Image via Nippon-Jin.com
Really quickly, below is a brief itinerary of my return to Tohoku trip. I will be blogging all of it under the category of Return To Tohoku. So, I guess this is the first entry. I do still have a half-written blog, but given how busy I’ve been this last month and a half, I feel like the next time I’ll get to sit down and finish it all will be when I get on the plane that will take me from Toronto to Tokyo. Below, I’ve mashed down the 8 page itinerary I created for myself to the bare bones skeleton, just to let people know where I’ll be at. I’ve also added some links and facts that I honestly ripped right off of the websites sited. Like I said, I just don’t have time.
Day 1: Wednesday September 21st
Depart from Ottawa for Japan
Day 2: Thursday, September 22nd
Arrive in Tokyo. Go straight to MOFA, then check into my hotel.
(Spend the night in Tokyo)
Day 3: Friday, September 23rd
Tokyo to Koriyama city, then travel to Aizu-Wakamatsu to see Enzo-ji, Iimoriyama and Tsuruga Castle.
(Stay in Aizu-Wakamatsu)
And here’s a bit of history on a few of the places I’m going.
Enzo-ji – Yanaizu from Fuku-Tabi
A symbolic temple of Aizu, Enzoji is one of the three biggest temples dedicated to Koku-zoson in Japan.
About 1,300 years ago, in 807, Fukuman Kokuzo Enzoji Temple was built by Tokuichi Daishi, a noted priest from Aizu. The main hall of the temple rises high above a huge crag. From here we can see the Tadami River flowing magnificently through the town. You can also see the various views of each season, with cherry blossoms in spring, mist over the river in summer, red maples in autumn, and snow in winter.
The temple has many highlights, such as a treasure house and monuments in memory of poets inscribed with their poems and haiku. It is saied that the statue of Fukuman Kokuzo Bosatsu (the Bodhisattva of wisdom), whom the temple is dedicated to, is a work of Kobo Daishi. There are many legends associated with the temple: When Kobo Daishi threw wood shavings from the Kokuzo Bosatsu into theTadami River, they immediately turned into countless Japanese dace fish. The story of how the red cow helped with the difficult construction of the temple. A story about Nanuka Do Hadaka Mairi (Naked Worship at Nanuka Do Shrine). The legends are many and varied.
Within the precincts of Enzoji is the statue of a cow called “Nade-Ushi” (“the cow you pet”).
Legend says that the cow helped people to construct the temple, and that if you pet the cow while making a wish, your wish will come true. This is the origin of the “Aka-Beko (“Red Cow”), which has become symbolic of Aizu.
Iimoriyama/Sazaedo from Japan Guide.com
After the fall of the shogunate in 1867, forces still loyal to the shogun were concentrated in the northern Tohoku region. They attempted to resist the new government, but suffered a decisive defeat at Tsuruga Castle in 1868. Looking out from Iimoriyama Hill, a group of young Aizu soldiers in a unit called the Byakkotai (White Tiger Corps) saw their castle engulfed in flames and committed seppuku.
The boys, 20 of them aged 14 to 16, had made a grave error; the castle had not actually been taken, the flames they had seen were from outside the castle walls. Nevertheless, the story of their loyalty and devotion has become well known throughout Japan and numerous TV, film and manga adaptations have been made.
Iimoriyama, the site of the boy’s suicide, has become a popular tourist attraction. As well as souvenirs shops and monuments, there are two museums devoted to the Byakkotai. The Byakkotai Memorial Hall is the larger and is located beside the main path up the hill. The second, the Byakkotai Folklore andHistorical Museum, is much smaller and can be found a bit off the main path.
Among the monuments devoted to the Byakkotai, there are 19 tombs for the Byakkotai soldiers. Though there were 20 of them on the hill, one of the boys was not successful in his suicide attempt. At the site of the hill that looks onto Tsuruga Castle, there is a statue of a Byakkotai soldier peering off into the distance.
There are also two monuments which visitors may find surprising. From Japan‘s fascist allies during the war, there is a column from Italy and a plaque from Germany. The column has a statue of an eagle on its top, and was taken from Pompeii. The plaque was given by a diplomat in 1935.
Down the hill there are a few other buildings of interest, such as a shrine and the Sazaedo Pagoda. The pagoda is particularly interesting because visitors can enter inside, and a ramp spirals up to the top of the pagoda and back down again.
I also happen to be going during the Aizu-Wakamatsu Autumn Festival, which is pretty awesome.
Day 4: Saturday, September 24th
Take part in the Global Citizen’s Festival in Fukushima city that the Fukushima AJET Chapter will be taking part in. There will be facepainting, games and food from all different parts of the world and this is something that JETs in Fukushima do every year.
(Stay in Fukushima)
Day 5: Sunday, September 25th (Tourist Destination)
Volunteer on the coast in Soma.
Head to Soma to volunteer with Hearts for Haragama, a charity created by current Fukushima JETs, which provides funds and assistance to a kindergarten in Soma.
(Stay in Fukushima)
Day 6: Monday, September 26th
In the morning, visit Fukushima Senior High School with Jason Ishida (Fukushima SHS ALT) to participate in classes and conversations with his students.
(Stay in Fukushima)
Day 7: Tuesday, September 27th
Visit Nihonmatsu Adachi Senior High School to partake in their yearly bunkasai (oh ya, that’s right, who picked the best time to go? Oh this guy…BUNKASAI!!!!)
(Stay in Fukushima)
Day 8: Wednesday, September 28th
Visit Nihonmatsu Technical Senior High School in the morning and then depart for Tokyo.
(Stay in Tokyo)
Day 9: Thursday, September 29th
Depart from Tokyo for Ottawa