01 Mito – (Shrines and Castles Ruins)

Welcome to the final walk from the book. It just happens that the last walk is the first walk. I completed this route over two days after visiting the two southern locations the day before. There are 4 walks in and around Mito so I spent a couple of days there visiting the locations for three of them.

Here is the map for this walk.

As mentioned I started this route at the very southern point of location 6, Yakuoin Temple. You can read about the different parts of the shrine here, with the help of Google Translate. I loved this place and I had it all to myself, though the guardians must be very dangerous as they were very well caged inside the entrance gate. The whole site is surrounded by large trees, it must look stunning in autumn.

This location had a handy carpark, unlike the next location I visited. In order to check out the moat at location 7, I stopped for a ramen lunch. The restaurant I added to the map was very close to the moat. From there I walked down to the Edo Road starting point and back up to my car. I actually thought it was really cool that the Edo Road started here and I got to see it, I am very surprised it is not mentioned in the guidebook as a location.

On this website, it says the moat was built over 1,600 years ago for flood prevention and irrigation. That seems a really long time ago. I think it means it was built in 1600 and it was translated wrong as the book says 1686.

From this point, I went to a nearby hotel to get out of the heat and rest after completing walk 3 and these two locations.

The next day I return to this walk and completed the northern locations by bicycle. When parking my car in Mito I made a mistake and parked in the town hall car park. There was a big P sign and I got a card on entry. No problem I thought, I will pay the fee on exit. Except when I got back to the exit there was no slot to put the money in. The guard spoke to me and said I needed a stamp from the town hall. After asking me where I was from he let me out for free. That was kind of him…but the moral of the story is P doesn’t always mean park and look for a legitimate place to leave the car if you are driving.

I started this day with a visit to location 4, Kodokan. According to the pamphlet, it was a feudal domain school established in 1841.

The entrance fee was only 200yen and I had a short wander around, but I didn’t really explore it fully as again it was very, very hot and I had a few places to visit. You would think that I would visit the castle next as it was right next door, but I decided to go to the other locations and return to this as it was closer to the walk 4 locations.

So that meant location 5 was the next one for me, Tōshō-gū Shrine. This shrine was destroyed in 1945 and rebuilt in 1962.

From here I moved on to a much smaller shrine at location 1, Yikei shrine (Mito Komon Shrine) 

I had no idea what this shrine was for and it seemed so tiny, surrounded by roads. A bit insignificant really. Then I found this blog, which led me to this website. When I saw that photo, I thought, “Holy crap it is the Ibaraki guy!!” So this shrine is in recognition of the birthplace of the mascot of Ibaraki, or the man it represents. What a great location to have on the final walk I completed. Actually, if you did the walks in order then this would have been the very first location on the very first walk, how appropriate.

Well, from here I went back to the castle “ruins” at location 3. I put the quotes as the ruins didn’t seem very “ruin-y”, apart from the gate that is. The gate was under reconstruction and the road was blocked, which meant me going back there was moot as I could not cycle in the direction I wanted to. All around this location were signs describing the different parts of the castle.

By this point, I was very hot, tired and a bit frustrated. I walked to one of the gates, looked along the road and saw other gates, but then turned and headed back to my bike…without checking the map. I missed the gate at location 2. The main gate of the castle, it was right there, less than 200m away. I love gates, bugger. I won’t go back just for a photo, I did see it in the distance, just no photo evidence.

And for me, this walk/cycle was over. I headed for walk number 4, a crappy one.

The book is now finished. I enjoyed many of the walks, detested some. I leave Ibaraki in about 2 weeks for pastures new. I am not sure I will complete another book like this, as it was hard work. Though I probably will considering I have now fully completed three walking books based in Japan. It seems I do like doing them.

 

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04 Mito Station (The Crappy one)

This was actually the last walk from the book that I completed, but I didn’t want it to be at the top of my homepage. Therefore I am writing it first as I completed it on the same day as walk 4. I thought this walk was rubbish. Luckily I cycled it and that was fun, cycling is always fun. But as a walk this sucked, I think it is the worse walk in the book. I doubt anyone will do it after that introduction, but here is the map anyway.

