Posted tagged ‘Shizuoka Prefecture’

– encounter 13b – Utsunoya

February 17, 2016

All of our countries have routes that maybe our ancestors didn’t walk on, but which someone used. The indigenous population of Australia have lived on that land for at least 45,000 years. We have a land seeped in history. Only thing is, it isn’t ours. Different climates required different needs, and that which has been well-documented and has physical, tangible remains is maybe more accessible and familiar to the western imaginations, and perhaps provides many people with a touchstone to received and learnt, perhaps cellular, images of the past.

The paths that surround Utsunoya are linked to its history as being a town on the Old Tokaido road, and in fact, some of the original path can still be walked through the hills. To hike through those hills and visit the beautiful park nearby alone is worth it.That is, it’s cool to walk the path, but it would be cool to walk it without knowing it’s history too, though maybe not as cool.

What is suggested for exploration in the Utsunoya area by most websites seems to be a quick walk to Utsunoya from the road stop, if that’s where you disembarked from the bus. I walked up from Mariko basho. . . .


A sign to a soba restaurant just over the bridge, and in Utsunoya. Hiking is always best rewarded with a lovely bowl of soba or udon.


This way to the Meiji Tunnel and other attractions.

tunnel sign

Keep going. A map at the entrance of Utsunoya.



A replication of one of Hiroshige’s paintings, or in his style, of Utsunoya, or the Old Tokaido passing by it.


Through the town itself.


A few tourists were wandering around, but it was the later afternoon, wet and rainy. No tourists in this photo!


Many things were shut up.


It was still beautiful though. A dog barked at me constantly from the safety of his house. I couldn’t find the soba restaurant, but I didn’t look too far. I had a mountain to hike!


The stairs up to the tunnel.


Keep climbing.


Signs. Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel. If you look at the map way up above, there is more than one!






Signs to the old Tokaido Rd. I would be coming back to this, but was turning left for now.


Signs to the tunnel.

Utsunoya is picturesque, and a walk through the Meiji-era Utsunoya Pass tunnel, which was the first toll road in Japan is definitely worth it. There is nothing wrong with the traditional itinerary.


Suruga side


Suruga side


Suruga side.

Looking back at the Suruga side.


On the way through.


In the centre.


Utsunoya Pass, Meiji era tunnel brickwork.


Okabe side.


Commemorating the importance of the tunnel, according to this site.


Again – are these machines used for transporting harvested tea?

Walking through the tunnel, you are departing areas contained within Shizuoka City (Suruga ward), and you exit into areas contained within Fujieda City (Okabe). The recommended itinerary might also tell you to, double back, and then walk up and over the hills along what is left of the Old Tokaido Road.

Old Tokaido Road Sign 2

Clearly marked on the right.

Old Tokaido Rd Sign 3

Less clearly marked, right where you need to turn, as is so often the case in Japan. Even so, I’m grateful for the signs in English when they are there.

Old Tokaido Rd stairs

Walking up to the Old Tokaido Rd.

Old Tokaido Rd jizo

Respects being paid to ancestors and gods,  on the corner overlooking Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd village overview 1

An earlier photo showing how little the village below has changed.

Old Tokaido Rd village


Old Tokaido Rd bamboo

Bamboo brushing the curve of the road.

Old Tokaido Rd monument 2

Monument on Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information which I cannot read. It pertained to some foundation stones in the area.

Old Tokaido Rd foundation

These were foundations of maybe an inn. Below were the foundations of maybe a shrine, according to this site.

Old Tokaido Rd crest

Up and over the crest of the Old Tokaido Rd. Heading into the Fujieda shi side of thigs.

Old Tokaido Rd rise 1

And again.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 1

I thought that a storm must have blown through here recently. But photos on the Net from a number of years ago seem to indicate that this part of the path is always full of tree litter, and exposed roots.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 2

I can imagine monsoonal rain bringing these down in mudslides. They were beautiful, though. Magestic.

Old Tokaido Rd other side

Okabe side.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 1

Old Tokaido Rd sign on the Fujieda side of things.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 2

An entrance here, an entrance there.

Where you at?

There are a lot of maps around like this. If you can read a little kanji, it will help, but they can also give you a visual sense, even if you can’t.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 3

Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya, this way AND this way. You can see a haka (cemetery) in the background. That is a mikan (like a mandarin) tree just behind too. It was bearing fruit.

