Odawara Castle is a reconstruction of the home to the Uesugi clan that played a pivotal role during Japan’s Sengoku (or “warring states”) period. The castle, first erected by the Doi clan during the Kamakura period, features the seventh tallest donjon in Japan. The concrete replica houses a history museum which focuses on the Uesugi clan, prominent during the Muromachi and Sengoku periods.
Following the Battle of Odawara in 1590, in which Toyotomi Hideyoshi forced the surrender of the Late Hojo clan “through a combination of a three-month siege and bluff” (Wikipedia), the castle grounds have played home to a Shinto shrine, an imperial villa (destroyed by the Great Kanto Quake of 1923) and a park with art museum, local history museum, city library, amusement park and zoo. The donjon was rebuilt in 1960 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Odawara city’s incorporation.
Today, in addition to the historical museum, the castle grounds are home to a beautiful park, featuring varieties of Japanese cherry trees, and a children’s amusement park. The castle features a nightly light show, with a variety of themes playing from 5 to 9 p.m. (depending on the season).
Shasui Falls are a ribbon-like cataract with a total height of 90m on the Takizawa river near Yamakita in Kanagawa Prefecture. The falls, which lie within the grounds of the Saishouji Temple, are listed among the top 100 waterfalls in Japan and the top 50 scenic spots in Kanagawa.
The main drop of 69m (pictured above) is followed by a second drop of 16m and a final fall of 29m. The second drop is not visible to the public since a rock slide destroyed a bridge (behind the red bridge). Construction has been undertaken to prevent further rock slides, but the view of the second falls has not reopened.
The temple maintains its connection to the falls, which are used in Buddhist purification rites where monks immerse themselves in the falls (often in freezing conditions). As Wikipedia relates, “During the early Kamakura period, the famed monk Mongaku is said to have spent one hundred days in meditation and austerities at this waterfall … ”
Perhaps in relation to the falls’ use in purification, the water of the falls is listed among the top 100 water selections in the nation. The name, which could be read as “sake water,” reflects the fragrant perfume of the stream.
Saishouji is a Buddhist temple in Yamakita, Kanagawa, whose grounds include the ribbon-like Shasui Falls. The temple is home to a taiko school, and hosts a drumming contest on the fourth Sunday of each July to celebrate the falls.
The temple is fronted with rows of hundreds of jizo which are decorated with pinwheels. (Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any explanation for this colorful phenomenon.)
Houkisugi, a 2,000-year-old cedar, towers 45 meters above a bluff overlooking Nakagawa Onsen in the Tanzawa mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture. The tree, born about the time of Julius Cesar’s reign, measures 18 meters around at the root and 12 meters at eye level.
Locals revere the tree for having halted the spread of a conflagration in 1904. The tree still bears the scars of the fire. It is also credited with stopping a landslide in 1972.
According to Wikipedia, the name “Houkisugi” may refer to a place name, or to the fact the tree resembles a broom (houki). Houkisugi was designated a National Monument in 1934.
One of the little guys appears to be holding a keyboard, while another has a tablet representing 1,000 ryou (old-style Japanese currency).
Tanuki are often confused with raccoons, but are in fact a separate species, raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus). Tanuki were formerly thought to be tricksters and shape-shifters, but are now associated with generosity, cheer and prosperity. You can read more about tanuki and their place in Japanese culture at this post by The Senseitions:The Worst Christmas Present Ever, Revealed: It’s a tanuki!.