I started at location 9 after cycling from walk 4. When I was preparing the map I could not find this location at all. I made a note to walk around when I got to the area and that is what I did. I walked around until I saw it down a side street. I have now moved the marker on the map to the correct position.

Now I am writing about the walk and I am also having difficulty finding information on the net. I had the same issue for many of the locations along this route. Finally, after google translating the book and using the date mentioned, 1868 and born in Mito as keywords, I found it is probably Yokoyama Taikan. He was born in Mito and was a pioneer of Japanese painting. Phew, that was hard work.

From here I moved on to location 8, Joto City Community Center and quite honestly I can make no sense of the translate of the book. Plus there is nothing on the net about it either. Maybe there is a Buddhist priest buried here. Right now, I found the display of solar toys in the shop opposite more interesting.

Next, I cycled on towards the tiny little shrine at location 5, Akiba Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to fire prevention.

Excited yet? Wait for the next location, number 8. Something at this location used to transport water, but it is no longer used since a new bridge was built. Now there is a sign here.

There is a nice cycle path here now which made going to the next exciting location easier. Roll on number 7, the site of an old temple building that was destroyed when the Naka River embankment was built. This monument was erected in 1990.

Next, I headed along the river to location 4, this was the birthplace of Yokoyama Taiken who I mentioned before.

The next stop was actually my favourite of the walk. Location 3 is a monument dedicated to the 19th Yokozuna Hitachi Taneimon who was born in Mito. In fact, he was one of the first officially recognized yokozunas.

This really was the highlight of the route.

I moved on to location 2, which apparently received 20 red stones from Suwon Ji and is now famous because if it.

And finally, location number 1. Again the translation leaves me a little lost. I think there may have been some famous dojos here.

And that is it.

I have to say, for a someone from England this route blows. From a Japanese perspective, it might be awesome.

I guess you have to decide for yourself.

03 Mito – Samurai Cemetary

This was a lovely walk, which I decided to cycle. I have three walks left including this one. They are all in Mito so I decided to take my bike, stay overnight, and try to complete them all in two days. Today I completed one and part of another. Now I am sat in the hotel recovering in the air-conditioning while writing this.

Seriously today was hot, a real feel of 40 degrees. I am so glad this course was really short with barely any hills. Tomorrow should be the same, but with more stops.

Anyway, here is the map for this walk.

I parked near location 6 and cycled/walked to the rest of the stops. I thought all the locations along this walk were lovely, some stunning. This is a great walk if you have half a day free in Mito. But I suggest not going at the height of summer like I did.

The first location was Mito Hachimangu whose main feature was written as the 700-year-old ginkgo tree. It is designated a national treasure. I was more interested in the little statues all around the shrine. It seemed every lucky symbol was represented, including the signs of the zodiac. This fit with the new year ceremony that happens at this shrine each year.

Right next door, but not attached is another shrine. I added it to the map as you have to pass it anyway. This is Gion Temple. Inside this temple is the Tomb of Nakamura, a painter who was born in Mito. There are also tombs for a few more artistic people here, you can read a bit more here. This temple also had one of the loveliest lanterns I have ever seen.

Just up the road from here is the next location and one of my favourites in the book. This is Keishigeraji (Howaen). It has one of the most amazing wood carvings above the main shrine door. The shrine is set in a beautiful garden with a playground and pond area. By the time I got here, I was seriously overheating so took some time and shade in the bathroom, sweat was running down my face in streams. Don’t worry I took a lot to drink with me.

The next location was attached to this one, a very short walk, Kaiten Shrine. This seemed to be a shrine dedicated to martyrs of various battles.

And again, the next location was right next door. It was a samurai cemetary, Tokiwakyoyu Cemetery. You can find a list of tombs of prominent people here.

Onward to the next location, number 4, Atago Shrine. This shrine was situated on the top of a kofun or burial mound.

The final location was down a hill, luckily I did not have to cycle back up it. Apparently, this location is a 1,000-year-old spring where people use to meet, gather, and wash clothes. This is the Forest of Manoba Arai and it was awfully pretty.

