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 Dharma Doll Market, February 11, 2018 (白河だるま市 と 歴史探訪2 2018年2月11日)

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Today was February 11, 2018, Shirakawa Dharma Dolls Market Day! People crowded at the venue to buy this year’s new Dharma dolls. The venue was along the main street close to JR Shirakawa Station. The street was part of an old highway “Oshukaido” from Edo Period about 400 years ago. The market as you see in the photo above started about 100 years ago in Meiji Period. In recent years, the market has been held on February 11th (National Foundation Day) of every year.

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A god of the market called “Ichigamisama” was enshrined at a shrine in the center of the market as shown above. Shirakawa City’s local manga character “Komine shiro” on the upper left was also cheering up the market.

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Another similar sales stand is shown above. There were about 30 of these shops as well as many other food stands.

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These are the Dharma dolls I purchased today. The left one is from Watanabe Dharma Workshop, and the right one is from Sagawa Dharma Workshop. These are the two main workshops in the city today. The design is different but the common feature is that both include crane, turtle, pine tree, bamboo, and ume blossoms as symbols of good luck and longevity.

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I stopped at some of the historic heritage in the city. One was Kansenji Temple as shown above, located a few minute walk from the marketplace. A description in Japanese was at the site, as shown in the middle picture above. The temple was first built in 1336 by a Shirakawa lord Yuki Munehiro at the time. His statue was placed in the precinct as shown above. The Yuki family controlled the Shirakawa area for about 400 years between 12th and 16th century.

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Next, I stopped at Shohoji Temple as shown above. The temple was first built around the middle of 14th century by Yuki Chikatomo who was a son of Munehiro, for the memorial of his father.

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In the afternoon, I visited Mahoron as shown above, which was a Fukushima Prefecture Cultural Assets Center. This was located just south of Shirakawa city center, where ancient Paleolithic remains, Ichiridan A site, were excavated.

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Some of the ancient stone tools unearthed from Ichiridan A site were displayed as shown above.

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Within the area of the facility, an old house from Nara Period, some 1300 years ago, was restored as shown above.

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A set of restored harnesses found at Zaruuchi Tumuli site from 7th century, are also displayed in the facility as shown 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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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)
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