DAY 6 (4/6): RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山), Nanto (南砺市), Toyama Prefecture (富山県), Japan, 2018.05.30
45 minutes of bus ride took us deeper into the valley of Gokayama (五箇山) in Toyama Prefecture. Our destination was Ainokura (相倉), one of the three villages with Gassho-zukuri houses inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Rain continued to pour down when we get off at Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop. We had no choice but to brave the elements and walk uphill into the village from the country highway. It took about 5 minutes to reach the village parking lot, and another 5 minutes to reach our guesthouse. After checking in, we rested a bit until the rain subsided a little.
Sandwiched between dense forests on a hill and the Sho River (庄川) that runs in a deep valley, Ainokura is a situated on a narrow plain surrounded by forests and mountains. With about about 30 preserved gassho-zukuri houses, the 450-year old village remains a quiet rural community with about 90 inhabitants as of 1994. The region around Ainokura was nearly impenetrable until 1925, when a road was built through the surrounding forests. Once a stronghold of silkworm production before the 1950s, the village has since become a self-sufficient rural community filled with rice paddies and flower fields. Today, a few houses are open to visitors as museums or guesthouses, but most of the village remain private, unlike Ogimachi of Shirakawa-go where most houses have been converted into tourism-related uses. The view of Ainokura from the adjacent hill may be less dramatic than the one from the Shiroyama Observatory Deck at Ogimachi, yet wandering in the remote village of Gokayama offers a much more tranquil and delightful experience as if going back in time.The rain was at times heavy as we entered Ainokura in mid afternoon.
Mist and clouds lingered around the surrounding mountains of Ainokura as we entered the village.
After a five minute walk from Ainokuraguchi (相倉口) bus stop, we reached the main parking lot of the village and a small visitor centre.
Rice paddies of different sizes and shapes filled up all the spaces between village homes.
Most gassho-zukuri houses remain as private homes of villagers.
One of the gassho-zukuri houses at the village centre is turned into a souvenir shop.
On a high ground at the village centre stands the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine in the shade of tall trees.
Adjacent to the Jinushi Shrine (地主神社), a stepped path leads to a stone monument to commemorate the visit of a royal prince.
Sonen-ji Temple (相念寺) is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple at the heart of Ainokura.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism (浄土真宗) is a school of Pure Land Buddhism. It is the most popular branch of Buddhism in Japan.
The Sonen-ji Temple (相念寺) building was completed in 1859.
In Ainokura, there are several designated viewpoints, mostly on the slope or farming terraces right by the village.
We walked up to a few farming terraces to look for a desirable viewpoint for the village’s overview.
Some viewpoints required us to walk further uphill into the dense forest adjacent to Ainokura.
We followed a series of signs to reach the highest viewpoint uphill. The walk took about 15 minutes on a narrow paved road.
From the openings between trees, we could enjoy beautiful birdeye’s views of Ainokura.
From above, we could truly appreciated the thatched roofs of Ainokura, which are steeper than the ones in Shirakawa-go due to the heavier snowfall in Gokayama.
We truly sensed the remoteness of Ainokura with its surrounding mountains.
We wandered around Ainokura between periods of rain, but we didn’t entered any museums.
At the end of the village near our guesthouse, a downhill road led us to a large piece of mirror-like rice paddy. Sunlight was fading, reminding us that dinner was about to start at our guesthouse.
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE
Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)
Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)
Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)
Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)
Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)
Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)
The Kiyomizu-dera in early morning offered quite a big contrast compared to our previous night visit. Tranquility replaced commotion of excited crowds. Soft sunlight took over artificial floodlights. After entering the Nio-men Gate (仁王門), we walked up to the main temple platform along with several local visitors. To avoid the tourist crowds coming in an hour or so, we first made our way to the Hondo (本堂), or the Main Hall. At the entrance of the wooden Kiyomizu Stage (清水の舞台), we tried lifting the displayed Steel Geta and Steel Shakujou, two Buddhist objects dedicated to Benkei (武蔵坊弁慶), a 12th century warrior monk who was famous for his loyalty and strength. We could lift up the lighter Shakujou (12 kg/26 lbs), but definitely not the heavy Geta (90 kg/ 198 lbs). We wandered on the wooden stage for a while, and went over to the deck of Okunoin Hall for an overview of the Main Hall, the colourful autumn maples and the distant skyline of Kyoto.