And that is it, a very hot and sweaty cycle. I was very happy to get back to my car.

 

 

07 Oarai Station

This walk seemed to have everything about Japanese life. I saw groups of older people visiting historical sights, younger men search for anime characters, families enjoying the beach and swimming pools, shrines, big trees, statues, seafood, tea, you name it 🙂

Basically, this walk seemed to be an ode to Japanese history and life…and Girls Und Panzer, which I might have to watch now.

Here is the map. I added a couple of locations to the ones suggested in the book. One because it had a red pagoda and the other because it had parking.

As it was ‘the beach’, I got carried away and parked right next to it. That turned out to be a mistake as it was 800-1,000yen for the day, the car was left in the blazing sun and I didn’t really stay at the beach. At location 5, there was free shaded parking. From this central area, you can walk to locations 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. I suggest driving to the other 2 locations as they are quiet and have parking nearby.

I started at location 6. At this point, I did wish I was not doing this walk and had a handy friend to play in the sea with. But I was doing a walk and I did not have my cozzie.

Location 6 is a torii gate on a rocky outcrop. Be careful though as a few people have died recently trying to take photos. The actual name of this site is Kamiiso-no-Tori, which means “gate at the beach of the gods.” It is part of the shrine at location 5. To see the sun rise on new year’s day at this location is something I always wanted to do…but my bed was always warmer.

From here you head to the main torii gate at the bottom of the hill. There is another huge torii gate to the left along the road. Location 5, Oarai Isosaki Jinja was established in 856. Though the main shrine is lovely, the torii gate on the rocks in the main thing, the thing that pulls at your aesthetics. Though, some parts of the shrine were under reconstruction which might have put a damper on my feelings. I really liked the little statues along the wall, they were very cute.

It was at this location that I first encountered the Girls und Panzer or how to boost tourism Japanese style 101.

But actually, seeing this website I now feel like shouting…oooh I was just there!! And I want to watch the anime. I am such a sucker.

Anyway, walk over the red bridge at the back of the shrine and head for location 4.

You should pass the red pagoda at the extra shrine I added to the map.

The next stop for me was location 4 which is the Edo and the Meiji Museum. I checked at the information desk and the museum was completely in Japanese, so I decided to skip it. The grounds were also a campsite, which might be useful if you want to spend more time at the beach.

So from here, I walked to locations 1 and 2 which were both Kofuns or burial mounds. Location 1 was surrounded by a fence and had a gate…

…the gate was not locked 🙂

Just down the road is location 2, this time no fence or gate but a lovely view over Oarai.

From here I walked back to my car and encountered a few groups of men along the way. All holding merchandise with Panzer Girls. There are stamps at various locations around the town. I need to watch that show.

I then drove towards location 3 which is one of the eight views of Mito. On the way I passed a lovely little shrine with a massive bell, really huge.

Once inside I suddenly got a bit nervous. What if there was an earthquake? What if it fell and trapped me inside? So I got out very quickly. The shrine was under reconstruction or in disrepair, I am not sure which but it was a good place to park to walk to the lookout point.

The lookout point was a bit disappointing, the overgrown trees and my short height made it more of a tiptoe or stand on the bench point.

And then on to the last stop, Saikoin at location 7. The main feature at this shrine is the beautiful tree in the middle of the grounds. The tree is over 400 years old and is very precious. I really liked the grass, usually, the grounds of shrines are stone or gravel, It made a really nice change to see grass. It felt much more peaceful.

I was the only person walking around this shrine, I loved it. And look at all those Japanese maples, let alone the huge ginkgo tree. I bet this place would look amazing in autumn.

This website has information about the places I visited today and other things you can do around Oarai.

Walk finished!!! Just 3 more to go. I am getting quite excited.

 

13 Urizura Station

I completed this walk over a couple of days as I simply forgot the last two locations. Due to an incoming storm, I tried to complete this walk quickly and I zoomed in too far and missed the two stops on the right side. Luckily I was nearby the next day for walk number 12 so after completing that, I drove back to finish this one.

