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Pretty Samurai Houses and More Holy Mountains

Written on: Monday September 14th, 2009

A journal entry from: Japan

From the top of the main island Honshu, we started driving back down in the rough direction of home, but pursuing a different route, of course. First we head towards Tazawa-ko (Lake Tazawa), another deep mythic lake, with a legend attached to it about a beautiful girl who drank water from a magic source so she could stay beautiful forever, and who then turned into a dragon and lives at the bottom of the lake. It's now a very, very ordinary little family holiday lake. I suggested taking the route through the Oriase Valley from there, which sounded, well, pretty. It was pretty, but it was also ridiculously congested. It is apparently a very popular area to drive and walk and bike along, so not only were we in a slow traffic crawl, but we were weaving through pedestrians and bikers, too. You have to keep youself well entertained in the car to survive a scene like that.


A little further down the road we stopped at Kakunodate. Kakunodate is well known for its historic samurai houses, which once belonged to samurai families from the area. We stayed long enough to walk through the street and check out some of the houses. One had a small display of artifacts inside as well. Then it was time to look for souvenirs - my friend found a squeaky toy smaurai sword; it was fantastic.


We spent the night even further down the island, and fresh in the morning we were off to Dewa Sanzan. Dewa Sanzan is composed of three sacred shrines on three different mountains. The area was originally sacred to a sect of mountain ascetics, who believed in a blend of Shinto, Buddist, and ancient folk beliefs. Many places like this, however, were "taken over" by a resurgence of Shinto belief, encouraged by the governemt, over a hundred years ago, but the mountain ascetics never diappeared completely.


It was two early in the season for the most remote and smallest of the three to be open. The main temple was Haguro-san, and we started with it. We found the head of the trail up to the temple. We had read that there were 2446 stone steps to ascend to the top, so we knew it was going to be a long climb. At the trail head, though, we picked up another tidbit of info - every so often along the way, there were tiny carvings made by monks in the stones. Popular belief has it that if you find all of them, your dreams will come true. Sadly, we didn't find very many, and most of the ones that we did find were sake gourds (go figure). Searching for them does make climbing 2446 stone steps more entertaining, though.


The second temple was Yudono-jinja. We drove about an hour or so from Haguro-san to reach it. It was located a little higher up and the area around it was still covered in snow. It wasn't very far from the parking area to the temple, though. The main focus of this shrine is a great orange rock face, along the side of a rushing mountain stream, so it mostly out in the open air, which suited me very well. It had the feel of the mountains.


We headed into a nearby city, Yonezawa, and settled in for the night. My friend was happy because Yonezawa is apparently well-known for beef, and there were plenty of steak houses to choose from. In the morning, we started off on our last day's driving. We chose a route that would take us though another (although not sacred) mountain area, Bandai-kogen. We spent part of the afternoon taking a walk through the valley, a nice stretch. We then headed out for the Bandai-Azuma Skyline, which promised to be an amazing drive. But, just like in Hokkaido last year, foggy weather seemed determined to accompany us. What is it with us and fog and mountain passes? Anyway, it was so bad that we opted out of the skyline route and took the regular highway road out. Leaving the fog behind, nothing really left on my mind except driving home.



From Gasdg on Mar 27th, 2012

Hello Patricia,Generally, I would always try and use oniragc or at least locally grown and in season when consuming fruits and vegetables in their raw state. However, some research suggests that most of the pesticides are to be found in the fibrous content of the fruit and vegetable, which is normally discarded once the juice has been extracted. This would therefore eliminate the amount you would consume. However, you can also try peeling and also washing your produce in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water and then rinsing in a solution of water and vinegar. If you can find oniragc and it is within your budget, then go for that option. If not, try and choose produce that has the least concentration of pesticide e.g. those that have a protective skin or something that can be peeled.I appreciate your comment and I hope this helps.Tamara