd” (kin no unko). Kin no unko (金のうんこ) or “golden poo” is a symbol of good luck, as the name is a pun meaning “golden poo” and “good luck” in Japanese (Wikipedia: kin no unko).

The Asahi Beer Hall itself is fondly known as “poo building” (unko-biru, うんこビル) by many Tokyo residents (Wikipedia: Asahi Beer Hall).

Asahi Breweries, Ltd. is a leading brewery and soft drink company in Tokyo. As of January 2014, Asahi, with a 38% market share, was the largest of the four major beer producers in Japan followed by Kirin Beer with 35% and Suntory with 15% (Wikipedia: Asahi Breweries).

view across the Sumida River to the 1989 Super Dry Hall, aka the Asahi Brewery Building and the Tokyo Sky Tree

The Sumida River

boat on the Sumida River

I’d have to get on the train again to visit the Tokyo Sky Tree, which looks closer than it is. Its observation deck is also quite expensive and it’s too cloudy to get a decent view today anyway.  So I’ll have to admire it from afar.

parting shot of two Tokyo landmarks

On the corner near the bridge, I find this Sushi go-round restaurant, where sushi is served on a conveyor belt.  No one speaks English so it takes me a while to figure out the system and the cost, but when I do, I enjoy a great lunch before going on my way to Senso-ji.

a conveyor belt sushi restaurant

inside the conveyor belt sushi restaurant

P6110776

street in Asakusa

Below is my route to Asakusa this morning. As you can see, it’s always quite convoluted to get anywhere in Tokyo, since I live on the outskirts.

I’m now on my way to Senso-ji.

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.

 

last afternoon at kawaguchiko: fuji omuro sengen-jinja shrine   2 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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