Here is the map for this walk.

I started at location 7, a large pond. This place is famous for swan viewing…between November and March. I visited in July, no swans. So remember that if you are completing this walk. It was still a nice area and there are a number of short walks around there, but due to the weather and amount of mosquitoes, I decided not to linger too long.

From here I moved to locations 3,4,5, and 6. There is a handy carpark next to another pond that is central to all the places. This was not a totally successful walk for me, along with having to return the next day, I also visited on a Monday. This meant location 6, Shizumine Furusato Park was closed. I was not too worried about missing the park as it is mainly famous for the cherry blossom season. In fact, it has been named as one of Japan’s top 100 places to see the cherries. So I guess you have to choose, visit for the swans or for the cherries, it seems you can’t see both. I saw neither 😦

Right next door are two more locations, shrines. The first was location 5, Shizu Shrine. You can read all about the history and meaning of the shrine at the website I linked to, with the help of Google Translate. For me, as someone new to the shrine it seemed like stones meant something important. By the entrance, there was even a hanging rock.

You can walk through Shizu Shrine to reach Tesetsuashio Shrine. This location was honestly one of the most poignant places I have ever visited. Even now writing about it, I feel emotional. It was for purely personal reasons and I think this shrine was why I forgot the last remain places. Ashio Shrine is dedicated to the safety and protection of hands and feet, limbs. As such it has shoes, sandals, and foot calipers placed around the shrine. The walk to the shrine was not hard for me. There was a small hill. But I thought of my mother, who caught polio at three years old and had to wear a caliper. She hated it. It was a reminder of the things she could not do. For her, the walk would have been doable, but very difficult. So the placement and path of this shrine would have been perfect for her to make a pilgrimage if she so wished.

From here I went to location 3, Katsuragi Inari Shrine. This was a small shrine with a very large tree. The mukunoki or Japanese elm is over 800 years old.

While I was here the noon music started playing, as it does each day.

For me, I decided to call it quits for the day. Once home I realised I had skipped locations 1 and 2. I returned the next day, starting again at location 1, Joufukuji. This was a medium-sized shrine next to a school.

Finally, I arrived at location 2, Koganji Flower Temple. The website I linked to a few times is in Japanese, but it seems like a great resource for the area. When I visited this shrine it lived up to the name of the flower temple. The grounds were beautiful. The shrine was under reconstruction but was also impressive. Here is a blog of someone who visited a year before me and you can see the difference, quite a lot of work has been done.

I enjoyed this tour. I would have enjoyed it more if I had gone at the right time of year. For me, it would have been November to March for the swans. I only have a few more walks to do. Hopefully, the weather and my foot (Plantar fasciitis) remain in good condition.

12 Nukada Station

I completed this walk on a hot and humid day while waiting for the England world cup semi-final. For the past month, I have been waking up at 3am to watch the matches due to the time difference. Hopefully, I have to do it one more time after this.

Anyway, here is the map for this walk…but don’t walk. If you do decide to do it, go by car. The locations are in 3 groups and there is a fair distance between each of them.

I started at the southern point, location 6. This was a lovely little water area with a small shrine. There was a handy carpark and toilet here too. Inside the park area was a pool with koi, the water was so clear I thought it must have been a natural spring. I was right. There was also a raised walkway, through a small marshland. While walking through here I realized it was noon, music started to play through the trees.

When I visited, the hydrangea season was just coming to an end, so were the irises. So a good time to visit would be a week or so earlier, but later I visited a site which would mean April/May might a better time. In the park was also a caged area that seemed to be in use to conserve the Great Purple Emperor Butterfly, the national butterfly of Japan.

I liked this little park, it was peaceful and pretty.

After this place, I drove to location 4, another park with two more ponds. This was turning out to be a tour of ponds. You can visit locations 3 and 5 near here too. I can imagine this pond area looks gorgeous during the cherry season.

