Visitors here are often surprised about what there is to do here in Otawara.. Its not so well known as many other regions in Japan and maybe you need a car to see many of the hidden gems..
I’ve been here 2 1/2 years and I’m still finding interesting and fun things in the region..
Cherry Blossom has been and almost gone, we have pockets of blossoming trees still around, but largely the trees have begun to show leaves and the full on effect of the blossom has gone.. Although it looks a bit like a snow storm some days with the petals blowing everywhere..
Its essentially a farming area, so right about now everyone is gearing up for the planting of rice. Fields are being ploughed, filled with water, raked and got ready for the warmer weather just around the corner..
Even the rural aspect of the rice crop is interesting, many people have never seen rice grown this way and its interesting to see all the different stages..
Check out the opportunistic crane, waiting for the farmer to finish churning up the soil/water
This weekend I went to a local Festival, Unganji and Daioji Temples and Nasu shrine, as well as a small museum.. All within 20 or so km of here..
The Festival was the Yatai Matsuri, a local festival involving wooden floats called Yatai, which are traditionally small, mobile food stalls in Japan typically selling ramen or other food. The name literally means “shop stand.”
This colourful and noisy two day festival is held around the Kanodoro in Otawara and involves floats from the region. The teams are super friendly and in no time you are having fun and part of the festivities.. Here is more information: Yatai Festival
Unganji is a beautiful Zen temple about 20km out of town. The gardens are stunning and it really is worth a visit. It is so serene and peaceful, the famous haiku poet Basho Matsuo visited here and wrote a haiku poem while on his journey through the interior.
I have written about Unganji in a previous blog
click here : Unganji
From there we went to Daioji, another Zen temple I have visited many times before, this one is just amazing. The temple is in Kurobane on the east side of the Naka River, it is a Soto Zen temple that is more than 600 years old, it was established in 1404. The 7 thatched buildings are designated of cultural property by Tochigi Prefecture. The entire area is full of amazing buildings, statues, gardens and peace.. very Zen.
Also written about in my blog Daioji
Then we headed back to Nasu Shrine and the story of Nasu No Yoichi, who is from this region.
Nasu no Yoichi (c. 1169 – c. 1232) was a samurai who fought alongside the Minamoto clan in the Genpei War.
He is particularly famous for his actions at the Battle of Yashima in 1184. According to the Heike Monogatari, (The tale of the Heike) based on a historical battle between two top clans in 12th century Japan. The enemy Taira placed a fan atop the mast of one of their ships, claiming it protected the ship from arrows, and daring the Minamoto warriors to shoot it off. Sitting on his horse in the waves, his target on top of a rocking boat, he nevertheless shot it down with only one shot.
Of course, thereby winning the battle !
Nasu Yoichi no Sato Road Station also includes a Museum, Nasu Shrine, a local goods market and much more..
Finally we called in at a small museum at Kurashi no yakata.. where a very eclectic assortment of old items are on display, from saddles to shoes and even a set of sandal ice skates (Geta skates) !! (Go figure !!)
Each of these places has so much more than the snippets I have written here, I really havent done any of it justice and I will write more another day, this was just an example of a weekend in Otawara and i didnt even mention the food!
There is so much history in this region , every weekend I find something new, some legend I didn’t know about, or a new onsen or restaurant. Don’t underestimate Tochigi..