Nagano #5: Oyaki (おやき)

Sometimes I go through my old pictures and realize I have postcard pictures I haven’t ever gotten around to posting. You’d think I would be on top of this stuff!

Here’s Nagano’s fifth postcard, representing oyaki, a popular regional dumpling made from a buckwheat (soba) dough and stuffed with various vegetable or other fillings, then fried. A friend went to Nagano and brought us back some different flavors of oyaki, so while I’ve never actually had oyaki IN Nagano, I got the chance to try it and took some pictures.

Two flavors of oyaki

They are best hot, so we friend them really quickly

Hey not bad!

I’m sure they are even more tasty when you get them fresh with tea in Nagano, but they make a great snack regardless!

Nagano #7: Zenko Temple (信州善光寺)

Nagano’s 7th postcard features Zenkoji, one of the most important and most popular temples in Japan. It stores the first ever Buddhist statue brought to Japan, and a replica of that statue is shown once every 6 years. This year happens to be the year the statue is shown to the public, and besides releasing 2015’s Nagano postcard of the temple, postacollect has also released a few other special postcards I’ve blogged about here and here. You can read more about the temple and current events here.

I’ve never seen the statue, but I’ve been to Zenkoji a few times. As the weather is currently beautiful, I may start campaigning my husband to head out there on the motorcycle on some of our free days this month! If I manage that, I’ll update this entry with some new pictures! Meanwhile, here are a few from my previous trips there:

Niomon Gate leading into Zenkoji

Zenkoji’s main temple building. The sacred statue is housed below, and visitors can navigate the pitch-black corridor it’s stored in to walk by it… without seeing it, of course!

A line of Jizo Bodhisattva

Zenkoji Goshuin or calligraphy, another thing I collect!

The area around the temple has many shops, restaurants, and lodgings to choose from. It is a fun area to explore!

[News] Special Limited Nagano Form Cards

On March 9th, the 7th set of postcards was announced for each prefecture on the Postacollect official website. Yesterday, another special set of cards was announced on the website as well.

The subject of Nagano’s 7th postcard is that of Zenkoji, Nagano’s most famous Buddhist temple. I will definitely be posting about the card itself later, however every 7 years, a replica of the hibutsu (rumored to be the first ever buddhist statue brought to Japan and kept secret from everyone, even the head of the temple) will be shown in public. The statue shown is only a replica of the original, however it is still treated with reverence. The ceremony is called Gokaicho, and the next will start Sunday, April 5th and last until the end of May. You can read more about the festivities here. If you are around Nagano City and Zenkoji, I hope you can see the statue and participate in some of the events happening during this time.

To honor this unique event (and possibly because of the new postcard), Postacollect has released a special edition set of Form Cards showcasing this event!

The cards come in a set of 5, 4 regular sized cards plus one mini. They will begin sale on March 20th (tomorrow) along with the 7th set of postcards. The full set costs ¥1200, and they cannot be bought separately. They are only available at about 100 post offices in Nagano, and I apologize, but I’m not sure which ones. I would assume that the largest ones in each city, then probably all or most around Zenkoji proper would have them.

Along with the special set of form cards, a set of regular-shaped postcards plus stickers, and two clear file sets will also be sold. Finally, you can get the traditional red post box postcard with Zenkoji on it as well. Please check this post to see those (Japanese only).

All of these cards will go on sale March 20th. I hope some of you can get lucky and get a set of these fun cards! Don’t forget to pick up your new Nagano postcard then as well!

Nagano #2: Matsumoto Castle (国宝松本城)

So, I’m actually supposed to be in Gifu now, sightseeing and taking pictures, and of course, buying my postcards. Unfortunately, the typhoon that hit us this weekend derailed those plans. We could have gone, but torrential rain and the possibility of mudslides didn’t sound too appealing when it was easy enough to change our plans. So I’ll be visiting Gifu this coming weekend instead, and meanwhile, I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite postcards in the Gotochi collection: The Castles.

Let’s start with the first I ever visited, waaaay back in 2009 before this postcard even came out (it’s 2010’s version): The beautiful black castle of Matsumoto, Nagano! You can find some info on its history and features, plus opening times and costs, here.

Black Matsumoto Castle with its iconic red bridge

Not only is the moat very photogenic, you can also see the Japan Alps in the background, still snowcapped of course!

Night views of this castle are also really beautiful!

As you can see, I went during cherry blossom season, which was a truly beautiful time to go! The pink flowers/red bridge/black castle combination is a really nice one! At that time, I was still using a point and shoot camera (ah, way back when…) so these pictures don’t do it justice. Matsumoto is actually on the way back from Gifu for us, so I might be able to stop and take some new pictures!

2015.01.20: I’d like to add a interesting video of Matsumoto I recently discovered on youtube. This video, part of NHK’s 5 minute Fudoki program, is an interesting look at the defenses of the castle, including a recent find in the moat! It’s worth a watch!