I walk to location 3 which turned out to be an old storehouse, next to another pond. The storehouse was undergoing restoration when I visited so I could not explore it. There were a collection of children’s cycles outside, but not children. Maybe they were free to be used by locals around the park. I have no idea, but I hope they don’t fall into the pond, look at the teeth on that turtle illustration.

From here I walked back towards my car, along the route was location 5, Fudoin Shrine. I think this shrine was established in 1675 and is for child rearing, luck with money, and help with diseases. Plus there is a 650-year-old tree.

Then it was a quick scoot to locations 1 and 2. I parked my car near Amidaji and walked around the back of the shrine. There you will see a sign and a path. Here I stopped and looked. I thought, oooh mosquitoes. So I bathed myself in a new coating of repellant. It made not a jot of difference. Any time I stopped for any reason I was immediately swarmed upon. I was glad I was wearing long pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, but even they were crawling with little black bodies. Just writing about this makes me shiver. In the end, I picked up a small branch and swatted it around my head as I walked…walked very quickly. I did not explore the castle ruins very much. I HIGHLY recommend not going to this location in the rainy season.

From that buzzing location, I walked to the last location, which was very disappointing. It was a seemingly run down thatched house from around 1688.

And done. I did enjoy exploring this area, but mainly because I was in a super mood. On another day I might have been disappointed.

11 Nakaminato Station

I undertook this walk after I finished another one quite early. Unfortunately, it was a Monday and some of the places on that walk were closed. Remember, places like museums are closed every Monday unless it is a public holiday, then they are closed on the following Tuesday. Part of this route also included a museum so I was also unable to fully complete this one either. I don’t mind missing museums though. This walk is also covered by this free Japanese guide book.

I found the map hard to create by referring to the book and adjusted it after I completed it. The main issues were the shops, I could not find the specific ones mentioned in the book. I ended up putting the placemarks on the high street as it is interesting anyway. The map is now as accurate as I could make it.

I started the walk by location 05. There was a free carpark and toilet block there and was the perfect location to start from in order to complete a circuit of stops 1-7.

This location was a park with a viewpoint over the Naka River. Inside the park were lots of wonderful trees and a statue of a man overlooking the river. There was also the remains of Ihinkaku.

From here it was a short walk to the best location on the walk, Kezoin Temple. All around the walk were these handy signs, they are a companion to the booklet I already linked to, I think.

So, I followed the directions given and as I approached the temple I was greeted with a beautiful view. The book has a picture of a bell, but I think the gate was my favourite part of the complex. The bell is one of the oldest in the whole of Ibaraki, it was produced in 1339. Wow, that is really old. The bells in many of the bell towers I have visited are missing as many were donated for metal toward the war effort. This one must be really special if it escaped that fate. But just look at the redness of the gate and the carvings. The guardians inside the gate are also interesting, they are three-headed.

Following the signs again, I walked along the river to the next location, number 3. This was an old cannon refinery. During the walk to the refinery and beyond I could hear a massive clanging sound.

After a while, I stopped hearing it…until it stopped. Then I noticed it wasn’t happening anymore. Maybe there was a shipbuilder or something nearby. Also at this stop was one of the grossest toilets I have ever had to used. Just don’t.

The next location was at the foot of the hill, a gate. It was used by the Mito clan for imperial service a long time ago. Important people have passed through this gate, including me…twice 🙂

I tried to visit locations 1 and 6 next, both shops. I didn’t find the specific shops in the book and wandered along the high street. By this time I was tired and it was still very hot. So I gave up. I marked the possible locations on the map, but for me, the street was interesting enough.

Once I returned to my car I headed to the last stop for me, the floodgates at location 07. A description of the monument can be found on this blog. What occurred to me the most while looking out at the ocean was the height of the cliff. It would have been a safe spot to stand during 3.11 tsunami. This website gives a set of photos from that day, number 36 is the Naka River and number 30 shows the whirlpool just along the coast from here. It must have been terrifying.

But today, thankfully, it was peaceful.

I sat for a while and thought about things. I also looked at the map, locations 8, 9, and 10 were much further away and part of an archaeological museum. As such they would have been closed, it was a Monday. Therefore, I decided not to visit. So for me, this walk was over.