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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Korakuen Garden

Korakuen is a garden next to the Okayama Castle that was created by the Ikeda clan when they had control of the castle and surrounding area. Construction started in 1687 and was completed in 1700. This is one of the three great gardens of Japan.

 This was our view upon entering the garden
 View of the Enyo-tei House. This house was used to receive daimyo, or lords, when they visited the gardens.

 Yashi-no-inari jinja. A shrine within the garden area.
 A view of a bridge, with the tea house and Jigendo Hall visible in the background.
 A view of Okayama castle from the garden
 Another view of the castle from the garden
 The Enyo-tei House.
A lantern stands alone along a stream.

Okayama Castle

After Bikan, we headed to Okayama Castle. The original castle was completed in 1597, but was destroyed during allied bombing in 1945, of which only two watch towers remained. This replica was completed in 1966.

 Approaching the castle
 Yuki and her mother trying to close the gates on me to keep me out.
 The castle from the front.
 View of Korakuen garden from the top of Okayama Castle.
Yuki thinking that she is a princess being carried.

Kurashiki

On August 28th, traveled around the Okayama area. The first stop in the city of Kurashiki. The old merchant area is called Bikan, and has many 17th century warehouses. The area is still a merchant area today, though now it is all sales of tourist type items.

 The streets on Bikan
 The merchant area today seems to be selling mostly tourist type items.
This western style building stands out in this area.
 An old house that was built by a wealthy merchant for his wife.
 A swan spreads his wings just as I was taking some photos.
People take a boat ride along the canal. The boater was using a pole to push them along.

 From Bikan we went to a nearby shrine named Achi-jinja.
 Of course, all temples and shrines in Japan require a lot of walking up stairs. I counted 195 to reach the top.
 Finally at the top.
The view of Kurashiki from the top of Achi shrine.

Hiroshima

After leaving Itsukushima shrine, we spent the night in Hiroshima. Of course we had to eat the okonomiyaki here, as Hiroshima is known in Japan for having the best okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima.

 The Hiroshima Peace Memorial museum
 A watch stopped at the time that the bomb exploded.
 Equipment dropped from the observation plane that was used to measure changes in heat and pressure caused by the explosion.
 A representation of where the bomb was when it exploded, and the nearly complete destruction of Hiroshima that it caused. You can see that only a couple dozen or so buildings were left standing. Though almost all of those were damaged beyond repair.
 A bicycle that was being ridden by a two year old boy at the time of the explosion.
 The A-dome.

 This is me at the hypocenter. The bomb exploded at about 600 meters (1,968 feet) above this location on August 6, 1945.
 Next we visited Hiroshima Castle. The original was completely destroyed in the bombing.
 Hiroshima castle
 Samurai armor
A view from the top of Hiroshima castle, looking back towards the A-dome.

Miyajima, Itsukushima and Daisho-in

After visiting the Kibitsu shrine, we headed to Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima. This is an island that is home to both Itsukushima shrine and Daisho-in temple. We took the ferry to the island, and the gate (torii) to Itsukushima-jinja is obvious as it stands in the water during high tide.

 The gate, torii, stands prominently in the water with the shrine buildings in the background as we approach Miyajima.
 The second thing I noticed was the deer. They were everywhere, and with no fear of people. The local vendors use to sell food for people to give to the deer, but they have changed the laws and feeding the deer is no longer allowed.
 They were sitting in the shade
 Begging for food
And just hanging around

Along the path to the shrine and temple, we passed the largest rice scooper in the world. This is 7.7 meters (25.26 feet) long, 2.7 meters (8.86 feet) wide at its widest point, and weighs 2.5 tonnes (5,511 lbs).

 First we headed to Daisho-in temple. Along the way I found this sign amusing. It reads "10 minute walk (7 if run a little)..."
 We reached Daisho-in. Within the temple there is a flame that has supposedly been burning since the founding of the temple over 1200 years ago. In the 12th century Emperor Toba founded his prayer hall here. 
 Along the stairs there were rollers. The first you encounter are the Dai-hannyako Sutra (two pictures below). Those pictured to the left are Mani wheels. Spinning a wheel is said to be equivalent to the blessings gained by reading one volume of the Hannaya-shinkyo (Heart Sutra). Of course I had to spin all of them.
 A status of a monk.
On the way up and, as pictured here, on the way back down we spun all the wheels of the Dai-hannyako Sutra. 600 volumes of this scripture were brought from India by by a Chinese monk. It is said that spinning these wheels, which represent the Sutra, will bring you enormous fortune. And with that we headed back down the mountain to Itsukushima-jinja.
 Back at Itsukushima-jinja the gate, or torii, stands in the water as it is high tide. The island has been sacred since ancient times. Commoners were not allowed to set foot on the island so the shrine is built as a pier.
 The pagoda to the shrine.
 As you can see the shrine is built like a pier, out in the water. It is believed the shrine was originally established in the 6th century. It has been rebuilt a number of times due to damage, and the version we see today is believed to have been built in the 16th century, but following a design that was established in 1168.

 The gate is noticeable from almost any location in the shrine.
 The gate, torii, as viewed through a window in the music pavilion.

 The gate, or torii, as viewed through the Haraiden (purification hall).

Our final view before heading back to the ferry. It was high tide, so the gate was in the water. Those who visit during low tide can walk out to the gate, or torii.