Nana watches a lot of Nikkei (Japan Economic Journal) TV news. So we see this obnoxious ad several times a day where they’re all freaking out about the fact that the online version of the Nikkei is available for 1,000 yen a month.
Separately, Nana was telling me about some of the furniture places she’s been in contact with.
Nana: They all start by asking what our budget is.
Tori no Ichi is a festival celebrated on days of the Rooster in November. The tradition started at Asakusa Temple in Tokyo in the 17h Century when Washidaimyojin (Washimyoken Bodhisattva) was enshrined there. Nowadays, the festival is celebrated at many temples where “Otori-sama” (the eagle) is honored.
The festival became popular in the middle Edo period. Woodblock prints of the era show people carrying kumade, bamboo rakes decorated with Oban-koban (distinctive oval gold coins) and Okame (mask of good fortune). On a smaller scale, a miniature bamboo rake may be adorned with a simple ear of fine rice. With purchases of larger kumade, the vendors clap woodblocks in time to bring the buyer even more good fortune.
In addition to praying at the temple and buying kumade, visitors can enjoy treats from the many food stalls lining the open air market in and around the temple. Food ranging from sweets to takoyaki (octopus balls) to grilled seafood and yakitori (chicken roasted on a skewer) can be enjoyed along with a variety of beverages.
Takaosan — Mt Takao — offers lots of hiking and a famous temple and shrine complex within easy reach of central Tokyo, making it the most-climbed peak in Japan. In fact, an estimated 2.6 million people visit each year to see the attractions, including a Monkey Park and Wild Flower Garden, and — from June through October — what is reputed to be the highest beer garden in Tokyo.
Fall is a popular time to visit the mountain, and thousands of Tokyoites flock to see the changing 紅葉 (momiji: maple) leaves. Cooler air also offers a chance to view Mt Fuji from Takaosan’s 599-meter peak.
Unfortunately, easy access from Tokyo and the great scenery on view add up to enormous crowds. At the height of 紅葉 (koyo: autumn leaves) season, it’s not unusual to wait up to an hour for the cable car, and to be jostled by the crowds thronging to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji at the peak.
There isn’t room on one mountain for enough cafés and restaurants to handle the crowds at their peak, but the throngs are handled via typical Japanese ingenuity. For example, to avoid large crowds waiting for the lift or cable car down from the mountain, the operators distribute numbered tickets to riders, who are only permitted to queue for the ride once their group’s number has been called. Even the shops at the foot of the mountain have experience dealing with the thousands of people who flock to the mountain each day, with workers helping the customers to queue up and maintain a semblance of civility (or at least order).
Takaosan Yakuo-in Yukiji, commonly called Yakuo-in, is a Buddhist temple and shrine complex established on the flanks of Mt Takao at the order of Emperor Shomu in 744.
Yakuo-in was restored in the 14th Century by Shungen Daitoku, who enshrined the deity Izuna Daigongen following a vision. Izuna Daigongen protects devotees from harm, and combines attributes of five deities, as described by the temple’s official site: Fudo Myo-o, Karuraten (Garuda, a divine bird), Dakiniten (a demon that feeds on human hearts), Kangiten (a fertility deity with the head of an elephant) and Benzaiten (the deity of water, music and victory in battle).
Mt Takao is associated with Tengu, long-nosed demons who act as messengers of the gods and who chastise evil. These figures are found throughout the temple complex, and flank the entrance to Izuna Gongen-do.
Yakuo-in is reached following a brief walk along paved paths (and some stairs) from the cable car/lift terminus on Mt Takao. Alternatively, hikers can reach the summit of Mt Takao first and then descend through the temple complex.
I made the mistake yesterday of arriving alone at the yakitori restaurant, a couple of minutes before my son joined me, and the waiter handed me a menu in English.
I couldn’t figure out what was supposed to be what, and I knew the waiter would be lost if I were to ask for anything by those names. I asked for a menu in Japanese so that we’d both know what I was ordering.
Onioshidashi (“Ogres push rocks down”) is a park featuring magma formations on the slopes of Mt Asama, a Category A active volcano. In addition to many unusual configurations of magma, the park also is home to a shrine to Kannon, the goddess of mercy, dedicated to the many victims of Mt Asama’s eruptions over the centuries. (The volcano erupts every couple of years or so, and its smoking fumarole is visible from the nearby ski lodges at Tsumagoi.)
Onioshidashi offers paved, if hilly, paths among the rugged formations, making it one of the more accessible natural areas of Japan. On clear days it also grants visitors a vista of the surrounding countryside.
Magma formations, like clouds, present Rorschach opportunities to the observer. Over the years, various configurations have come to be labelled as “elephant”, “gorilla” and others. What can you see in the alien vistas on view at Onioshidashi?
This “waterfall of white threads”, 70 meters wide, is heated by nearby Mt Asama — a Category A active volcano. As a result, the water temperature is a constant 11C year-round. The water seeps from the ground above the falls, and spills gently down the three-meter drop. The resulting idyllic falls and pond are surrounded by green nature in a remote area of Karuizawa, in Nagano Prefecture.
From the pond, the water spills down a series of step-like falls (before running down to the road, where the stream disappears into a culvert).
Despite the remote location, the falls are a popular tourist attraction. Shops by the entrance serve oyaki, fresh roasted fish and other delicacies to the crowds. Buses run from Karuizawa Station once or twice an hour at most, so check the schedule before arriving.
Hikawa Gorge is a natural formation at the confluence of the Nippara (日原川) and Tama Rivers (多摩川), easily accessible from Okutama Station on the Okutama Mukashi Michi (奥多摩むかしみち — Okutama Old Trail). The gorge lies just a few kilometers downstream of the Oguchi Dam which forms Lake Okutama, the source of the Tama River.
The gorge is a popular vacation spot throughout the summer, with picnicking along the banks, but the fall colors in late October and early November bring out the best in the scenery.
Hiking the Okutama Mukashi Michi is just a bit challenging, with some climbing and rocky paths that can turn slick in wet weather. We arrived following a late-season typhoon and found ourselves clambering over mud and rocks that had washed over the path where a tree had fallen down the slope. But the trail is well marked and for the most part well maintained, with many beautiful scenes along the way.
From Shinjuku, the Chuo Line leaves about twice per hour, with a change at Oume (青梅). There is a “Holiday Express” runs direct a couple of times a day. It saves making a transfer, but takes the same time of about 1 hour 40 minutes to reach Okutama Station.