Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ako Trip

Yuko and I spent a day down in Ako city which is in the far west of Hyogo pref. bordering Okayama pref.. We went all the way down there to buy some special Japanese sweets that Yuko wanted, and we'll get to them later, but we started the day by praying at a local shrine.


Iwatsuhime Shrine [伊和都比売神社] is located on a cliff looking out towards the Seto Inland Sea. The shrine was originally built on on the rocks but was moved in 1683 to its present location. Thanks to its location and history Iwatsuhime is a shrine that is popular with sailors and fishermen praying for a save voyage and a big catch.


The detail in the animals carved into some of the temple was amazing. I'm not sure how old these are. You can see that they have aged, but they are still quite crisp. I believe these are the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Above is a boar, tiger (or dog I'm not sure), a type of bird (looks like a phoenix to me), and a dragon.


At the edge of the cliff is this giant torii gate.

Yuko sitting on the stairs leading down the rocky cliff to the oceans edge.

From the shrine there is a concrete sidewalk that is parallel to the seashore. It's great little walk. I found this map [pdf] on the website of Ginpaso, a hot spring hotel, and used it to plan our walk.


Of course I didn't take any pictures of the sea. Well I did, but I deleted them because who needs pictures of the sea when there's stuff like this lying around! When I stopped walking Yuko thought I was going to take a photo of the sea, then she realized what I was looking at.


I guess this is a popular swimming and boating location in the summer. In the winter it feels like everything is closed. Makes for a good get away time, especially with just about every other place being crowded because of the New Year's holidays. Taking a walk in nature away from the hordes of people at the malls and shopping arcades was great. We saw what seemed like 1km long queue of cars stopped on the freeway waiting to get into the area's largest mall and outlet shops. No thank you.


I walked by this abandoned car first without taking a photo, but Yuko looked at me and said, "Aren't you going to take a photo of that?" She knows me so well that she's calling out my shots now!


Here's Yuko in front of the Tiger decorations at Oishi Shrine [大石神社] near the site of the former Ako castle. Oishi shrine is connected to the Story of the 47 Ronin [赤穂義士] which has been made into many films and TV dramas in Japan a common part of Japanese folklore told abroad, although it seems the story is more popular in Kansai than in other regions. Looks like a must see spot if you're interested in the story.

After checking out the shrine we headed to Kanpo no Yado - Ako [かんぽの宿 赤穂]--which will be added to I Love ゆ once it gets finished--for a quick bath and then back home. But we had to stop at one more place. In my next post I'll show what we came all the way down here to buy. Probably the most insanely good Japanese sweet I've ever had, and one that is totally worth the drive to get.

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