Mid-winter scenery in Fukushima City: Robai blossoms and swans, January 22, 2020. (福島市の冬の風物: 花見山のロウバイ、岡部の白鳥、2020年1月22日。)

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(Swan habitat, Okabe, Fukushima, January 22, 2020. 白鳥飛来地 岡部 福島 1/22/2020)
I visited Fukushima City today and enjoyed typical mid-winter local scenery. Photo above was swan habitat along the Abukuma River at Okabe. I found nearly 100 swans in total at the site. There are many swan habitats along the river in winter season across Fukushima Prefecture from Shirakawa in the south to Date in the north. As far as I know, this one is the largest along the river.
嬉しいな あの声・すがた 渡り鳥

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(Robai blossoms, Hanamiyama, Fukushima, January 22, 2020. ロウバイ 花見山 福島 1/22/2020)
I also visited Hanamiyama Park in the city and found Robai or wintersweet blossoms as shown above. This is a rare flowering tree in mid-winter which came from China.

There stood a stone monument just next to the Robai trees near the trailhead, inscribed with a poem which said “Robai blossoms bloom after a storm from Azuma Mountains is gone”.

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I also found sasanqua camellia blossoms as shown above which was another popular flowering tree in winter.

Both sites are located about 20-minute local bus ride from JR Fukushima Station as you can see in the map below.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.

Autumn leaves at Suirakuen Garden at Nanko Park, Shirakawa, Nov. 7, 2019. (翠楽苑(白河 南湖)の紅葉、南湖に白鳥も 2019年11月7日。)

(Suirakuen Garden, Nanko, Shirakawa, November 7, 2019. 翠楽苑 南湖 白河 11/7/2019)Today I visited Suirakuen Garden, a Japanese-style garden at Nanko Park, Shirakawa. It was located 8-minute JR-bus ride from JR Shinshirakawa Station plus 15-minute walk from the bus stop. Although 500-yen admission ticket is required usually, I had a free ticket today. Picture above shows autumn leaves view there. The garden trees get colors a little earlier than that of the adjacent Lake Nanko area. Some of the leaves already started to fall. A small part of the passage was closed maybe due to damage caused by recent typhoon and heavy rainfall. A waterfall in the garden was without water. Still, the autumn leaves today were great. Some other views are shown below.

(Suirakuen Garden, Nanko, Shirakawa, November 7, 2019. 翠楽苑 南湖 白河 11/7/2019)
A glowing maple tree matched the surrounding garden landscape as shown above.

(Suirakuen Garden, Nanko, Shirakawa, November 7, 2019. 翠楽苑 南湖 白河 11/7/2019)
Contrast of red and yellow colors looked more beautiful under the blue sky.

Colored blanches hung over a garden pond.

There was a special weeping maple tree with thin leaves protected by a fence.

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There was a small isolated island in the middle of adjacent Lake Nanko, as shown above, which was called Mikage Island. Amazingly I found many swans flocked on the island. The number was nearly 30, some of them were flying or sitting on trees. This was the first time that I found swans at Lake Nanko.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.

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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