Kamakura Stroll Pt 2

We were either too early or too late for the Autumn leaves in Kamakura because there weren’t so many out. But there were some nice ones around Hachimangu:

TOASI Kamakura Kouyou 1

TOASI Kamakura Kouyou 2

TOASI Kamakura Kouyou 3

TOASI Kamakura Kouyou 4

TOASI Kamakura Kouyou 5




Kamakura Stroll Pt 1

It was nice and sunny on the weekend so we went down to Kamakura, the rival capital of Japan to Kyoto during the 12th and 13th centuries. It’s an interesting place for an aimless wander, full of little back streets, old houses and cafes. These are some shots from around town.

An old house:

TOASI Kamakura Old Japanese House

Travelling in style:

TOASI Kamakura Rickshaw

A traditional sweets shop:

TOASI Kamakura Okashi-ya

Beckoning cat:

 TOASI Kamakura Cat

I’m not sure what these flowers are but they have an interesting shape:

TOASI Kamakura White Plant

At a temple:

TOASI Kamakura Woman in Temple

TOASI Kamakura Temple Pink Flowers

Taking in the Autumn colours:

TOASI Kamakura Bridge

Takao-san Guchi

Today was one of those beautiful, clear, sunny Autumn days that you get here so we decided to go out for lunch to Mt Takao and enjoy some of the Autumn leaves. It was actually still a bit early for the full Autumn colours but it was probably for the best – the crowds were bad enough as it was!

This is the ropeway station. The queue was about 1-hour long so we decided not to bother:

Takao Nov 2013-1

Still, there were some nice early flashes of colour:

Takao Nov 2013-0

Some jizo statues near the station (had the ISO up a little too high here):

Takao Nov 2013-4

Takao Nov 2013-2

Leaves on a pond:

Takao Nov 2013-3

Down by the river:

Takao Nov 2013-5

We had a delicious lunch of tempura and soba noodles at this restaurant. One of the tempura was made with dried persimmon which we’d never seen before. If you look closely the restaurant has been built around a tree that protudes from the roof:

Takao Nov 2013-6

The inside, with tree:

Takao Nov 2013-7

Foliage near the station:

Takao Nov 2013-8

Kyu-Furukawa Teien

At the Northern end of the Yamanote Line in Tokyo, near Komagome station, is Kyu-Furukawa Teien house and gardens. The house was built in 1917 by Josiah Conder, a British architect who worked in Japan and a big influence on Japanese architecture, and has an English style rose garden. Below that, is a Japanese garden laid out by a famous designer from Kyoto. After all that was razed during the war and the subsequent building frenzy of the 1960s and 70s, it’s nice to see that some old buildings remain.

This is the approach down to the Japanese garden:

Kyu 1

Admiring the Autumn colours:

Kyu 2

There is a small lake (pond?) at the centre of the garden:

Kyu 3 Kyu 4 Kyu 5

Autumn berries:

Kyu 9

The house:

Kyu 7

Kyu 10

And rose garden:

Kyu 6

Kyu 8

Mt Takao

On the western edge of Tokyo city there is an oasis of greenery amoung the grey: Mt Takao. A sacred mountain for over 1000 years, it’s amazing that an area with a network of hiking trails through wooded slopes lies within metropolitan Tokyo. It was awarded 3-stars in the Japan Michelin guide and apparently holds the Guinness record for the most climbed mountain in the world.

Unfortunately, when we went last weekend, it seemed they all decided to come at once. As the cable-car more resembled Shinjuku station, we joined the crowds shuffling up the hill:

Luckily, there were some jizo statues to keep watch over everyone:

Now that the haze of summer has started to clear, there are some great views back over Tokyo along the way:

On the way to the top of the mountain is the temple Yakuoin.  The sacred deities associated with the temple are tengus which have either long noses or beaks:

I’m not sure who this little guy is:

The main hall of Yakuoin:

The temple is richly decorated and colourful:

Temple priest. They blow horns made of giant conch shells that echo around the mountain:

Around a smaller out-building of the temple are a series of small jizo statues. If you can manage to place a 5-yen coin on the heads of all of them you will have good luck:

Although it can get a bit tricky:

Of course, the real reason for the hordes of walkers is the autumn leaves (and the fact it was on TV that week). They really are quite spectacular:

And another view from the top across Tokyo:

Shuzenji Onsen

In the middle of Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo is the onsen town of Shuzenji, named after a temple founded 1200 years ago by Kobo Daishi (Kukai). He also reputedly founded the oldest hot-spring in the town by striking a rock with an iron bar. It was a getaway favoured by artists and intellectuals in the 19th century including Natsume Soseki. Soseki came to Shuzenji to recover from a bout of gastric ulcers. The first food he had after his long illness was rice porridge, called kayu, which moved him to write the haiku:

The taste of kayu
My insides drip with spring

Shuzenji though now exists mainly to service busloads of tourists.

Entrance to Shuzenji Temple, founded in 807 AD:

Ryokan hotels line the river:

Although it doesn’t have much to recommend it apart from the onsens, it can be a pleasant place to stroll around in the Autumn with a small bamboo forest:

Hakone Glass Forest & Owakudani

This was a trip down to the mountains of Hakone, a famous hot-spring area about 100 km south of Tokyo. It’s a wonderfully relaxing place just a couple of hours away from the bustle of the city.

First we went to the Hakone Glass Forest (箱根グラスの森), a kind a Venetian-themed attraction that has a collection of over 100 pieces of Venetian glassware as well as a laid-out garden with glass sculptures:


And then caught the cable car up to Owakudani (大涌谷), currently closed due to volcanic activity and sulfuric gasses:





Kanda Shrine

Kanda Shrine in Chiyoda-ku close to the electronics district of Akihabara is a shrine, first established in 730 AD, dedicated to two gods of fortune and a Heian period samurai by the name of Taira no Masakado who rebelled against the government and lost his head in the year 940 thus earning the respect of ordinary citizens ever since.

The main gate, Zuishin-mon, reconstructed in 1995:

The main shrine was rebuilt in 1934 after the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 that levelled much of the city: