The last cherry blossoms in Fukushima, April 29, 2018 (会津五桜の最終:猪苗代の大鹿桜 2018年4月29日)

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(Oshika-zakura, Inawashiro, April 29, 2018. 大鹿桜 猪苗代 4/29/2018)
This morning I visited the last one of five traditional cherry trees in Aizu or Aizugozakura. It was called Oshika-zakura located in front of old Iwahashi Shrine established in the year 270 in Inawashiro. The location was about 1-hour walk from JR Inawashiro Station on the foot of Mt. Bandai and the tree looked as shown above. This cherry tree is said to bloom last in cherry blossoms season in Fukushima.

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A brief description board stood at the site as shown above. It said that the root of the tree dated back to the year between 947 and 957, which meant more than 1000 years ago. It was first brought from Kyoto.

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(Oshika-zakura, Inawashiro, April 29, 2018. 大鹿桜 猪苗代 4/29/2018)
The blossoms were double-petaled as shown in the close-up view shown above. It seems to be a rare variety.

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On the way back to Inawashiro Station, I first stopped at Hanitsu Shrine, a historic site where the first lord of Aizu Hoshina Masayuki was enshrined. It was about 10-minute walk from Oshika-zakura. There stood a memorial of the lord with his career and achievements inscribed and a large turtle placed in the bottom as shown above.

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A board at the site shown above described the history and dimension of the stone memorial. It said the largest of its kind in Japan.

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There was a bilingual description board about the shrine as shown above which said the shrine was built in 1675. The shrine was designated as a national important cultural asset.

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Photo above shows the main building of the shrine. The original one was burnt down at the time of Boshin Civil War and the current one was rebuilt in 1880.

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My next stop on the way back was at Kamegajo Castle Site. A description panel at the site shown above said the castle was built in 1191 and was destroyed at Boshin Civil War in 1868.

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No castle building remained today on Honmaru ground which was the center of the site, but it was a nice viewing spot of Mt. Bandai as shown in the picture above.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
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Shirakawa history tour, February 3, 2018 (白河歴史探訪 2018年2月3日)

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Shirakawa which is located in the central southern part of Fukushima had been an important strategic site back to an ancient Kofun or Tumulus period. Today most of the relics are gone, but some of them have been found or excavated and preserved in history museums. Only few of them have been restored like the one in a photo above. This is Kominejo Castle originally built in the middle of 14th century by Yuki Chikatomo, Shirakawa lord of the time. The robust stone walls you can see in front were added by the 1st Shirakawa Domain lord Niwa Nagashige in early Edo Period.

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Some of the artifacts found from ancient tumuli between 3rd and 7th century were preserved in Shirakawa history and folk culture hall shown above.

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Photo above shows beautiful cut crystal ornaments found from 6th century Shimousazuka Kofun (tumulus).

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All these artifacts shown above were found from 5th century Mimori site.

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Some of the artifacts from between 8th and 10th century, or Nara and Heian Period, were also exhibited. Photo above shows those items found at former temples’ site Kariyado

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Photo above shows similar artifacts found in the adjacent old administration site Sekiwagu.

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After Heian Period ended and the following Kamakura Period started in 1192, which was samurai period, Shirakawa Yuki samurai family controlled Shirakawa area for about 400 years. A number of old documents related to the family were preserved in Shukoen Museum shown above. The oldest one was written in 1264. This set of documents called “Shirakawa Yuki family Monjo or documents” was designated as a National important cultural asset.

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One of them that shows a long family tree of Shirakawa Yuki family is shown above. Yuki Sukehiro as pointed above was a founder of the family. Big names such as Yuki Munehiro, and Yuki Chikatomo follow.

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Yuki Munehiro (1266-1339) was a powerful lord at the time and battled across Japan. Photo above was a letter written by himself in 1324 to his son Chikatomo.

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Phot above was a written order by Emperor Godaigo to Yuki Chikatomo issued in 1333. The color of the paper is dark due to recycling paper.

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Kashima Shrine as shown above has been a major shrine in this region since it was built in 14th century. This was a guardian deity of Shirakawa Yuki family.

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The shrine stood right next to the Abukuma River. As I walked across the Kashima Bridge over the Abukuma River, I found a small group of swans (about a dozen) gathered around a small island in the river as shown above. It was nice to view.

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The photo shows a bronze eleven-faced standing Kannon statue made in 15th century. It was believed that the cost of making such a precious statue was funded by the powerful Shirakawa Yuki family at the time.

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Entering Edo Period, Shirakawa Domain was controlled by 21 lords between 1627 and 1867. One of the lords, Matsudaira Sadanobu was outstanding. Hirose Mosai was the 2nd professor for a samurai school Rikkyokan established by the lord. He documented regional history and culture in Shirakawa Fudoki in 1805, as shown above.

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Detailed map of Shirakawa castle town at the time of the lord, as shown above, was also made in 1808.

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During the last year of Edo Period, which was 1868, there was a series of fierce civil war occurred across Japan. Boshin Civil War started from Kyoto on January of 1868. The battle moved gradually to northeast as shown in the picture above and finally reached Fukushima on May.

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The 1st battle in Fukushima was fought at Shirakawa on the 1st of May and gradually expanded across the prefecture as shown in the picture above. It ended on 22nd of September at Aizuwakamatsu and the new government forces won.

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A picture above shows how the new government forces moved toward Kominejo Castle strategically, using three routes on the 1st of May. This battle was called Shirakawaguchi Battle and over 1,000 soldiers died including both sides.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
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Nihonmatsu Chrysanthemum figure festival, Nov. 7, 2017. (二本松の菊人形祭り 2017年11月7日)

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Photo above was a gorgeous scene at Nihonmatsu chrysanthemum figure festival as of today.

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Another scene is shown above. This year’s theme was Edo Period which was governed by Tokugawa Shogunate over the period of nearly 300 years. The central figure in the scene above was Tokugawa Ieyasu who established Tokugawa Shogunate in1603.

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The festival is being held at Kasumigajo Castle Park venue. Japanese Garden in the venue with autumn maple leaves was amazingly beautiful as shown above.

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History of the garden was explained as shown above in three languages.

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Kikumatsu-kun, shown above, was a chrysanthemum festival character.

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Finally, the whole Kasumigajo venue was covered with autumun colors as shown above.

The venue is located 20-minute uphill walk from JR Nihonmatsu Station. There is also a shuttle bus service during the festival season between the station and the venue.
The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
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A man who loves Fukushima (福島大好きおじさん)

Author:A man who loves Fukushima (福島大好きおじさん)
Local guide for Fukushima (English)(福島特例通訳案内士(英語))
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