Today we start by getting up at 7 A.M. so that after all is said and done we can be on the bus by 8:30. But…I LIKE sleeping in!! Oh well…it’s all about the experiences, right?
Today the first stop will be at the Obi Castle. But on the way there, it’s time once again for a little Japanese information.
The Japanese written language is very interesting in that there are 3 parts to it. Children learn the first form which consists of about 50 different letters. As they grow older, they also learn a ‘short’ form of that writing that contains about another 50 letters.
The third form is one imported from China over many years. These are combined characters that are used to represent terms and concepts. During their schooling, children will also learn about 1,000 of these. In order to effectively read a daily newspaper for instance, one must know about 2,500 of those characters. To put that number in context, there are about 50,000 in use in Japan today. Writing their language is truly a skill that takes years to master.
Miyazaki is known as Japan’s “Cultural City of Historic Sightseeing”. It is also sometimes referred to as the Hawaii of Japan given its warm climate and surfing locales. Our tour today will be visiting 2 of those historic sites.
The first stop is Obi Castle in Obi town. The castle was built by the 6th head of the Ito Clan and he governed 48 branch castles. Forced to flee in 1577 by the Shimazu Clan, they managed to regain control in 1587. This was done by offering the castle in return for aid during the Kyusyu campaign. The next 14 generations (some 280 years), the Ito family governed over Obi.
One house that we visit, but cannot enter, is the Samurai House of Denzaemon Ito. He was a high-ranking Samurai and was entitled to have a larger than normal home. The grounds surrounding his home are easy to be envious of.
Another house we visit is Matsuo No Maru, another home of a high-ranking Samurai. This is one that wandering about inside is allowed. The 20 rooms give a unique insight in daily life of a Samurai. The house, like a lot of Japanese homes, is made almost entirely of wood. Fire is a threat, hopefully warded off by talisman on the rooftops. A low-tech sauna and a very basic bathroom bring home the niceties that we live with today.
Back to the bus for our trip to the Udo Jingu Shinto shrine. This is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the father of Japan’s first emperor Jimmu. Today’s emperor is the 125th in an unbroken line of succession. That’s impressive! However, due to a declining number of Imperial Family members (currently 19), continued succession is a very real concern. The shrine we are going to see is believed to be the birthplace of that first emperor’s father.
This tour was marked as ‘strenuous’. The first walk at the Obi Castle was indicative, especially given one of the stairways we had to climb. However, this one drove it home. Our tour guide warned there were a significant number of steps to be dealt with – 300 one way she said.
I counted them. There were only 291 but I didn’t feel shortchanged.
Within a short distance of getting out of the bus, the first 97 presented themselves. Breaking the climb into 3 flights of 24 and 1 flight of 25 barely made it doable. Next it was a (gentle) incline through a tunnel, followed by a long, fairly flat stretch. The views along the way were fabulous which helped but somehow didn’t lessen the distance. Now, finally, the Tori Gate beckons.
The gate has 3 main purposes: 1 – to purify those passing through; 2 – to delineate the sacred ground from the ordinary grounds; and 3 – to dispel evil spirits.
I discovered 1 more. It is the beginning of the last flat stretch before the 194 steps leading down to the shrine itself. And always remember, in this case, what goes down must come up. And let’s top THAT off with forgetting to get a picture of the shrine! I’m blaming senility.
Beautiful scenery, a spider that needs to stay right where he is, more steps in a day than have been done in a month and once again the bus is in sight. All in all a great day.
Oh…did I mention it was 29C and not a cloud in the sky??