Today we walked down to Utsunomiya Castle, a flatland castle originally built during the Heian period in 1063. Once counted among the seven major castles of Kanto region, it was totally destroyed in war. The partially restored castle now functions as a park for city residents to relax in.
Today Mani & I visit the temples of Nikko in Tochigi. The vibrant temples at this World Heritage site are strikingly different in appearance from other temples I have witnessed in Japan. The lavishly decorated pillars and other structures are covered in a gold leaves and multitude carvings conveying expressions of religious belief as well as scholarship and philosophy.
We landed in Iwatsuki today to see the amazing Togyoku dolls. The collection at Tougyoku Dolls Museum is diverse and the exhibits include imperial court dolls and hina dolls among others. The town of Iwatsuki is famous for its cute dolls and is said to have over 300 doll-makers. They’ve been making dolls here since the 1700s when it was discovered that the Paulownia trees here are excellent for woodcarving. Soon the town became a center for the production of hina dolls, and the tradition continues to this day.
While we were in Kanto, I went down to see the Saitama Railway Museum that recounts the history of railway in japan. Operated by the East Japan Railway Culture Foundation, the museum features about 30 railway cars from different years as they have evolved to the enigmatic Shinkansen of today.
Today we head up to the picturesque castle on a hilltop in downtown Chiba. The ruins of the Inohana Castle go back to early 1100’s when it was created by Chiba Tsuneshige, however the replica that stands today is from sketches of a late 16th century design that somewhat reduces the authenticity of the castle.
We traveled to Enoshima today, a small offshore island, about 4 km in circumference, at the mouth of the Katase River which flows into the Sagami Bay of Kanagawa. I was there to photograph Mt. Fuji, which I have heard looks stunning from the beach, but unfortunately the foggy weather foiled our attempts to catch the unique scene. However the beach is still an amazing place to spend an evening with your loved one.
We walk up 287 Bodai stairs to the Kuon-ji Temple in Minobu. The stairs, built later in 1632, resemble the ones from the Aztec pyramids. Founded by Nichiren in 1281, it is today the head temple of Nichiren Shū. Locally it is referred to as the Minobu-san Temple, after the mountain upon which it is built.
I took the Nara Kotsu bus to explore the 7th century temple of Yakushi-ji in the suburbs of Nara. Known as the Temple of Medicine, Yakushi-ji is among Unesco’s list of “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” World Heritage Site.