Following Basho’s track in Shirakawa, May 19, 2017 (芭蕉 の 白河 路を追って 2017年5月19日)

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A series of fine weather was expected from today, so I decided to go on a bike journey following Basho’s track in Fukushima. Matsuo Basho was a highly honored haiku poet in late 1600’s. He traveled across Fukushima, mainly along old Oshu Highway from south to north in 1689. Photo above was Manganji Temple on the summit of Mount Sekiyama (618m) as of today, where he climbed and visited on his second day in Fukushima. The temple was established in 730 by a Buddhist priest Gyoki.

Starting from the beginning, Basho entered into Fukushima from Tochigi Pref. in the south. On the border between Tochigi and Fukushima there were two shrines, both of them called Sakainomyojin, as shown in the pictures below. God and Goddess who guarded traffic safety on the border pass were enshrined.

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Sakainomyojin Shrine in the Tochigi side is shown above.

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There was a border sign board between the two shrines as shown above.

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And Sakainomyojin Shirne in the Fukushima side is shown above. This was the very first place he visited in Fukushima. Meanwhile, I packed my bike and took a JR Tohoku Line and got off at Shirasaka Station which was the nearest to the border and started pedaling to the shrine.

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Then he traveled westward to visit Shirakawanoseki Site as shown above. This was an ancient barrier site which was established in 800’s. The name had been used in a number of Tanka and Haiku poems.

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Basho then moved northward to visit Manganji Temple on top of Mount Sekiyama. On the way, he stopped at legendary Shojimodoshi cherry trees as shown above.

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He finally arrived at the foot of Mount Sekiyama. The mountain looked like above from the southern side today. Basho started to climb from the south (Naimatsu trail). On top of the mountain beside the Manganji Temple, he found a large bronze bell. This was donated by Shirakawa lord Honda Tadahira in 1664, and was designated a national art treasure.

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From top of the mountain a vast area could be overlooked as shown above.

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Basho descended along the northern trail and then walked toward the castle town of Shirakawa. On the way, he stopped at another historic place called Sogimodoshi Site as shown above. Then he finally arrived at Nakamachi and visited his friend.

I stayed at a hotel at Nakamachi tonight. The story will continue tomorrow.

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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You can play back the route and altitude on the map below.

Cherry blossoms at Kominejo Castle and Nanko Park, Shirakawa, April 20, 2017 (小峰城 と 南湖公園 の桜 2017年4月20日)

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(Kominejo Castle, Shirakawa, cherry blossoms, Komineshiro, April 20, 2017, 小峰城 白河 桜 小峰シロ 2017/4/20)
Today I walked around the central part of Shirakawa City viewing cherry blossoms which have survived from heavy gust of wind last night. Photo above was a view of Kominejo Castle surrounded by many cherry blossoms taken from JR Shirakawa Station platform. The castle was right next to the station in the north. I added an official character of Kominejo Castle, Komineshiro, on the picture.

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(Rakuo, Nanko Park, Shirakawa, cherry blossoms, April 20, 2017, 樂翁桜 南湖公園 白河 桜 2017/4/20)
Then I walked toward Nanko Park which was an oldest park in Japan completed in 1801. Shirakawa feudal domain lord Matsudaira Sadanobu built the park and he also planted a weeping cherry tree at the same time, which was called Rakuo cherry tree as shown above. It is located in the precinct of Nanko Shrine where the lord was enshrined. The tree is more than 200 years old.

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(Nanko Park, Shirakawa, cherry blossoms, April 20, 2017, 南湖公園 白河 桜 2017/4/20)
Many other cherry trees were planted around Lake Nanko and some of the views today are shown above. Still snow-capped mountains in the pictures above are Nasu Mountains located in the west.

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Finally I returned to the city center and had Shirakawa Ramen at lunch, which was a local specialty food. An excellent Shirakawa Ramen restaurant Kakoi is located within Rakura Square close to the station 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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Early spring walking tour in Shirakawa, Mar. 29, 2017 (白河 の街歩き 2017年3月29日)

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I visited Shirakawa City today. I got off at JR Shirakawa Sta. and looked at Kominejo Castle which stands right in the north. There was a garden of ume trees between the station and the castle, which made this view shown above. Some of the ume trees were in full bloom.

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Then I walked along an old highway which was part of the old castle town and which led me to Nanko Park. This was an old park which was completed in 1801 by Shrakawa domain lord Matsudaira Sadanobu. The park was later designated as a National Scenic Site. Today, I could view early spring quiet Lake Nanko with snow-capped Nasu Mountains in the background as shown above.

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Next, on the way back to the city center, I stopped at Inariyama Park. This is a place where severe battle occurred during Boshin Civil War in 1868. Hundreds of soldiers in Tohoku and Niigata region died in a battle against new Meiji Government forces. There was a memorial monument as show above.

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Further on the way back, close to the city center at Nibancho district, I found an old house built in early Meiji Period which is more than 100 years ago. The house is being preserved by the city as a historic building. You can see seasonal ume blossoms in the old garden. The building is still being used today as a special restaurant.

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At last I came back to the central part of the city, where I found a western style church building as shown above. This was built in 1915, which was more than 100 years ago. The building is preserved as a Prefectural Important Cultural Asset and yet being used for regular Mass on weekends.

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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Welcome! 福が満開、福のしま。
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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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