Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ooidaira Kogen

After visiting Obara to view the Shikizakura, we drove a little further to Ooidaira Kogen, which is also known for its Autumn foliage.
The foliage was its peak and we enjoyed some beautiful sights. 













Free Parking is available across the road near the wooden bridge.

Donguri no Sato-Inabu is a popular roadside station where visitors can shop for local produce, sample seasonal delicacies and even soak in an onsen. 

Address: Aichi Prefecture, Toyota shi, Inabu-cho, Ooidaira 5-1 

Parking: Free Parking available

Entrance fees: Free




Visiting Obara : Cherry Blossoms in Autumn

Frankly speaking I am not sure how to classify this post - Hanami or Momijigari. To put it simply, Hanami is Blossom Viewing, a popular activity in spring  and Momijigari is Foliage viewing, a popular activity in autumn. Confusing isn't it? Read on !
Of the 100 odd varieties of Cherry Blossoms in Japan, one variety blooms twice in Spring and again in Autumn. Not a commonly found variety, this kind of Cherry blossom is called Shikizakura or 4 season Cherry Blossom. Since it starts blooming somewhere around October, it is also called as Jugatsuzakura- simply translated to October Cherry Blossom ! 
There are very few places in Japan where visitors can view both Cherry blossoms and Autumn Foliage at the same time. We visited one such place last weekend. 
Obara is a town forming part of Toyota city in Aichi prefecture and is roughly an hour's drive from Nagoya city. Obara is well known for its widespread Shikizakura trees- numbering about 10000 ! 
The white cherry blossoms against the backdrop of red maple leaves are a sight to see. 
No wonder Obara attracts lots of tourists during the month of November. 
Obara Fureai Park and Senmizakura Koen are the two popular spots to view the best Shikizakura and Momiji in Obara. 

Address: Aichi Prefecture 470-0531, Toyota shi, Obara cho. Obara Fureai Koen

Phone: 0565-65-3808

Parking; Paid parking available near Obara Fureai Park

Obara Tourism Website  (English) : Click here 

Autumn at Seto's Iwayado Park

In Autumn 2013, I visited the Iwayado Park in Seto in the evening with my family, to view the Night Illumination. It was a spectacular ! I was wondering how the place looks during daylight. So this year when my friend invited a group of us to go for a Foliage Viewing trip during the daytime, I joined them. 
We had a pleasant walk along the river and passed by a waterfall and some colorful carpets of fallen leaves.


It was already past the peak foliage time and the leaves were already falling off. Maybe we should have made the trip a week earlier.


But it was not totally disappointing. 


Personally I feel the night light-up is more spectacular. Check out the Night Light-up pictures from 2013 - Click here. The post also has more information about the park. 

After our leisurely walk, we ate lunch at the Unagi No Yasuji restaurant near the entrance to the Iwayado Park. The restaurant specialises in Unagi - Japanese eel. This is what my lunch looked like. 
I must say this was one of the best Unagi I have eaten in Japan.  

Address: Aichi Prefecture, 480-1215 , Seto shi, Iwayacho 

Entrance fees: Free

Parking: Free parking available for 100 units. Paid parking also available for 500 yen.

Peak Period : Early to end November ; (Exact period differs each year)

Night Illumination - Limited period - 5.30 pm to 9.00 pm 

Phone No of Unagi no Yasuji Restaurant : 0561-42-0884


Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Great Buddha of Gifu

On our recent visit to Gifu castle, we visited the Shoho-ji Temple. The Shohoji temple is a five minute walk from the Gifu Park, the starting point for the hike or ropeway trip to Mt Kinka. 

The Shohoji Temple is a Buddhist Temple affiliated to the Ohbakusan Manpukuji Temple in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture. The Official name of the temple is Kinpouzan Shohoji. The temple houses the 13.63 meter tall statue of Amida Nyorai or the Great Buddha. 
The Buddha statue is one of the three Great Buddhas' (Daibutsu) of Japan  alongwith the Great Buddha of Nara and the Great Buddha of Kamakura. While the Daibutsus' of Nara and Kamakura are made of metal, the Daibutsu of Gifu is made of wood and coated clay and then covered with  several layers of lacquer and gold leaf. 
Priest Ichyuu, the 11th generation priest of the temple a devout believer of the Great Buddha of Todaiji, Nara and as such he hoped to erect a large image of the Buddha to pray for protection from famines and earthquakes. A large number of scriptures were needed to cover the Great Buddha and the Priest and his students travelled all over Japan to collect the scriptures. Despite working on installing the Big Buddha, Priest Ichyuu passed away in 1815 without seeing the completion of his work. His successor, Priest Kohshuu ensured that the Buddha statue was installed and a grand ceremony was held to mark the completion. 