Old Tokaid Road tree roots 3

I retraced my steps. Many magnificent trees, though I don’t know how deeply their roots ran. I turned around to take this photo. I wasn’t walking in this direction.

Old Tokaido Rd stone marker

Stone marker.

Old Tokaido Rd information


Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side

Coming back to the Suruga side of the Old Tokaido Rd. It was beautiful walking through the hills with the rain tapping on the leaves, and birds singing. The rain was not too heavy, though I definitely needed my umbrella.

Old Tokaido Rd leading to tunnel stairs

If you could (you can’t) take those stairs, it would take you within proximity of the Utsunoya Pass Meiji tunnel.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side 2

I wandered once more to the Meiji Tunnel and walked through it.

What I would suggest you do however, rather than just the suggested itinerary, if you have the time, and your purpose is hiking, is to take the Tsuta no hosomichi from just behind the Utsunoya rest stop on the Shizuoka side. This website describes the path

This road is an oldest path for crossing the Utsunoya Pass, which is mentioned in “The Tale of Ise.”
It served as an important road until the old Tokaido was opened in 1590.
Many travelers walked along this path while it was used as an official road since the Heian period.

It is a tough trek though, and I walked past the entrance a few times towards the end of my hike, because I couldn’t actually believe it was the path. This blog post describes it as “incredibly steep.” “Hosoi” means narrow. A post that I can’t find at present says that it would take 25 minutes to climb and 15 minutes to descend. I’m actually terribly at climbing down mountains, and there were a lot of slippery looking rocks at the mouth of the path on the Okabe side, so reversing the route I’m suggesting above could be a good idea too (climb the really steep stuff, descend the more gentle – if there is a gentle descent. I suspect not).

Anyway, I’d pop over to Utsunoya village, do the section of the Tokaido trail which is there, and will also get your heart rate going if you don’t hike much, and even if you do, but it’s not too difficult. Double back, walk through the Meiji Tunnel, take the path that indicates the way to a museum.

map_overview-rest stop

map_overview_rest stop

This will exit at Tsuta-no-hosoimichi park. Turn left.

Once in the park, make sure you cross the bridges and enjoy the river and various structures controlling its flow (see below). The paths over the river lead back to the main trail, so you can enjoy this diversion. There is information around the park about the engineering, and also included slightly in blog post. From there I would continue, looking for the maps and signs for Tsuta no hosomichi and turn here (picture below). This is not my photo. I should have taken it. It’s from a guy who walked the Old Tokaido Rd on a wing and a prayer. The link to his blog is in the caption below the photo.

The entrance is across a small stream and begins with those rocks, or I guess it’s the river. I thought I had enough time to get back to the Utsunoya road stop, Suruga Ku side, but I wasn’t sure. It was about 4:30. The sun sets at 5:30, and though from the map it seemed I should be fine, it was wet, and getting darker, so I decided not to risk it. I was’t sure how long it would take. Photographs on the Internet indicate that I should have taken it though! If you google つたのほそみち入り口 you’ll get some hits. Definitely on my list.

The descent should take you to just behind the Utsunoya rest stop, Suruga side, the point that you started from. If you can get a hiking map from somewhere, there really are a lot of walks in the area, and they seem to loop up. If you can’t, give your self a good few hours (get there earlier, rather than later) and check out the many detailed maps as you go through. Some are bilingual, but not all are.

Bee Hives Utsunoya

Coming into Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park, I walked behind this house. It’s shed is full of bee hives (unused, I guess?? Or waiting to be used.)

Honey for sale Utsunoya

They were selling honey (hachimitsu はちみつ)

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 01

These bridges were fun to cross, and with the gentle (or not so gentle) rain and mist, truly evocative.

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Another one.

Warrior Helmet Dam (Kiwada River Sabo Dam)

Damming this river was apparently an engineering feat. Actually, the building of all of the tunnels, and “harnessing” of nature, or complementing of nature (?) was. This dam is indicative of a larger dam further up the river (I think! It might be this one) called the Warrior Helmet Dam colloquially. It’s offical name is the Kiwada River Sabo Dam.

Bridge -Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park


Water wheel and other buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

I don’t know if these smaller buildings operated as tea houses and so on when the weather was better and it was tourist season.

Buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi mich park

Buildings, bridges, on the other side of the river.

Making of the dam

Information about the engineering was scattered around the park.

Map of the area Tsuta no hosoi michi park

Map of Tsuta no Hosoimichi Trail. I would have liked to have been armed with some of this information.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 1

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 2

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 3

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Apparently the path had been used officially since the Heian period, and was used prior to the opening of the Tokaido Rd. The Tokaido Rd. opened in 1590,as quoted above.

Looking back at the other side of the river Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

There’s that little building, below, which I had passed directly on the other side of the river. I’m returning to the bus stop (or hoping to find it) now, after deciding I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a steep narrow path in the middle of the mountain ranges as the night fell.

Older house on the way to the Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

This older house was on the way to the Utsunoya road stop on the Okabe side (there are two).

Sign Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park

If you’re driving, this is the sign to look out for.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

I think I made the right decision. It was getting close to 5:00, and the clouds and mist were billowing in.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 2

Clouds, rain, traffic. I’m heading toward Fujieda here.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Walking along on the wrong side of the road (for the bus), trying to figure out just how I was going to get home.

clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

I crossed over a pedestrian walk way, a fair way down, when I saw a bus stop, and it was the right move. On this side, I could have caught a bus to Fujieda, and taken a train back. But it was preferable to get back to Shizuoka by bus from here. The rest stop can be seen in the distance on the right.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

This was the map I really wanted! Lots of great detail in both languages. Click to enlarge. Exciting figuring things out with the resources at hand, though.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Information. Times. Click to enlarge.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 1

Information. Yup, where I thought, You couldn’t possibly turn there, was exactly where you turned. Photos of the start of the Tsuta no Hosoimichi trail.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 2


Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 1

I found my bus stop. Actually, I walked to the next one, as I had about 20 minutes to wait, but stopped shy of walking through the working tunnel. Masses of cars, the tunnel is quite long, and I’m not sure if pedestrians were allowed.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 2

Snake clouds. Trucks resting.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 3

Mist and clouds.

Waiting for the bus Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

The bus stop. Sakashita.

Arrival Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

My bus! I was happy to see it. Lights always look pretty shining in the rain.

Aoi beer Golden Ale

A good day hiking was rewarded with a glass of Golden Ale once I returned to Shizuoka. Aoi is a local brewery and this little bar on one of the main streets has only about seven seats. Two were empty when I arrived. It was still early. Lots of individuals (well, 3 out of 5) were women enjoying a beer. Two, myself and the lady to my left, were solo.

Aoi Beer A taste of Green tea

According to my phone, I’d walked 65 flights of stairs. I hadn’t of course, but I’d gone up and down a fair number of gradients. This beer had traces of green tea flavour. I was having a chat to the master and another guy to my right by this time. I might have been onto my third bevvie. A mistake. Still, conversation wasn’t too bad, though my Japanese is pretty rusty nowadays.


After leaving Aoi beer stand, I enjoyed a cup of soba-cha (buckwheat tea) at a soba restaurant at the station.


I finally got my soba at the station. Not very romantic, I know, but very tasty. This was a small side dish of oysters. I ordered far too much.


This soba contained shreds of crabmeat, and I can’t remember what the other flavours were. Delicious.


It was a set, so tempura and rice too. Far too much, but I ate it all. 16 kilometres all up. Not bad for a half day trip with plenty of sightseeing and stops for photographs.


– encounters 13, 12 to follow

February 14, 2016
not 55 encounters, or even 20. Station 20, Chojiya, Mariko, Shizuoka Prefecture.

not 12 encounters, but encounter 12, capiche? Look, this blog is not awash with brilliance, as you’ve already ascertained, garnered and gleaned. But it stands to keep memory. There are huge breaks, and in the future there probably will be again. 2013 had a total of about 8 posts.

However, I know I do things, and then I forget that I’ve done them. Maybe that’s okay, the natural order of things. But, sometimes when there’s a six month break, three months,  a fortnight  – looking over what was important at the time, or looking at what I decided to report  does help contribute towards some understanding of the whole, some reflection on the past, some idea of how things (I) change and move on.

Like the Old Tokaido Road.

Now, lots of people walk the Old Tokaido Trail for many reasons. One is that many want to visit the 53 stations as those painted by Hiroshige. One of his prints opens this post. Some just dig the history, and for some, there’s a beauty in getting from point A to B.

