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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Trip to Japan: Day 3 6月19日火曜日

I was very fortunate on this trip in that, while at times it was rainy, on those days when I planned to do some walking or hiking, I couldn't have asked for better weather. Perhaps the 神 decided to give me a break.

Tuesday was a case in point - the weather was gorgeous in the morning, when I took a long walk up the hill away from the village of Yoshino 吉野. After checking out of the youth hostel (here's a picture of the temple, Kizo-in 喜蔵院, that gives the hostel its name)...

...I set off on a 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) walk uphill to Kimpu-jinja 金峯神社. The humidity and resulting sweat generated by the strenuous walk were more than compensated by the beautiful scenery. As I climbed higher, I could see all of Yoshino below me. The large building at the top of this photo is Kimpusen-ji 金峯寺, which I would visit later in the day.

Kimpu-jinja itself was something of anti-climax after the long walk. There wasn't much to see of the shrine, but I did buy an amulet お守り from an old woman manning a small office next to the torii 鳥居


Kimpu-jinja is noted for being the start of a 24-kilometer (15-mile), 8-hour climb to Mt. Sanjogatake 山上ヶ岳. I would reach Mt. Sanjogatake the following day by a different route.

Back in Yoshino, I stopped to take a look at a Shinto shrine that wasn't listed in my guidebook, Yoshino Mikuwari-jinja 吉野水分神社, but which I thought was interesting, with its three halls linked together, plus some lovely flora. It dates from 1604, when it was rebuilt by Toyotomi Hideyori 豊臣秀頼. I also took an interest in an old, abandoned Pepsi bottle vending machine. At that point, I really could've used with a 冷たいペプシ!

Next up was Chikurin-in 竹林院, a temple that also runs the Chikurin-in Gumpo en 竹林院群芳園, an expensive ryokan 旅館 that has seen both Emperor Hirohito 昭和天皇 and Emperor Akihito 天皇陛下 as guests in the past. Fortunately, for a mere ¥300 ($2.40 or NT80), a member of the proletarian class 無産階級 such as myself could visit the garden, designed in the 16th century by Sen no Rikyu 千利休, the originator of the tea ceremony.

By now it was lunch time, so I stopped off at Yakko Zushi やっこずし, where the set meal included the specialty of Yoshino, kaki-no-ha sushi 柿の葉寿司, or "persimmon leaf sushi".


One thing I always do well on my visits to Japan is eat. And drink. Beer. Lots and lots of beer.

The final place I visited in Yoshino was Kimpusen-ji Temple 金峯寺. The first thing you see as you approach the temple is the Ni-o-mon 仁王門, a temple gate guarded by the fierce Deva Kings, or Kongo Rikishi 金剛力士.

After passing through the gate it was on to the Zao-do Hall 蔵王堂. The Main Hall of Kimpusen-ji is 27.7 meters (91 feet) high, and is the second-largest wooden building in Japan (if not the world), after the Daibutsuden Hall 大仏殿 in Nara 奈良. For ¥400 ($3.25 or NT105) you can go inside this National Treasure 国宝.

Kimpusen-ji is one of the major centers of Shugendo 修験道, and pilgrims would stop there to pray for good fortune on their way to Omine-san 大峰山, which happened to be my destination for Wednesday.

I had some time to kill before leaving Yoshino after seeing Kimpusen-ji. The LP guide recommended having a cup of 抹茶 (powdered Japanese green tea) and a sweet at an atmospheric teahouse, with a nice view over the valley. I opted instead to have a draft beer 生ビール at the 食堂 next door.

A last look at Yoshino...


...before catching the cable car back down to Yoshino Station. From there, I took the Kintetsu Line 近鉄線 the short distance to Shimoichiguchi Station 下市口駅, where following a quick walk down the main shopping street... 


...I rode on a bus for 80 minutes to my final destination of the day, Dorogawa Onsen 洞川温泉, and checked into the Daitoyo-san Ryokan 大豊.


I stayed here for the next two nights. As in Yoshino, I was the only guest. At ¥9925 a night ($80 or NT2635), including two meals, it was certainly more expensive than a youth hostel, but the food was delicious, the bath was relaxing (once I got used to the extremely hot water temperature), and the owner, Toshiaki Ota 大田敏明, was very friendly. If you should ever visit the Dorogawa area (and it's very scenic), I recommend staying at Daitoyo-san.


Next: Climbing Omine-san

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