October 31st, 2011

drinking bird

Another trip to Japan

I recently returned from Japan, where I spent two weeks, mainly exploring Izu peninsula, and visiting Kawaguchi area [one of the Fuji Five Lakes.

While Tokyo had been sunny, unfortunately Kawaguchiko turned out very cloudy, and it fact rainy. It started raining when I arrived. The next morning it was pouring, sheets of rain pounding on my window, so I was marooned at the hotel. In the afternoon, it stopped for a while, so I hurried outside to go walking around the lake.


The lake from the hotel garden

I trotted along, but there was nothing remarkable. I saw a curious memorial arch


And some peculiar lichen


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The sky had some odd clouds


But they soon turned ominous


so I hurried back, and just in time, as it started pouring again. Naturally, the next morning, as I was leaving there was beautiful sunshine. You could even get glimpses of Fuji-san [though cloudy on top]. I proceeded down to Mishima and there took the train for Izu-Kogen.

Once at Izu-Kogen station, you can get a bus which takes you to  the Yogazaki coast. There is an pleasant walk in a wooded area, then you get to a lighthouse and a fairly famous suspension bridge. I am not too fond of suspension bridges, but this one was quite firm.




a view from the bridge.

Then I took the provided
shuttle to the Akazawa Geihinkan, which has to be the best ryokan I have stayed at. I had my own rotenburo  in my private garden and a lovely bedroom.





The ryokan is quite beautiful, with tasteful decor. And the food was great as well.


sashimi appetizer [the little dish on the upper left is lobster...yummy]

breakfast

Frankly, I hated to leave! I took the train next to Shimoda, near the southern tip of Izu. This is where commodore Perry and his black ships landed in Japan in 1854.


A representation of the kurofune [black ships] at the station in Shimoda.

I will continue soon!


drinking bird

Izu

Shimoda seemed a relatively quiet town. They have a helpful Tourist Information office, where I got lots of brochures, bus schedules and maps. I took the recommended walk through town and saw the usual temples and shrines, but nothing remarkable. It has a busy harbor.


Of course, the bay has totally changed since the days of commodore Perry.

I took a cross country bus from Shimoda to Dogashima on the western Izu coast. It was a nice ride, as the mountains and forests of Izu are very pretty. Unfortunately, public buses do not stop for photo ops!

In Dogashima, you can take an excursion boat to sight see along the coast, which I duly did. It was a fun and interesting trip. The coast is attractive, with lots of little islands [slightly reminiscent of Matsushima], and many natural caves.



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cave entrances


a low arch


the interior of a cave

Next, I traveled to Shuzenji up in the interior. It is where Yoritomo and Masoko escaped to when her father opposed their marriage. It is the site of a old temple founded by Kobo Dashi. It also has the grave of Minamoto no Noriyori, a younger brother of Yoritomo's, obliged in 1194 to commit suicide, and of Yoritomo's son Yoriie. The latter was poisoned by order of his Hojo grandfather for showing too much independence as a young shogun. Clearly, being a brother of Yoritomo's and possible rival was dangerous. Yoshitsune had already died because of it. And then later the Hojo clan was avid for power and ruthless.


This is the view to the right from my balcony at the ryokan, overlooking the Katsura river/


and looking to the left. There is a  small bamboo grove across the river.

The Arai ryokan where I stayed dates to the Meiji era and is very traditional. It has lovely buildings connected by bridges and galleries, with pretty gardens.





I will continue soon with Shuzenji.


drinking bird

More about Shuzenji

I had several agreeable walks around Shuzenji. The shrine is fairly attractive.




purification fountain


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I rather liked several stone statues near the building.




A version of Hotei [the "laughing Buddha].

Then I went to Yoriie's grave.




this is Shigetsuden, a library for Buddhist sutras that Hojo Masako, Yoriie's mother, had built in prayer for the repose of her son's soul. It is the oldest wooden structure in Izu [early 1200s]

From there, I went to look at Tokko no yu, next to the Katsura river. It's the oldest hot spring in Izu and a symbol of Shuzenji. The name derives from the legend of it springing after Kobo Dashi hit a rock with a stick. Unfortunately, nowadays it can only be used for a foot bath.


the footbath is under the little wooden structure near the building

One goes walking along the Katsura river on the Chikunin no Komichi. There is a pretty bamboo grove.




one of the bridges seen through the bamboo


blooming camellia shrubs


and tricyrtis [toad lily]. Those are fall blooming a bit orchid like flowers, very easy to grow.

Next, Kyoto and Nara!