Not my photo. Click the link above to go to the source.

I like the latter, but I don’t like to be getting from point A to B along too many heavy highways. Nature, thanks. The Tokaido road connected old Tokyo (Edo) with Kyoto, so as we update, the road most travelled gets converted into highways and byways, and let’s just say that following it, or nearby it, is not always the most pleasant experience in the world.

You can get mighty lost trying to follow it too. Something like the Bibbulmun Track through the south-west of Western Australia is quite beautiful.  But then, unlike the Tokaido, it wasn’t a major trade route as it was established as a walking trail in the 1970s.

Even so, there are plenty of things to see along the way, and if you like side trips, plenty of things to do. Today’s adventure was to visit Mariko and Utsunoya – one a station of the Tokaido Road, apparently, and the other having some of the original Tokaido Road in place, and a Meiji era tunnel (more about that later). I am in no way an expert. I just saw a picture of a tunnel and thought that I wanted to go through it!

Tororo Soup

After you disembark at the Mariko-bashi Iriguchi bus stop, you will soon see this sign for tororo soup (grated yam) at Chojiya (I think!) – or nearby, at least.

See more about Chojiya below

Kiwi fruit stand

In the Shizuoka area, these usually sport a lot of mikan or ponkan (forms of citrus). There were all manner of fruit and vegetables in the Mariko area.


Near Chojiya.


Near Chojiya.

Things are not as clearly marked as you might expect. That is, do a bit more research before you head out if you want to get a full return for your day. As said, you get off the bus at Mariko-bashi Iriguchi from Shizuoka Station. It’s a fairly quick walk to the famous Chojiya.

I should have entered, but I’m not a huge fan of grated yam. The restaurant is famous for its grated yam soup (tororo), and has been serving it since 1596. This building was featured in Hiroshige’s prints (or earlier versions of it), and apparently the restaurant has been in the family for 14 generations. You can see a copy of the print way above.


Chojiya – thatched roof.

I chose the fork of the road that was not the wisest. I had a map, but not the best kanji skills. The roads that surround these places are noisy and full of traffic, but off these roads are temples and historical sites. I didn’t take them. I struck out on the Tokaido, heading up to Utsunoya.

I love the smell of pine being cut, sawed and shaped, though I know it is the loss of a tree, and the addition maybe of a house, or some other kind of structure for someone.

path to somewhere

As hinted at above, most of the historical sites, temples and so on, detailed on the map, seemed to be on the other side of the road. I’d taken a road running parallel with  the main road, and took a little diversion that would have taken me who-knows-where as the road was zig-zagged and rose steeply. The sign above was at its entrance. It was peaceful though, and that’s where the tea shots are from.

tea machine

I think these contraptions with cables were or are used to transport the tea once it has been harvested. Pulleys run up the hillsides from them.


If I am right, you can see why. The tea often grows on really steep inclines.


fruit stand
I don’t really think that these folk grew all of these items (especially not the bananas), but maybe they operated as a kind of neighbourhood deli.


I did pass this Chonenji Temple, though.



All of these guys would be boasatsu (bodhisattva) – or maybe gods, but this one looks pretty evil. I really appreciate their individual foibles all the more now after having viewed Takashi Murakami’s 500 arhats, as outlined in another post.


In this post (a really interesting read!) – not written by me! but by the Temple Guy, he talks about how

. . .this temple sports a “Mizuko Kannon.”
Mizuko–“water babies”–is the term applied to children who have died, especially as the result of abortion. This is big business in the religion racket here in Japan. People pay a fortune in “guilt money” to appease the souls of their dead children and help ease their passage in the underworld.

I did write about that on lizardrinking years ago. If you ever go to Osorezan in Aomori ken you’ll see a lot of the mizuko jizo and kanon. They are a common sight in Japan. Osorezan is quite spooky (it literally represents hell). This temple’s gardens were very peaceful.





Mizuiko Kanon chonenji

The Temple Guy states that the next picture is

Benten-sama, the only woman of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods, and the patroness of music (hence the biwa, a traditional stringed instrument)

He notes she is naked, which she is. Very peaceful.


Benten-sama over bridge





Chonen-ji Haka gate

I walked around to the temple, and was struck by the gothic feel of this gate leading into the cemetery (haka).

