This is the second walk around Tsuchiura and is quite different from the first one. I much prefer this one and I think this might turn out to be one of my favourites from the whole book.
Here is the map.
There is details of a bus stop in the book, but I think it is better to explore this area by scooter, bicycle, or car. I chose my handy scooter as it was a lovely, but cold day. I think I will do it again by bicycle in April, you will understand why later.
For me, the first stop was number two and the reason I might return at the beginning of April.
Ok, so do you see the carving of the Japanese Archery rider? Well, on the first Sunday of April there is a festival where you can see Yabusame in action. This is a great location for the event. This shrine was established in 807 and has a long Sando. I didn’t realise this sando was actually a road, so I parked up by the torii gate and walked up it to the shrine. Only to walk back to get my scooter and drive up it to the next location. Oh and if you fancy paragliding then this is also the right place to be as a school has a location right next door. As I am terrified of heights I might give it miss this time…and forever.
And so onto stop, number one. This stop has an awesome gate to let you know you are nearly there.
You drive around the back and up the small, single track road to reach the shrine. Now..if you are cycling or walking be warned…right behind this gate, on the right, lives one of the meanest dogs I have ever seen. I am not a dog charmer or anything, but this dog scared the bejeezers out of me and it was tied up. I would not have liked walking passed it, scootering was bad enough. Another warning, this road sucks, suck big time. My scooter could just get up it to the steps, I think my tiny car might have managed a bit further. But any frost or snow and I would have struggled. I parked up before the shrine, at the bottom of the steps. When I got back to my scooter another car had parked up and the driver was looking at the road with a quizzical look. I told him he would be fine, as I had just walked it.
Anyway back to the stop. The first thing you will see are some really old stone steps, from 796ish.
Then at the top, if you go on a Sunday like I did you will meet 4 happy Japanese men who will be so surprised to see an actual foreigner that you will get free food and drink the moment you arrive, hot mochi soup no less with green tea.
Then one man will try to figure out if you are a boy or girl as you are a foreigner and can’t tell plus his eyes are not good, but the other three will call him crazy and say of course she is a girl, but she is English?? Whereupon you stick out your chest to tighten your clothes and say I am a girl in Japanese. After that the three who are right will fall about laughing, maybe the sake containers all around them might make this more hilarious. BUT then they give you candy and all is right with the world. Anyway, Google and a smartphone made for a pleasant interlude and if you are there on a Sunday they say they would love to meet you as they are there each week, that’s friendship for you.
Oh and here is the shrine, which ironically is meant to help failing eyesight.
Well, that was fun 🙂
Forward and onward to stop three. Apparently, there is a famous stone here. I can’t tell you more than that because….
It’s a bit knackered and run down…apart from the path there which is super. So I left quickly and went to stop number 5.
I think this was established in 607, wow old, and the gate might have followed at 806. The main temple was burnt down 1973 and rebuilt in 1977. Of course, this is all garnered from Google translate. What I can say for sure is that the gate far surpasses the shrine for awesomeness. Oh and more old steps.
After this I decided on a detour. I noticed a sign to another shrine and it wasn’t mentioned in the book so I thought I would take a gander. You can see this extra stop on the map in orange.
I have no idea why this shrine/temple would not feature in the book it has everything…old stone steps, statues, shrine, bell, cemetery, bamboo and a friendly dog to boot..not literally of course. What did they do to the writers of the book? Anyway here it is, a gorgeous little shrine, tucked away in a forest of bamboo and trees. I love it, though it is lacking a few old men to feed you.
Then onto the last stop, officially number 4, though goddamnit, it should be 6. Here you can see a working waterwheel and taste buckwheat soba. This is the Hall of Komachi. By this point I was a little tired and the mochi soup was still filling me up, so I will come back to taste the soba another day.
And that was it. A lovely day…when I should have been working, but oh look at that beautiful sky. If you can’t enjoy autumn then you are only seeing it with your eyes and not your heart.
Damn it…forgot the manhole cover!