asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Ama-no-Hashi-date and Ine 4 December, 2017

Filed under: food & drink,places — johnraff @ 4:55 pm
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A winter trip we took at the start of 2014 – the pics have been here on the computer, so thought I might as well put some of them up.

This time I didn’t fancy driving in the snow so we took trains and buses – the Shinkansen and then local trains up to Amanohashidate, later buses to Ine and beyond. A-n-h-d is a somewhat well-known “scenic spot” with some vague associations with Lafcadio Hearn. Maybe it’s just because he was in Matsue, up the coast a bit. Anyway, basically it’s a pine-covered narrow peninsula, that almost completely blocks off a small bay.
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I rather like Kannon temples like this one, with their simultaneously exotic and at-home atmosphere. There’s always lots of incense being burnt, lots of wishes being made, and usually plenty of business going on in the area. At the same time, there is a rather dark, mysterious atmosphere… Yes, Kannon-sama is worshipped in China and many other Asian countries too.

amanohashidate-1401-0008The pine-covered spit of land is just a long sand-bank really, but I suppose it’s pretty enough, probably even nicer when the sun is out. Everybody seems to like it a lot, and the area is full of souvenir shops and soba restaurants, because it’s within fairly easy range of Kyoto. Since foreign tourist numbers must have pretty much doubled since 2014 it’s probably well supplied with tour buses now.

We buy some dried fish – it looks tasty and isn’t expensive – and some “heshiko” pickled mackeral. It’s quite strong flavoured, a bit like anchovy maybe, but good with sake or with rice, and I once made a Thai Tom Yam soup with some that also came out quite well.

That evening we don’t stay in a traditional Japanese Inn or homestay, but a sort of lodge run as an annex of a biggish hotel. The room is simple, but cheap at around 7000yen a head, and comes with a French dinner at the restaurant downstairs and a buffet breakfast. Dinner turned out actually not to be too bad at all, so we were quite pleased with the deal.

A few more photos from around Amanohashidate:

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The next day, on to Ine. This is Japan, and we get a little edgy when the bus is 5 minutes late because of the winter roads. Ine has interesting “funaya” houses with built-in garages for boats! The sea comes right into the back of the house.They can get away with this because the village is at the back of a sheltered bay with no waves, and no history of tsunami apparently. I presume the tides must be gentle too.

I’m just leaving a few shots of the place:

Later that afternoon, another bus to our minshuku, where crab is for dinner. The Sea of Japan is famous for crab in winter, but of course you get what you pay for, and while we eat mountains of beni-zuwai-gani (red snow crab) the taste isn’t all that special. According to a TV programme I saw around that time, that crab is caught in very deep waters and frozen on the boats, so “fresh” has no meaning really.

The last day we have a look at the local Urashima Taro shrine. There are shrines to him in a few places around Japan. Near this one is a hole in a bank which leads to the underworld:

Passage to the underworld.

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Tanigumi via the Tarumi line 16 November, 2012

Filed under: places — johnraff @ 2:34 pm
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A great one-day outing last weekend – we took the Tarumi line from Ogaki and got off at Tanigumi Guchi. A 10-minute bus ride away is the Buddhist temple at Tanigumi. If you stay on the Tanigumi line it winds through some amazingly picturesque scenery to the historic Usuzumi cherry tree at Tarumi, according to T who went there last spring with some of her friends, but that trip will wait for another time… Today we’re headed for the autumn colours around Tanigumi, and it turns out to be a good choice.

From Ogaki you spend the first 30 min. or so going through a plain of persimmon trees – for which Ogaki is famous – then suddenly turn a corner, cross a bridge and you’re in a narrow gorge pushing through a forest, through a short tunnel and too soon you’re at Tanigumi Guchi. I was tempted to stay on the train for the scenery coming up, but T says no, today let’s see Tanigumi. OK out of the train and immediately you’re hit by the different smell – taste – of the fresh air. There’s a local bus waiting for us – the only passengers – and soon we’re at Tanigumi.

While T is looking around one of the dozens of shops on the street up to the temple’s main gate I’m standing outside in a sort of daze, just feeling happy to be there… This, apart from T’s wonderful existence, is why I’ve been in Japan all these years I feel, and that feeling is confirmed later in the temple itself. I’m not the only one to get these vibes from Tanigumi – this lady felt similarly in 2008, and a Japanese blog I happened upon today referred to it as a “power spot”. (Power Spots are another current boom that might be worth a mention one day.) Amazingly – to me anyway – is that I’d never heard of this place before today. Plenty of others have though – the big car parks with room for rows of tour buses tell of the crowds that must have come on Sunday. The “mon zen machi” street is lined with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, even a couple of “ryokan” hotels, and lots of stalls selling those Ogaki persimmons. Anyway, this Monday is nice and peaceful with just a handful of people.

The temple is gorgeous, even without the beautiful red maples and yellow ginkgo trees. Every direction you look you’re rewarded with beauty. There’s that special Japanese blurring of the boundary between the man-made structures and the natural world outside, so every fern and vine seems to be a part of the temple. We’re distracted by a sign that says “to the inner shrine”, so set out on a hike up to what looks like sunlit hillsides just above us. It turns out to be something like a one-hour trek, about 2Km at ~30° (it feels), and the inner sanctum isn’t that spectacular, nor are there any panoramic views. Ah well – it was good exercise. Get back around dusk, in time for almost the last bus back, pausing to buy some of those persimmons and a pile of mandarin oranges.

If you live in Nagoya this trip is still a good option for this weekend – the autumn colours should be even better if anything. Just watch the train timetable – the Tarumi line trains run only once an hour or so, so you want to time your arrival at Ogaki so you don’t have to wait over an hour as we did! Here’s the Tarumi line website and timetable. The JR service from Nagoya to Ogaki is pretty fast and frequent. Even if you miss the maples, the Tarumi line looks worth checking out some day. (Here’s the Tanigumi tourist website, in Japanese.)

Some pictures:

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Questions 26 October, 2010

Filed under: incidents — johnraff @ 1:48 pm
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It’s quite natural to be curious about visitors from other countries – when I was in India many years ago people would often strike up a conversation and ask where I was from, what my religion was… Generally enjoyable, and if their English was up to it I’d be able to get in some questions of my own. The inquisitorial approach reached a peak one day on a local train in South India when some high school (or university?) students were in the same compartment, curious about me but couldn’t figure out how to ask what they wanted to know. Discussions followed, and eventually I was given a piece of paper with… a form to fill in! Name… Occupation… Address… I suppose they’d seen foreigners being made to fill in forms everywhere and thought that was the proper procedure.

So when I got to Japan and a young salary man came up on a train and asked if he could talk for a while I was really disappointed when after the standard “What is your name?” “Where are you from?” “How old are you?” had been answered it was “Thank you very much.” and off he went! No actual conversation at all, just some questions he had learnt somewhere. I don’t know if he even understood my answers. I soon came to recognize this as a pretty normal encounter. These days many peoples’ English ability – and, I like to think, my Japanese – is quite up to a real exchange of ideas, but that kind of formalized interaction is still the norm I suppose.

A young student came into Raffles the other day, and because the place was pretty quiet at the time we got chatting. Turned out he’d spent 3 months in Manchester and because his English was pretty good we switched languages. Then comes “May I ask you a question?”. Expected “Can you use chopsticks?” or something but got “What is the purpose of your life?”.

 

 
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