At the top of the hill, overlooking the gravestones, was a large statue of Kanon, the Goddess of Mercy. She’s sometimes a man, sometimes androgynous.




Coming down from here, I cut through the garden once more, crossed over the bridge that would represent passing from one world to another, and came across this table again. When I first saw it I thought there was a marble egg in the middle. But on closer inspection, I saw it was an


owl. You can’t really see that. I’ll crop the picture if I get the time. Or click on it to see it in a larger size.

I struck out once more along the Tokaido, or close to the Tokaido, or where the Tokaido once might have been.

Kanon from a distance

All three deities.


Goodbye to this boasatsu with a dragon.


And to this one with a sheep.

plum tree

Plum blossoms

Kanon from a distance

Kanon from a distance.

Golden Kanon

A golden Kanon seemingly very near the top of a pedestrian overpass.

Kilometres to ?

Another blog I was reading about the Tokaido road – the guy was heading towards Tokyo – stated that these signs were the distance to Tokyo. In this case it would be to Kyoto, but it seems a bit close. Maybe to Nagoya? Highway 1 – the Tokaido Road – the first highway.

Tokaido sign?

There were many of these kinds of signs about. It’s quite a historic area. Maybe they were detailing the road or some other reference point.

Just around the corner from here I came across the first Utsunoya rest stop – modern day – with lots of maps and signs. There is more than one Utsunoya rest stop! Just beware if you are trying to complete a loop walk.

I probably would have preferred to have spent more time exploring here, than on the walk up to here. However, I’ll study in more detail the small side journeys that can be made from Mariko to enhance the journey the next time I come to the area.

The next post details a tunnel, trees, leaves, rain, earth soft underfoot, birds calling, walking some distance, then losing my nerve, and the delight of unexpected beauty. That is, the Utsunoya part of this encounter 🙂

– encounters 11, there were no encounters

February 10, 2016


Though I did see a building positioned over the canal.


Shadows cast on industry


The toenail moon


Sunsets are peach here.


Shadows, lines.


Walk, don’t walk.


Hey, the moon’s the same colour in colour.

– encounters 10 – lunch & Shimizu Funakoshi Tsutsumi Park

February 9, 2016

Submissions sent off in the morning, some official work dealt with, and then off to meet a friend for lunch at 1pm.


This involved crossing the station bridge into the fish markets on the other side of the Shimizu Station. The markets are well worth going to. There you go – beauty and industry – all in one package.


We needed to find a place that didn’t serve solely fish. I know, it’s a fish market, but it’s wise for businesses to have diversity. We found it here. A really nice place overlooking the bay. So cheap for the food and the view as well!


By the way, I love seafood. This place has a steak donburi though, and that’s great. You could cook up your own shellfish, which I’d like to do if I was good at cooking shellfish. I’m a bit hit and miss.


Aside from the steak-donburi, we ordered a mixed seafood salad, which was delish, with sashimi (maguro), negi-toro (raw minced tuna), and what was probably cuttlefish. Maybe jellyfish. A wasabi dressing complemented it nicely, but I only took the photo of the above.


It tasted every bit as good as it looks!


We then wandered through the fish market. Apologies for my pictures in this round of posts. I’m not cropping or editing, and I know a lot of them could do with some work.



Fish market. My friend, despite not really liking to eat fish, had a wide knowledge of the names, so that was interesting.


We wandered up to S-Pulse Plaza and then parted ways. Today’s destination was Shimizu Funakoshi Tsutsumi Park, about 4km out of town, though it seemed longer. Yesterday was almost a 15km day, but that included exploring the park.


The route took me through the Jirocho shopping street. Jirocho is a local hero, a no good hoodlum who became a very good philanthropist. The signs above are the signs of the Jirocho Shopping Street.


The walk’s fairly direct, and leads you here. The beginning.


It’s well known for it’s views of Fuji (what isn’t in this area?). They get better as you climb the terrain.


If you can see the ferris wheel in this picture, that’s S-Pulse Plaza, and that’s the distance I walked.


Flying kites is a popular New Year’s Day or period activity. This one broke free, but didn’t get far.



Another Fuji view.


I love the way the sun sinks into and through the trees, grass and leaf litter.


Many of these paths and steps leading here and there.


Statue near one of the entrances of the park. There was a small stream running behind, and a larger pond to the right.