A smaller wooden statue of the Amida Buddha is placed directly in front of the Great Buddha statue.

When we visited, we were the only visitors at the temple - a stark contrast to the large number of visitors to the Buddha statues at Kamakura and Nara
A small model of the Shohoji Temple is also placed in the main hall. 

Several other statues and paintings surround the Great Buddha statue.

Located in a quiet neighborhood, the Shohoji Temple can be easily missed if you are not looking out for it !  

Address : Gifu prefecture, Gifu city,  Daibutsu-cho   

Entrance fees : Adults 200 yen; Children 100 yen 

Opening hours :  9:00 hrs- 17:00 hrs

Closing days : None

Parking : Limited parking available 

Official Website: http://gifu-daibutsu.com/index.html


Hiking : Mt Kinka, Gifu Castle and Gifu Park

Few weeks back we decided to go hiking. The weather is getting cooler and it is the perfect time to go on hikes. We decided to hike up Mt Kinka in the neighbouring Gifu Prefecture. 

Mt Kinka is a 329 meter high mountain in Gifu city in Gifu Prefecture. Hikers can choose from 4 trails with different levels of difficulty to hike up the mountain. The Meisoku no Komichi trail is the easiest of the four trails but it has some difficult stretches too. Our daughter was so excited about the hike that she was leading us in the hike. Apparently her teacher had hiked up the mountain in summer and had shared her experience in the class. Looks like that was the motivating factor ! 

Those who are not so keen to hike can ride the Mt Kinka Rope way which takes 3 minutes to reach the top. The hiking trails take about 76 to 90 minutes to reach the top. We hiked the Meisoku no Komichi (Meditation path)trail while ascending and we walked down the Hyaku Magari (Hundred turns)Trail on our way back. The Hyaku Magari trail is 1100 meters long but very steep while the Meisoku no Komichi trail is 2900 meters long but is comparatively easier to hike. All the trails begin from or near the large Gifu Park. The rope way station is also in the Gifu Park. 
The historic Gifu castle is on top of Mt Kinka. The castle was built in the 13th century and was previously called the Inabayama castle and belonged to the Saito clan till it was captured by Oda Nobunaga, one of the three powerful lords in the history of Japan. He built his home near the foot of the Mt Kinka. 

The current keep is a 1956 construction and was restored again in 1997. Various artifacts are displayed inside the castle on its 3 floors. 




Armours, arms, pottery and paintings provide an insight into the life of the feudal lords of that era. Various pictures and boards explain the history of Oda Nobunaga and the Gifu castle. 
An interesting Western Clock stands at the entrance to Gifu castle.

The view of Gifu city, the Nagaragawa river, the Japan Alps in the background and even the skyscrapers of Nagoya can be enjoyed from the observation deck on the topmost floor of castle.



Mt Ontake, an active Volcano which was in the news recently for its eruption, can be seen in the background. 

The Gifu castle museum near the castle also has some artifacts on display. Close by is the Reesumura - squirrel village is small petting zoo where visitors can feed and play with tame squirrels. 

After our hike we also walked around Gifu park. 




A vermillion pagoda stands at the foot of Mt Kinka. 
The Japan China Friendship garden is a small park with attractive Chinese architecture. 




The garden was constructed in 1989 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of friendship between Gifu city and Hangzhou city in China. 

We also visited the Gokoku Shrine, a Shinto Shrine close to Gifu park. 

Before returning home, we also stopped by at the Shoho-ji Temple, which houses the Great Buddha of Gifu, one of the three Great Buddhas' of Japan. I will cover it in a separate post. 

Address:  Gifu prefecture 500-8003, Gifu city, Gifu Koen 

Phone: 058-263-4853

Opening hours : Gifu castle : 9:30-17:30 hrs (closing 16:30 between Oct-March)  
                          Mt Kinka Ropeway: 9:00-18:00 hrs ( closing 17:00 hrs between Oct-March)

Entrance fees : Gifu Park : free
                         Gifu Castle : Adults 200 yen ; Children 100 yen 

Parking : Ample Free car parking available near the riverside car parking lot.