A flight of stone steps adjacent to the Main Hall led us to the popular Jishu Shrine (地主神社), a Shinto shrine dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto (大国主命), a deity of love and matchmaking. Perched above the thatched roof of the Main Hall, the Jishu Shrine is consisted of a cluster of small shrines around a main shrine. The shrine is popular for lonely hearts who are seeking for real love, as well as couples who are praying for consolidation of their relationships. At the forecourt of Jishu, two rocks stand 18m apart from each other. Legend said that if one can walk from one rock to the other with their eyes shut, then their wishes for love would come true. Names of donors from all over Japan and foreign countries are displayed inside and outside the shrine, indicating just how universal a simple wish for love is. Apart from love, visitors also come to pray for good fortunate and safety for their family, and smooth delivery for their babies.
As we descended back to the Main Hall, the sun had finally moved above the mountain and shined on the temple buildings. We made a detour to the temple forecourt for a few more pictures of the buildings under the morning sun. We then walked south towards the small Koyasu-no-to Pagoda, or Easy Child-birth Pagoda, at the far end of the valley. Standing right by the Koyasu-no-to Pagoda and looked across the valley, we had a great view of the Kiyomizu-dera as the shadow of eastern mountains gradually receded. We continued down the valley path to the base of Kiyomizu Stage, where we encountered multiple groups of school students who came for a school trip with their teachers and tour guides. A large group of the school students gathered at the Otowa Waterfall, waiting for their turn to taste the sacred water from one of the three waterfall streams. Given the super long queue, we gave up the idea of trying it ourselves. After a night stroll and an early morning visit, we truly enjoyed Kiyomizu-dera with its magnificent timber architecture, spiritual atmosphere, natural setting, and views of the city. It was time for us to move on to other places in Higashiyama and Gion before the afternoon rain arrived.
We entered the temple from the main gate of Nio-men (仁王門) and walked up to the main temple platform.
Visitors tried to lift the Steel Geta (90 kg/ 198 lbs) and Steel Shakujou (12 kg/ 26 lbs) at the entrance of Kiyomizu Stage.
The Main Hall and Stage of Kiyomizu-dera would soon be covered in scaffolding for a major renovation.
The crimson maples in front of the Kiyomizu Stage offered a poetic sense of autumn.
There were only several local visitors around, allowing us to enjoy the temple peacefully.
It was well past the peak moment but the autumn foliage was still a major enhancement to our visit of Kiyomizu-dera.
Out the wooden balustrade, we could see the small Koyasu-no-to Pagoda at the far end of the valley.
Autumn colours at the valley below Kiyomizu Stage.
The Main Hall and Kiyomizu Stage as seen from the deck of Okunoin Hall.
Close up of the structure of Kiyomizu Stage and the valley path.
The stair that led us up to the Jishu Shrine, a sacred place for worshipers seeking for fortune of love.
One of the two love stones in the forecourt of Jishu Shrine.
The main shrine of Jishu Shrine was covered with names of donors.
One of the several small shrines at Jishu Shrine where worshipers can make a variety of prayers and wishes, from good fortune to smooth childbirth.
Okuninushi no Mikoto, the deity of love and matchmaking, and his messager the rabbit.
Kyodo, the Sutra Hall and Sanjunoto, the Three-storey Pagoda under the morning sun.
The morning warmed up as the shadow of the eastern mountains receded from the autumn maples below Kiyomizu Stage.
Not until we reached the far end of the valley that we realized the Koyasu-no-to Pagoda, or Easy Child-birth Pagoda, was actually quite small.
Overview of Kiyomizu-dera as seen from Koyasu-no-to Pagoda.
The valley path below Kiyomizu Stage was packed with school groups.
Many students were interested for a sip of the sacred water at the Otowa Waterfall.
It was already 9:30am when we left Kiyomizu-dera.
Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan