Monday, November 12, 2012

World Heritage: Hiraizumi: Chrysanthemum Festival


We took a trip to Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture to take in the fall colors and experience some Japanese history.

Chuson-ji Temple:

In the latter half of the 11th Century, two bitter wars were fought in Oshu, the northeastern area of Japan. The first Fujiwara lord, Kiyohira, lost his father, wife and children in these conflicts, yet realized that hatred and revenge could never heal the sorrow.

Instead, he constructed Chuson-ji Temple and offered a pledge before Buddha to console the spirits of the dead, whether friend or foe, human or animal.

In June 2011, Hiraizumi’s cultural heritage was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is hoped that the philosphy of peace espoused by the Oshu Fujiwara family, who ruled Hiraizumin the 12th century, will be recognized worldwide.


Konjikido (Golden Hall) (National Treasure): The Konkikido (Golden Hall) was completed in 1124. The principal image is of Amida (Buddha of Infinite LIght) and the magnificent decoration is meant to represent his Pure Land western paradise. The inlay of work of iridescent shells, the Southeast Asian rosewood and African ivory show the extensive trade network at that time.

The Konjikido is the only remaining example of a building from the Fujiwara-era to be found at Chuson-ji Temple. Between 1962 and 1968, extensive preservation and restoration work was carried out on the Konjikido, returning it to its former brilliance.

The mummified remains of four generations of Fukiwara lords rest inside.


Sankozo (Museum) : The museum contains more than 3,000 treasures from the time of the Oshu Fujiwara. Among them are three massive seated Buddhas, burial accessories from the Konjikido (Golden Hall) and sections of the Chusonji-Sutras.


Chuson-ji Kyo (Chuson-ji Sutras) :

Complete transcriptions of the holy canon of Buddhism on deep blue paper in gold ink o alternating lines of gold and silver ink. Three generations of the Osu Fujiwara devoted their lives to the meritorious act of sutra transcription.



Hiraizumi is especially beautiful in the fall. At this time, they were having their Chrysanthemum festival.


We also went to Sahara Glass Park which was nearby. This small “street” had a lot of glassware displayed and there was an entire store full of glassware and decorations. Everything was beautiful and there was so much to see!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ryusendo Cave



Ryusendo Cave is one of the Three Great Limestone Caves of Japan; the cave and its bats are designated as national natural monuments. The portion of the cave which has been explored stretches over 3,500 meters, 700 meters of which is open to the public. If one were to include the unexplored areas of the cave it is estimated to be over 5,000 meters in length. In the cave, fresh spring water forms deep underground lakes. The most impressive are the third lake, with a depth of 98 meters, and the fourth lake (closed to the public), which is the deepest in Japan at 120 meters; they are some of the most transparent lakes in the world. With the beautiful deep blue water of the lakes, often referred to as “Dragon Blue,” and stalactites that are like works of art, Ryusendo Cave is a world of mystery created by nature. Before entering the cave, you can drink the cave water from a spring. They also sell it in bottles at the shop!

DSC_0019_DxODSC_9987_DxO! DSC_9968_DxO

There are five species of bats that dwell in Ryusendo Cave. In 1938, the bats, along with the Ryusendo Cave, were designated as national natural monuments; hence, they may not be caught without permission. If you find a bat, view it from a distance without getting too close. (We didn’t see any). In the bat cave live numerous bats, especially the Little Japanese Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus cornutus). At sunset, they fly out of the cave in swarms and head for nearby forests and streams, where they catch and eat hordes of insects, and return to the cave by sunrise. The bat cave is a special protected area where bats, which dislike light or human presence, can live in peace.


Hours: Open every day 0830-1700 (*May-Sep- Open until 1800)

Admission: Adults 7 - ¥1000

           children - ¥500 (6-15)


1. Take the Tohoku Expressway from Misawa to North Hachinohe (¥350 toll, one way). Exit Hachinohe-Kita I.C.

2. Continue on Rte. 45 until you come to a T-intersection with Sega World in front of you.

3. Proceed about 49.1 km and turn left at the intersection where there is a Circle K to your right.  (Kuji)

4. Proceed about 31.7 km from there, and turn right to stay on Rte. 45 (Fudai)

5. Stay on this road about 9.9 km; turn right onto Rte. 173 and continue about 2.7km.

6. Turn left to stay on Rte. 173, and continue about 10.6km.

7. Turn left onto Rte. 7, and continue about 1.3km. Ryusendo Caves will be on the right.



Hinano is a buffet style restaurant located in Hachinohe. (It is next to Yamada Denki which is next to Toys R’Us). It is famous for its organic dishes and, of course, chocolate fountain! You will find Chinese and Japanese cuisine here and sometimes more! (Last time they offered lasagna!) The food is very fresh, tasty and not too heavy.

DSC_9923_DxOHere is a sampling of the buffet, Nabe, udon, fries, salad, greens and tempura!














I’m usually not a fan of buffets, but I really like Hinano!


Hours: lunch: Sunday to Saturday:      1130-1630 (They stop refilling the buffet at 1430)

            dinner: Sunday-Thursday:       1730-2200 (stop refilling at 2030)

                Friday and Saturday:   1730-2230 (stop refilling at 2100)

Directions: Enter the toll road or take Route 45 from Misawa. Exit the toll road at the Hachinohe exit and make a right at the stoplight. Continue down Route 45 until you get to Sega World and make a left (you can either go left or right). Go through two stoplights and the Pia Do sign is at the left corner of the second stoplight. Toys R’ Us is behind Pia Do and Hinano is to the right of Toys R’ Us and Yamada Denki.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kawayo Green Farm


If you are looking for a nice restaurant for an anniversary, birthday,Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. try Kawayo Green Farm. As the name suggests, Kawayo Green Farm located on a farm which not only has a farm, but a Youth Hostel, Information/Gift Shoppe, Golf Course and is a popular place for wedding receptions. Prices on meals vary depending on what you order (sets start at around ¥1,360 up to ¥8,000. You can also get “light meals” for cheaper. )




After lunch, we took  leisurely stroll on the farm grounds.




Directions: Go straight out the POL gate. After Universe you will see a Lawson’s on your right and after the Lawson’s is a sign for Kawayo Green Farm. Keep going straight under the overpass. Take a left at the traffic light (you will see Shanghai Ryu on the corner. When you take the left, Ho-Oh (Phoenix) Ramen will be on your right. Keep going down this street. You will come to a fork in the road and there will be train tracks in front of you. Bear left. Kawayo Green Farm is on your left.

Hours: Lunch: 1130-1430 (last order 1430)

            Dinner: 1700-2100 (last order 2030)

Telephone: 0178-56-3981


Our Trip Around the Hatchet



We decided to take a trip around Shimokita Peninsula this weekend (also known as the Hatchet). We stopped at Cape Shiriyazaki to see the Kandachime horses, but since I have already blogged about that you can click on the hyperlink to read that blog. Another place we have previously been to and is along the hatchet is Osoresan. So let’s start at our second stop on the trip, which was Cape Oma.

Cape Oma, is the northernmost point on the main island of Japan, Honshu located in Aomori Prefecture. The remote landscape of Hokkaido is visible from here, weather conditions permitting. This cape is also known for being an excellent spot for Tuna fishing.



Our next stop was Gankake Rock which rises roughly 100 meters over the Tairadate Strait connecting Mutsu Bay to the Tsugaru straight and affords a fantastic view of both Aomori’s Tsugaru Peninsula and Hokkaido’s Oshima Peninsula.
Apparently it was home to two shrines (one to Inari the fox god and one to Hachiman the god of war) and locals were already using the spot to hang up their love gankakes (prayer tags) together with cherry blossom “keys” in the hopes that their prayers would reach across the miles and unlock the hearts of their beloveds far away. Nowadays people attach padlocks to a wire mesh frame set up for that purpose between the two cliffs.  (I had read about this but didn’t go between the two cliffs. I don’t even know how we would have gone up there, really.) Apparently the love connection stems from the popular opinion that from certain angles the two prongs of the rock look like a man and a woman embracing. How sweet.

Gankake Rock


Third stop was Hotokegaura which is a series of rock formations naturally carved from the cliffs. These formations, along a fifteen hundred meter stretch of coastline are a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty and National Momument. And beautiful it was!


Here is a picture of Hotokegaura from afar. You can also walk down to the cliffs through a path in the woods, which we did. Be warned, though, this path is long. There are a variety of different stairs you need to go down (and back up). Once you get into the woods, there are two vending machines with drinks, and complimentary walking sticks. But once you get to the bottom, you will see how worth it it was. There is a shrine once you reach the shoreline and the water is crystal clear and a beautiful aquamarine. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Japan and probably my favorite place on our trip.



Our last stop was to the Snow Monkey Park in Wakinosawa. On our way there, we actually saw a wild snow monkey sitting on the side of the road! The park has two areas where the monkeys are enclosed for tourists hoping to catch a glimpse but couldn’t find any in the wild. They are fun to watch and seem content in there, but I couldn’t help to feel sorrow for them, they deserve to live life in the wild.