This park is famous for its cherry blossoms, so I wonder if this path is covered with sakura petals during Hanami season.


Fuji again.


I think you can come and gaze at the stars from 7pm to 9:00pm , every third Saturday of the month. I’m not sure though.


The observatory, I guess


If you looked through this at night, I’m guessing, you could see stars above clearly? Maybe in the day too, but I could only see the clear sky.




This was the structure. The hole is pretty low down, kid’s height.


Fuji again.


And again.


Tea crops below.


The tea crops were at the back of the park.


I love the way they undulate. The look sculpted and fluid at the same time.





The way down brought more views of Fuji of course, and also one of the first flowers to herald spring, the ume, or plum blossom. My favourite.


I like the deep reddish-pink ones best. Blurry pic though. Sorry!


My map-app took me a bit off the beaten path on the way home. I was glad of that. Look at this beautiful statue. It stood in front of a haka, and was part of a very small temple. There were further markers for the dead on my right.

I should have taken a picture of that cemetery. It fit in between a golf shop and some other kind of store. Basically, it looked like a parking lot for the dearly departed.


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 delight (in addition to the trains passing under the bell towers of Seikanji temple, as discussed here).


There does seem to be a bus out to the area. I assume it leaves from Shimizu Station. I didn’t check, but both Shimizu and Shizuoka Stations have tourist information offices. It doesn’t seem to arrive or depart that regularly, though. Maybe once and hour or less. The last bus from the park was 18:10 I think, and no bus at all from 17:00-18:00. The park is well worth it, though. Hopefully I’ll visit it when the cherry blossoms light up the skies.

– encounters 9, not so much happening

February 9, 2016


Not so much happening this day. I took a walk in the direction of Okitsu, taking a path that runs from just beyond the bus centre which is just past the pain Shimizu post office. It runs between the train tracks and houses, and is pleasant enough.


Though Shimizu is surrounded by a lot of these kinds of roads that take you elsewhere.

city monuments
A bit of green and artwork as I approached the station on the way back. I’d walked under the tracks about a kilometre before this.


Made the mistake of trying to walk on the bay side, which meant really just walking along a very heavy, industrialised road. However, I eventually connected with the path that leads up to S-Pulse Plaza, which is pleasant.


This is the walk on the way back. Beautiful light this way for the sunsets.


And again.


The final daylight goodbye


– encounters 7 & 8

February 8, 2016

A long trip to Nagoya and then Toyohashi, via the local and express trains, to visit the doctor, get a haircut, and to then catch up with friends.

The best quote I heard that day was I find that a body that is in motion, stays in motion. True dat. And for things that matter, I could be in motion a whole lot more. I agree fully with reflection too. It is the habit of stagnation that I often need to break.

That quote was from my lunch partner, a guy who’s constantly in motion. After I said goodbye to him, it was time for a haircut and then a walk around Takashi Park with a very heavy backpack. That evening I met some other very good friends. Below was the lovely wine that I had maybe just enough of, but maybe a few too many of as well.


Sharing good times with good friends

Encounters 8 began with a desire to clock up my 10K. I needed some agave syrup from a store in the large shopping mall, Bay Dream. I decided to walk it and then head along the cycle path that goes from the corner where you decide whether you want to go into Miho proper, or head along the Strawberry coast.

I have actually walked along that stretch of road from behind the university, along the coast (the Strawberry road). But it’s in a recess, so no chance to see the strawberry fields, or, maybe I did, but didn’t know, as they’re harvested in winter here, and therefore probably need some kind of hothouse.

In the shadow of this mountain

The journey didn’t start with this view of the carpark they’re digging up, because I’d taken that photo the day before. Maybe it should be encounter 8a. It used to service Seiyu department store. Encounter 8a was also meeting up with some old and new friends in Shizuoka for some very inspiring conversation. Great!

From the photo above and in actuality, you can still see Fuji, but for how much longer? A torii is just to the right. This location, and a guy I saw hanging out at the shrine, is the inspiration for my work in the shadow of this mountain (Mt Fuji, Shimizu). Scroll down if you follow that link.


The entrance to Minowainari Shrine. Two Inari-Kitsune, or foxes, guard the many torii

Anyway, I would have set out the same way, followed the road leading past the workmen digging up the carpark at the beginning of encounter 8, and eventually I followed the Tomoe River most of the way up to the main road. I’d noticed a few large torii off on the side roads the other day, so I wandered off to have a look, and discovered Minowainari shrine, or jinja.

Shimizu’s own little slice of Fushimi Inari Taisha – the famous torii and shrine just outside of Kyoto.

These shrine with the red torii will always be protected by Inari Kitsune, or foxes. Inari is the goddess of

foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and Sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto.

according to this wikipedia article. There’s quite a bit more info if you follow that link, including the fact that Inari is sometimes a god and sometimes androgynous


I should have taken a photo of this fox’s partner, the one with its mouth closed, but you know, there are plenty shots of these kinds of guardians online.


Instead, here is another view of the same statue.

To the right of the structure, you can see a small kind of shed. In fact, it’s quite opulent inside, and is serving as the main shrine, I think. I thought that was quite unusual, though I could see that the main hall was being repaired.


There’s a festival for three days next month, I think. But I can’t find any information, even in Japanese (my skills aren’t high), as in photos and so on, but maybe it’s detailing some other kind of event.


However, while trying to find images for a Matsuri at this shrine, I found further information about why the structure above is being used. The main shrine burnt down in 2012 after an arson attack.  The two pictures directly below are taken from the Net and show you the fire and its aftermath.


Not my photo. Taken from here . You can read the news story there too, with Google translate (or by yourself if your Japanese is up to scratch).


Not my photo. Taken from here. You can see the same Inari-Kitsune not doing much to protect the shrine. Maybe it was pre-determined?


Three to four years have passed though, and at the beginning of 2016 people placed their wishes on these ema for the New Year, and the days following that. I’m sure they did in the preceding years as well.


One of the older pillars/monuments about the place.


The main shrine under repair, or being rebuilt. It looks as if it’s getting there. Of course, that structure might have existed before. I don’t really know.


This was looking out from a smaller, older shrine to the torii leading up to it. All of the Inari-Kitsune (fox) statues that you can see are pairs, and they seem to range from oldest to newest. The newest being very close to the shrine.

The middle ones had just about lost their faces, though. They were spooky, but I love this aspect of the older statues being kept around and sometimes honoured in some way or the other.


Walking back through the torii to the street.


One of the Kitsune-Inari protecting the shrine at the front. This guy seems to be pretty old.


A large torii at the end of the street indicates that a shrine is along it. This is the back of the torii. It also indicates that it’s quite an important shrine.

The shrine grounds did have a little office with a window for selling good luck charms and so on, and I finally did see an attendant there, but the curtains were basically drawn, and it wasn’t a brisk day for business.


As I left Minowari Jinja I decided not to follow the river to the main road, but took one of the side roads. There seem to be a lot of these older storage houses in the Shimizu/Shizuoka area. Or, I’ve seen three. That seems quite a lot to me. Actually, I just found this article. Their Japanese name is kura, that is, the general name of these warehouses.

Many parts of the country were really flattened in WW2, and Shimizu, as a port town, wouldn’t have been spared, I think, though I’ll need to research it.


I’m not sure if this says what used to be stored here, or if it is the “mon,” the seal, of the family.


The back view with a fruiting mikan tree.


The walk up to Bay Dream along the main road is fairly unpleasant, due to being industrial, and the roar of  traffic, despite a bay being on the left, but obscured, because it’s in frequent use. However, between all the factories and shops there is a cycle way.

It’s not particularly attractive, but it is quieter. Also, from across the biggest mall-type shopping centre in Shizuoka, you can often get good views of Fuji, such as above. Though the day was obviously misty.

Once you’ve walked past Bay Dream, and taken the path into Miho, it becomes very pleasant, surrounded on either side by residential properties. Many folks were out walking their dogs, cycling, just taking in exercise.

Because Miho is on a peninsula, the bay is still to your left only you can see it a whole lot more clearly at times than when first leaving Shimizu. It’s on your right too, but you can’t see that from this pathway.

After about 2km, I finally decided to take the “walk of the gods” (kamisama doro), a lovely wooden promenade leading to the world heritage listed Miho no Matsubara. That meant veering right from the path I was on. I’ve taken photos of it before, so none here, but that link will show it to you.


Okay, okay! Too much text. This picture is from the net, and therefore is not mine. View it at the link in the paragraph above.

