Lord Masamune chose Mount Aoba for the location of his castle when he built it in 1600. Masumune is often depicted with his famous helmet featuring a moon crescent. Unfortunately the castle was destroyed by bombing during the war but the main wall was reconstructed and the site offers a great view of the city of Sendai. The Gokoku Shrine, which is affiliated to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, is also located on site.
Kawagoe is known as little Edo since its old historical buildings are reminiscent of old Tokyo at the time it was named Edo. It was once a strategic location for trade with Tokyo. Kawagoe makes a perfect day trip from Tokyo and will please those who like to walk in a charming neighbourhood and sample local delicacies sold at the many food stalls and gift shops.
The Honmaru Residence is the only remaining structure of what was once the Kawagoe Castle. It used to serve as the lords residence and office. The building is now a museum that features a garden and several historical artefacts.
The god enshrined at the Fukurokujujin temple is known to bring happiness and prosperity. The temple features a “hidden” garden that is particularly beautiful in autumn.
The god of success, good fortune, business and mariage is enshrined at the Kumano shrine in Kawagoe. Visitors to Kumano can purify themselves by washing their coins in a special fountain. The most peculiar feature is perhaps the small passage leading to the shrine whose sides are covered by round stones. Those who venture on this path barefoot are in for a good massage!
The Tamagawa Sengen Shrine is located on a small hill close to Tamagawa station. The shrine features a large observation deck overlooking the Tamagawa river so it a great place to have an overview of the region. One of the shrine’s altar has a large stone sphere that reminded me of the Dragon Ball manga, something I have seen only at the Tamagawa shrine.
The Kawasaki Daishi temple, also officially known as the Heikenji temple, is the most important temple of the city of Kawasaki. The street leading to the temple features many gift stores. Red darumas are among the favourite gifts. This street is also famous for its candies: to add to the festive atmosphere, candy makers cut the candies loudly with large knives in rythm with traditional Japanese music. We visited the temple in July during the wind chime festival when many chime manufacturers exhibit their art at the temple. It is also a great occasion to taste delicious Japanese street food at the many Yatai.
The village of Shukunegi was developped in the late 17th century and thrived from the shipbuilding industry. The skilled workmen used their skills to build their houses, sometimes in unusual ways. Many of these houses are preserved in Shukunegi. The village is made of narrow stone paths leading to beautiful historical houses. Visitors may also visit Shokoji temple wich is located behind the village.
The Uga Shrine is located on an island in the middle of Lake Nojiri. The only way to access it is by a taking a cruise boat from Nojiri city. The cruise does a brief tour of the lake before stopping on the Island. You can spend as much time as you like visiting the shrine since you can hop on subsequent cruises as well for the return trip.
The Ikushimatarushima Shrine dates from the 9th century. The main prayer hall is built on a small island in the middle of a pond and most of the structures are of the classic vermillion red which is used to decorate shrines throughout Japan. The shrine structures, water elements, and vegetation blend beautifully.