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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tsuwano

津和野

Finally made it down the coast a few hours to the popular tourist town of Tsuwano. Nestled in the mountains near the border with Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the shadow of 900 metre Aomo Mountain, this castle town is often referred to as "Little Kyoto", but other than an "Olde Worlde" ambience, it really has nothing in common with Kyoto.

Taikodani Inari Shrine

Went first to Taikodani Inari Shrine, modelled on the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine near Kyoto, the hilltop shrine is approached through a stairway that passes through more than 1100 vermillion torii. The shrine itself is all vermillion and gold, in a style I call Pachinko Shinto, and there were throngs of visitors enjoying the view over the town below.

monster Carp

Back down in the old section of town along the old storm drain we found the towns second tourist attraction, huge monster carp. The river and drains were originally stocked with the carp as a food supply in case of siege, but now they just attract tourists.

Along the main street are numerous fine examples of Edo period architecture, but I found the side streets and back streets far more intriguing and atmospheric, possibly because of the lack of tourists.

We visited the towns Hokusai Museum which has a small but interesting collection of prints by the artist, though as usual none of his Shunga (erotic prints) were on display.

Hachiman shrine

Just outside of town, and completely devoid of visitors we found the most delightful Hachiman shrine I have ever seen. It has a thatched roof over the Honden, and the cherry trees were just begining to blossom. In front of the shrine is the only remaining Yabusame (horseback archery) grounds in Japan. With its natural weathered colors, and lacking in concrete and gravel, the shrine was a welcome respite from the tour groups.

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