Shibata Sake, Kirikoshichou, Tenonji, Kuragari Keikoku (Aichi)
Tour Code: OK1107
Tour Fee: 7800 Discount Price: 6300
Date: Saturday, November 7th
The red and yellow colors of central Japan in the Fall are extremely beautiful. Parks are nice, but to really enjoy the full spectrum of colors, it is best to get out into the countryside. Today is an unusual tour, visiting some fascinating sites in extremely remote and difficult to get to areas in the forested hills of the eastern part of Aichi. You will need hiking boots or good walking shoes, a flashlight (we can lend you one), rain gear and drinking water. A reasonable level of physical fitness is required for this tour.
We begin with a visit to Shibata Shuzou – a sake brewery more than 200 years old, and a consistent gold medalist in the national competitions each year. The location of the brewery is about 400 meters (about 1300 feet) above sea level. The cooler altitude and shade from the surrounding hills, plus the very pure water of the Shibata wells, enable the brewing of some of Japan’s finest sake. We can do taste testing and you can buy some excellent sake as a souvenir.
We next visit Hakusan shrine in Sakuraijichou, before entering the hidden valley of Kirikoshichou. Part of Okazaki, this almost totally abandoned valley once contained a thriving agricultural community, probably numbering about 800-1000 people, evidenced by the hundreds of stone retaining walls and abandoned farmhouses. These days only 3 of the houses are occupied (most of the time), and Japan’s monkeys and serow have the best claim to occupancy. It is however a spectacularly beautiful place.
One of our destinations here is the ancient Susanoo Jinja, a shrine with massive hinoki (cypress) trees, the kirikoshi-no-meoto hinoki. These two great trees tower over the shrine, and form the main torii. As part of our Indiana Jones routine, we will also hike to the 8 faced gravestones of the Honma family (descendants of the Heike clan, the graves date from the early Kamakura period).
Next stop is Tenon-ji temple, built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu late in the 14th century. Aligned with Myoshinji, this is a Rinzai sect Buddhist temple. Tenon-ji resembles its famous cousin Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. However the main difference between Tenonji and Kinkakuji is that Tenonji is the original building, not a 1950’s reconstruction.
It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at Tenon-ji when a tree whispered his name. Turning his head towards the tree, an arrow missed him by a whisker. The tree is still standing. This temple also has some of the best drystone wall construction seen anywhere in Japan.
The south gate displays an unusual poster from the Occupation period (1945-52), banning US military personnel from entry. The main prayer hall also contains some very unusual paintings of military scenes from the Sino-Japanese war (1894-95), Russo-Japanese war (1904-05) and Meiji Period.
From Tenonji we head to a gorge called Kuragari Keikoku. Popular in the summer for barbecues and Ayu fishing, in the fall it is famous for the red leaves and beautiful foliage. There is a hiking trail (fairly easy gradient) to the peak of Mount Hongu, which provides views over Toyohashi and western Mikawa, and on clear days as far east as Hamamatsu in Shizuoka. Bring your camera!
Departs: East Exit, JR Okazaki Station, 8:30am. Returns: 7:00pm (approx)
Mode of transport: Minivan or Microbus
Deadline for Discount Price: 28 days prior
Tour Code: OK1107 (needed for application form below)