Miyazaki #8: Aoshima Shrine (青島神社)

Tomorrow the new postcards are released into post offices across Japan, so to kick off that exciting event, here’s some information about Miyazaki’s newest postcard, featuring the amazing Aoshima Shrine. The shrine is located on the tiny sand- and tree-covered island of Aoshima, and is surrounded by a unique geological feature called the “Devil’s Washboard” which can be seen at low-tide. It’s definitely worth a trip!

Heading out to the island, the bridge is relatively new. These days, anyone can visit at anytime, but 100 years ago or so, the island was considered sacred, so normal people could only visit 2 weeks out of the year!

Around the back in the middle of a small grove of trees is the main shrine area.

Through a small path through the trees lined with ema…

You reach the tiny shrine in the true middle of the island. It’s so peaceful!

At low tide, you can see the interesting devil’s washboard rocks. They really look man-made up close, but they are a completely natural phenomenon!

Cool, huh?

The postcard shot… well, close enough!

During the We Love Japan Tour 2015, my southern blogger partner Emma visited this shrine, so I recommend checking out her blog post to read all about it, and its connections to the very first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu.

Don’t forget to pick up your new Miyazaki card tomorrow, and stay tuned for more posts about the new cards!

Shiga #2: Hikone Caste, Lake Biwa, & Chikubu Island (彦根城・琵琶湖・竹生島)

Most postcards just depict one place or feature of a prefecture, but a few are more ambitious. Shiga’s second postcard depicts three famous places in Shiga Prefecture: Hikone Castle, Lake Biwa, and Chikubu Island.

These three can definitely be seen altogether (on a clear day anyway), so it makes sense to put them together. I’ll give a little background on each before posting a few pictures.

Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. It too is featured in the “Eight Views of Oumi” which I talked a tiny bit about when I introduced Tsukimi and Shiga’s 6th postcard. Chikubu Island is on Lake Biwa, and is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty and Historic Site. There are both a shrine (Chikubushima Jinja) and a temple (Hougon-ji) on the island. Hougon-ji is a really interesting place and definitely worth reading up on. Finally, Hikone Castle is one of only 12 left in Japan with the original keep, and one of only four listed as a national treasure.

I visited Hikone Castle and Lake Biwa during Golden Week a few years ago, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see Chikubu Island from the castle. Here are a few pictures nevertheless:

Hikone Castle from the back side

Looking out onto Lake Biwa. On a clear day we could’ve seen Chikubu Island.

The Castle has some nice garden areas around it not shown in the postcard, but which were very nice.

If you’ve in Shiga during the end of October/beginning of November, there’s a festival at and around the castle that looks really neat! The main event is November 3rd and you can read about it here. If you go, say “hi” to Hikonyan for me!

2015.01.20: NHK’s Fudoki program, which are short 5 minute videos on various Japan-related topics, has two videos uploaded, one about Hikone Castle’s Architecture (a short 5 minute video), and the other on Lake Biwa. There’s another NHK Program, BEGIN’s Japanology series, which has a much longer video on Lake Biwa here as well.

Hydrangea Flowers (Kanagawa 6 – Hakone Mountain Railway (箱根登山電車))

This post is going to be a little different from the others I’ve posted so far. Instead of talking about this postcard as a whole, I want to focus on a smaller element of it. But since I’ve never introduced the card before, I’ll give some background about it:

Kanagawa’s 6th postcard features the Hakone Mountain Railway (Hakone Tozan Densha), which travels from Odawara to Hakone-Yumoto, where it switches to a small mountain train, then continues on to Gora, which gives access to the Lake Ashi Cablecar.

Although the train is popular in general and runs year-round, the most famous time to ride it is during June and July, when thousands of Hydrangea (ajisai in Japanese) bloom along the tracks. These rainy season flowers are lit up during the night, and special night trains are added to the schedule during this time. You can read more about the train here.

A poster detailing the train times and ticket information in Shinjuku Station

Right now is the perfect season to ride this train and see these beautiful flowers. Although I’ve never ridden that train, I have ridden Enoshima’s Enoden (the subject of Kanagawa’s 2nd postcard in fact!) and the hydrangea along that line are beautiful as well.

So let’s talk about these flowers. Hydrangea range in color from the lightest pinks, blues, and purples, to the darkest of these colors, depending on acidity of the soil. Because of their bold colors, they are very striking! They are also one of my favorite seasonal flowers, and are currently in full and spectacular bloom here in Japan.

I could have sworn that postacollect featured these flowers on a number of postcards, but as I looked through, I only saw the one. Kanagawa is certainly famous enough for them; the temple of Meigetsu-in in Kamakura is one of the most famous places to see hydrangea in Japan, along with the Hakone Mountain Railroad. I hope next year’s set of cards has a few that feature hydrangea too!

Along with the Hakone Mountain Railroad and Kamakura’s Meigetsu-in, there are numerous other places in Japan to see these flowers, especially around Tokyo. Here are just a few of them:

Ohirasan, Tochigi City, Tochigi
Hasedera, Kamakura, Kanagawa
Mimurotoji, Uji, Kyoto

Let’s enjoy these beautiful flowers now!