Once at the beach, I turned right instead of left (the views of Fuji are to the left, and there is a well maintained path through the pine trees), walked through the other set of pine trees and along the path running parallel to the beach.

I turned right at the university, cut through and then walked down to the bus stop to take me back to town. I didn’t take any photos of the ocean that evening either, even though it was in good form. I’ll give you a sunrise pic instead, from about three weeks ago.

Sunrise across Suruga Bay – only connected by location to this post – taken about three weeks ago


The pines of Miho no Matsubara. Again, another sunrise photograph, taken at the same time as the photo above. I wandered through similar pines, though not these ones for encounter 8.

– encounters 6b & 6c

February 5, 2016

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.


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.


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.



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.


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.

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.



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.




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.



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.


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.

– encounters 5b & 6a

February 5, 2016

The beginning of this post really belongs to encounters 5. The Verkehr Museum, near Shimizu Port, is currently holding an exhibition of Taku Tashiro’s work. He’s an illustrator and graphic designer. The exhibition is interesting enough. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see it. However, if you were combining checking out the Shimizu Port area, it’s worth popping into. Admission is only 400 yen and it runs until the end of February. The Verkehr has some really interesting exhibitions detailing the port history of Shimizu, and there were also some very lovely impressionistic/abstract etchings from a local artist. I’ve misplaced her name(card).

Encounters 6 begins with setting out to walk inbetween Shimizu and Okitsu station. You always think, easy, right? I’ll just follow the railway lines. Except they go places you can’t go. The easiest way to follow them is to be on them, which, in Japan, would probably result in death, considering how well they are utilised. Not really an option. Google maps, or GPS and so on, direct you to the most boring, car-ridden path you could possibly take. So, if you know the general direction, then follow the tracks when you can, if you don’t have to double-back too much, and there are lots of hidden pathways and opportunities.

Along the main road, maybe the old Tokaido Road, is the Zagyoso Musuem/Villa. A reconstruction of one of those elegant older houses you often encounter only as reconstructions. It belonged to one of the wealthier members of Okitsu, and he was visited by many dignitaries, etc. Not really my cup of tea, but entrance was free, the grounds and house were lovely, and if you like matcha and ice-cream, it was available, though maybe not on a mid-weekday. I was out walking to see what I’d encounter, so there was one thing.

As I wandered along I came across the Seikenji temple. According to virtual tourists, train spotters like it because the Tokaido line runs right in front of it. Which it does. Apparently, according to the link just prior, a shot of a train passing under the bell tower is well sought after.



That brick wall was beautiful, mainly because the red brick is so rarely seen in Japan. The temple overlooks Suruga Bay, and the horizon would be the ocean if not for the elevated highway that divides the vision.



The photo below details some further information about the temple. The temple was also a crucial in terms of negotiation between the powers that be and foreign powers/ religious interests, particularly Korean, throughout its history. It must have boasted stunning views once upon a time.


I was the only one in the grounds, though some workers were labouring in the nearby haka (cemetery). A monk sang while I overlooked the grounds. Very peaceful.



I love the depictions of the 500 arhats / rakan/ boatsatsu / bodhisattva that you can see depicted within Japan. Enlightened folk, in other words, who have reached sainthood, nirvana, possibly, but who come back to earth to help out the mess and mass of we bumbling fools. Of course, they’re quite often bumbling too.

Recently I saw Takashi Murakami’s depiction of these 500 fellows at the Mori Art Museum. The information I gained there was useful to understand the different personalities, facial expressions, foibles and achievements of the arhats. I visited a number (500?) of these at Nihon-ji, just outside of Kurihama. That’s a trip well worth doing. It’s detailed in this very long post from a previous blog of mine (there are a lot of photos!).

Anyway, I didn’t expect to see them. It was a delight to come across them, and to wend my way up the mountainside where I was abruptly met with a locked gate. So, I didn’t wander too far. But that gave me more time to check out the arhat who seemed to be having a pretty lively conversation with one another. I liked them so much, I’ll post a number of pictures to give readers some idea of the variety.







My favourite. This one has the Buddha inside the Buddha. Or the pure heart is shining forth.





This guy is very mellow.





The temple from the back. That’s Suruga Bay in the distance.

And here’s Murakami being an arhat at the foyer of his Mori exhibition.



Stay tuned for encounter 6B.