– encounters 6b & 6c

There aren’t many places you can walk along the Old Tokaido Road as it’s mostly taken up with newer highways and byways. Well, you can walk along it, but it’s not particularly inspiring.

I took it now and then on my walk from Shimizu to Okitsu, first detailed here. When I could, I walked along side the Tokaido-sen, instead, or the Tokaido line. There are often wee, little pathways that expose the backs of houses, the slight intimacies of lives close to the railway tracks.

At one point, leading to Seiken ji, the temple I detailed in the blog post before this one, there was an older set of steps leading to a crossing over the tracks that had no path or boom gates. A rare occurence. I wondered if only the monks took it. I thought about risking it, but thought I’d wait for a more official crossing.

That day at the smaller crossings there were a number of workers positioned, noting down maybe the people and cars (when they could) who used them. Or maybe they were taking note of the many trains that passed. I’m not really sure what they doing.

As I was striding along, parallel to the tracks, their presence alerted me to a small crossing on my left. The bells started their clamour, the boom gates came down. I noted a torii with a “do not enter” rope strung across it on the other side. A shrine hidden from the main road. Well-hidden. I was curious. Even though it seemed I couldn’t enter the shrine from the main pathway, there might have been more to the location.

Ibarahara_shrine_Okitsu_01

Once the train passed I crossed over. Plum blossoms were soaking up the mild winter sun. There seemed to be a community meeting place, perhaps a communal garden. I noted a path that went to the right of the torii. It wended past a waterfall trickling down a steep rock face, a tiny gorge, if that is the right word. A newish Buddhist statue stood there with fresh flowers. Very peaceful. The path continued up the hill, with two smaller jinja (shrines) on either side of it.

Not my photo. Visit this post

Not my photo. Visit this post

The photo above shows cherry blossoms, I’m pretty sure. But it’s too early in the season for sakura a the moment, so I’m pretty sure the trees I saw were ume, plum. The ones further up the mountain definitely were. Though the article seems to be from January, so perhaps plum also. OR, I’m wondering if it’s the poster’s photo, as they say they were there late December, and there were still gingko tree leaves on the ground. Who knows?

Coming down the hill, pausing at the first corner, was an older couple. I’m pretty sure the man was using a walking stick – the kind you use for old age, not steep hikes, though it was being used for both. They had paused, and by now the path had led me to a point where I got a pretty good view of Suruga Bay. Much better than from Seikenji temple. I stated that the view was beautiful and the woman agreed with me. I did not mention that half of it was beautiful, but the other half was full of machines digging up sand.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay

After our niceties, I was on my way, and I came across a hall which must have been used for meetings and general maintenance. A couple of chairs sat on its verandah as if primed for folks to to kick back and take in the view.

plum_blossom_Ibarahara_shrine

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay_02

While doing this, another elderly gentleman wandered by. This seemed like a really deserted shrine, so it was interesting to see other folk. Also interesting that they were elderly. Maybe the ones who cared, but also the ones who knew that climbing up this mountain was guaranteed to get the heart rate going, and if done on a regular basis, was a good workout.

I again commented on the scenery, and he mentioned that the view was beautiful. Then I mentioned except for the half that wasn’t, and he replied that everybody said that was so.

I wasn’t sure if the path continued, but he disappeared to the side of the hall without entering it, so my hopes were up. I fussed around taking a few more pictures so as to give him the pleasure of a solitary hike, particularly when it seemed to be part of a regular routine. A stranger, and particularly a stranger from a strange land, can be an intrusion.

The path went past a dam or barrier of sorts, and over the canal which ran from it, sans water. But look at the size of that. It’s not massive, but when typhoon season hits and it doesn’t stop raining, I can imagine you wouldn’t want to be at that point of the walk.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Dam

This patch of land seemed to be quite small, at least from the original side of the crossing, but it meandered, wound and climbed. As did I.

path_Ibarahara_shrine
Looking back at the path.

Suruga Bay could still be seen on the left, though it was getting obscured by the huge trees. How old were they? The path lead to the steps seen in the photos below.

steps_leading_Ibarahara_Shrine_01

steps_leading_shrine_okitsu_02

My elderly friend was still climbing them (he was younger than the other couple), and again, I gave him time, and didn’t include him in the photo. I hadn’t asked permission. Once he reached the top, I began my ascent. He waited for me at the top.

Ibarahara_Shrine_02

Ibarahara_Shrine_03

Ibarahara_Shrine_04

Once I was there he asked me the regular questions, or question, where was I from. This question is always vague, or can be answered vaguely. I replied that I was from Shimizu. Okitsu is considered part of Shimizu, I think. Shimizu used to be a city before it was absorbed into Shizuoka city.

But that I was born in Australia. He asked me if I knew the story of the shrine, and if I knew about it. I told him it was first visit there, and if I’d remembered the vocabulary, would have told him I’d discovered this gem by chance. I think he could see that I really appreciated this little touch of mystery, nature and serenity tucked away, not that far, from busy Highway 1.

I am not sure, but I think he said the shrine name was Ibara Jinja. It might have been Ibaraki, but that would be a bit strange. It could have been something else entirely. If any reader knows, please leave a comment. I googled Ibara, and shrines of Okitsu, but didn’t get any hits on this one. I was searching in English though. Wait, wait, wait! Okay, got it. Ibarahara Shrine. A google through of Japanese sites indicate that the front stairs have been closed for a number of years due to fear of imminent collapse. One of those posts is from 2010, so that pathway has been shut to the public for some time.

He said that the shrine below (or maybe the path, now that I’ve done the research), the one that one could not enter, because you couldn’t get past the torii gates (well, really, you could have stepped over the ropes strung between the gates, but the two guys keeping an eye on the crossing would have been keeping an eye on me too), was the new shrine (or pathway). He said this shrine tucked away in the woods up this steep set of stairs was the older shrine (or way to get to it), and the shrine was in fairly good condition, so perhaps the second hypothesis is the correct one.

He told me some other information too, but my Japanese is nominal. Research also lets me know that the shrine can be read as “Ihara” as well, and I’m using Google translate, so very well it might be “Ibara”, or that might be a local shortening of the name. So many questions, though! Then he bid me adieu and I wandered around taking shots here and there.

Ibarahara_Shrine_05

Ibarahara_Shrine_06

Then, back down to the main road. Google had told me that the walk to Okitsu, at just over 4km, would take me about an hour. With diversions, it was a lot more, but that was okay.

Ibarahara_Shrine_Suruga_Bay_08

I’ve been trying to clock up 10k+ a day walking. Two ninety minute classes with regular monitoring adds at least 2k onto the total, however, no classes at present. I think I was at the 10km, or maybe a little under. I took the train from Okitsu back to Shimizu, headed out to S-Pulse Plaza and took note of the movie times. I returned later that night and saw Johnny Depp in Black Mass. Great performance, solid film

Just under 14km saw the day out.

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One Comment on “– encounters 6b & 6c”


  1. […] These are the hanging plum blossoms over the Tomoe River that I regularly see. I can imagine lining up a shot of the Shizutetsu train crossing the river,  (do you see the train bridge in the distance?), framed by the branches in bloom, would be another train spotter’s prize (in addition to the trains passing under the bell towers of Seikanji temple, as discussed here. […]


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