Tenon-ji, Ayu Fishing, BBQ in Forest (Aichi)
Tour Code: OK0806
Tour Fee: 6800 Discount Price: 5400
Date: Saturday, August 6th
Today is a relaxing tour, visiting some fascinating sites in extremely remote and difficult to get to areas in the forested hills of the eastern part of Aichi. A reasonable level of physical fitness is required as there are some stairs at the first destination. It will probably be a hot day, so bring some drinking water.
We begin with a visit to Tenon-ji, a remote temple built by the same shogun who constructed Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto （although Tenon-ji is affiliated with Myoshinji）. Kyoto’s Kinkaku-ji is a modern day reconstruction, but Tenon-ji is an original. It was built by the powerful shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) late in the 14th century during the Muromachi Period. Apart from the main hall and prayer hall, the south gate (sanmon 山門） has an interesting history (it is a secret for now), and the temple has amazing drystone walls.
Just beyond the sanmon, there is an enormous & ancient cedar tree. It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu narrowly escaped an assassination attempt at Tenonji when he heard his name whispered from the direction of the tree. Turning his head, the deadly arrow missed him by only a few inches. Tokugawa Ieyasu was on his way to battle in 1575 to relieve the beleaguered garrison at Nagashino castle, under siege by Takeda Katsuyori, when the incident is said to occurred. Whether it is just legend, or whether Ieyasu was miraculously saved by deities, ghosts or ninjas (unlikely), nobody really knows. All we know is that he won the battle, and his advance to the east continued.
Next is the prayer hall, which is also really interesting, with artworks from the Edo and Meiji periods. These days, the temple is basically for the local community (and visiting Irishmen with students), but it has a rich history, there is much to see, and unlike it’s Kyoto equivalent, it is never crowded.
It is always difficult to drag people away from Tenon-ji, so the next item on the schedule is lunch.
Lunch is our main destination today, and it is included in the tour fee. Deep in the forest, surrounded by flowing streams we will be visiting some ALC friends who have built a fantastic campsite at the junction of two small streams. It has tree houses, western style toilet, a great BBQ, a bar with beer on tap (separate fee, sorry), and even a wood fired pizza oven.
All of the food and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the participation fee. You don’t need to prepare anything, you won’t need to cook, or do any washing up or cleaning. Just relax in the forest. There is good overhead tree cover, but bring a hat and some sunscreen just in case. Also, if you are planning to swim/play in the river, or try to catch the Ayu fish, then you will need a towel, flip flops or old shoes, and swimwear/change of clothes. There is also a nice plunge pool under the waterfall downstream, but wear something please. No need to shock the local monkeys with a skinny dip.
Speaking of wildlife, it isn’t unusual to see monkeys (Japanese macaques), serow, and other animals. You can relax at the small outdoor bar, or go for a short hike along one of the ancient mountain roads (basically these are old walking tracks) that connect each of these valleys. During the sengoku jidai, armies of samurai and ashigaru patrolled the steep mountain passes and frontiers.
In happier times, these roads were used for trade and exchange (miso, horses, salt, news, brides etc) between the communities living in the coastal areas and those living inland. The mountains are largely depopulated now, but everywhere you go you will encounter small shrines, jizo statues, the stone retaining walls of abandoned rice paddies reclaimed by the forest, and other reminders of an extremely rich history.
One highlight of the day is the chance to catch Ayu fish (by hand). We build a small dam of rock and wood across one of the streams (it fills up fairly quickly to about waist height). You can either just play in the water and cool off, or try to catch the Ayu. We won’t be building a yana, but might need to cheat a little bit by using a net (time constraints!). Ayu are a species of small trout. This sweet fish is popular with Japanese, and tastes great when lightly salted and grilled or smoked over a BBQ.
Today is also the last day of our Japanese Summer Program for High School Students. We will be inviting our host families, supporters, and Japanese and foreign friends to come along today as well, so this is a good chance to make friends and say farewells.
And finally, tonight is the Okazaki Fireworks Festival, one of Japan’s largest, as this region of Japan makes most of Japan’s fireworks, known as Hanabi. We will have enough time to return to Okazaki before the fireworks, as this is a great opportunity to wear a Yukata. There should be enough time to get changed. About half a million people come to watch the fireworks. It is a real blast.
Departs: East Exit, JR Okazaki Station, 9:00am. Returns: 3:00pm (approx)
Mode of transport: Microbus or Bus
Deadline for Discount Price: 21 days prior
Tour Code: OK0806 (needed for application form below)