Toranoo Cherry Tree in Aizumisato, April 21, 2018. (会津五桜:会津美里の虎の尾桜 2018年4月21日)

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Today, I visited 3rd one of five Aizu traditional cherry tree series. Toranoo Cherry Tree, as shown above, stood right next to Suzumebayashi Kannon Hall of Hoyoji Temple in northern Aizumisato. The tree was in full bloom with whitish blossoms. The Kannon Hall was a traditional one founded in 720 which was one of Aizu 33 Kannon’s designated as a Japan Heritage. (More information in my blog of 2017)

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A brief description about the cherry tree was found at the site as shown above. It said that the name “Toranoo” which meant “tiger tail” in Japanese came from its distinctive feature of the flower as explained below.

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In the close-up view of the flower above, you can find one of the stamens transformed to something looks like a tiger tail. This was a rare variety.

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In the same precinct of Hoyoji Temple I could find a 3-story pagoda as shown above.

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A description on site as shown above said that the pagoda structure dates back to 1780.

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This morning, I took JR trains from Koriyama to get to the nearest station. I got off at Negishi Station of JR Tadami Line and started to walk toward Hoyoji Temple. It was a pleasant walk through spring countryside along old highway called Aizu-Mahoroba Highway as shown above.

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On the way, I first stopped at Nakata Kannon or Koanji Temple as shown above just 10-minute walk from Negishi Station. The kannon was also one of Aizu 33 Kannon’s designated as Japan Heritage.

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Photo above was goshuin red seal of Nakata Kannon which I received this morning.

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Then I continued to walk until I found a large and old cherry tree in the middle of paddy field of Yonezawa hamlet. The tree was called Yonezawa Chitose-zakura as shown above.

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A description on site shown above said that the tree was 700 years old and the blossoms had been a sign of starting rice farming of the season from old days. Actually, local farmers were fertilizing the field today in preparation for starting rice planting.

After I left today’s last stop at Hoyoji Temple I walked to Aizutakada Station and took JR Tadami Line train back to my home. The total walking distance was 9km.

Lastly, I want to introduce the 4th of Aizugozakura, five traditional cherry trees in Aizu. This is called Ishibe-zakura in Aizuwakamatsu as shown in my blog of 2016. The tree blooms earliest among the five Aizugozakura’s. Meanwhile, the last blossoms among the Aizugozakura’s will be from Oshika-zakura in Inawashiro and the forecast of this season’s blossoms is at the end of this month. I will show you then.

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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Cherry blossoms in the neighborhood of JR Aizutakada Station, April 17, 2018 (会津美里の桜(JR会津高田駅周辺で) 2018年4月17日)

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(Umanohaka-no-tanemakizakura, Aizumisato, April 17, 2018. 馬の墓の種蒔桜 会津美里 4/17/2018)
Although most cherry blossoms ended in central and coastal region in Fukushima today, Aizu region still has a lot more. Today I visited neighborhood of JR Aizutakada Station in Aizumisato Town and found some large and old cherry trees in full bloom as well as hundreds of cherry trees blooming altogether along the Miyakawa River. Photo above shows a gigantic old tree standing alone in a large farmland with nothing to disrupt the view. It was called Umanohaka-no-tanemakizakura or a cherry tree standing near tombs which tells when to start farming this spring.

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Photo above was a brief description board at the site which said the tree was 400 years old and the blossoms had told farmers each year it’s time to start farming.

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(Furuonta Cherry Tree, Aizumisato, April 17, 2018. 古御田の桜 会津美里 4/17/2018)Photo above shows another large tree called Furuonta Cherry Tree also standing on a spacious ground.

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A brief description placed at the site (photo above) said that this traditional land was given to Isasumi Shrine by General Toyotomi Hideyoshi in late 16th century.

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(Monjuin-chiezakura, Aizumisato, April 17, 2018.文殊院知恵桜 会津美里 4/17/2018)
Next, with a few minute walk I arrived at Monjuin Hall. A large cherry tree was there right next to the hall as shown above. The pinkish blossoms showed beautiful contrast with the traditional structure. The tree was called Monjuin-chiezakura.

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Photo above showed a brief history of the hall, which said that the main image Manjushri Bodhisattva had suffered fire two times.

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(Usuzumi Cherry Tree, Aizumisato, April 17, 2018. 薄墨桜 会津美里 4/17/2018)
Then I moved to Isasumi Shrine right next to the hall. There was a famous sacred Usuzumi Cherry Tree in the center of the precinct as shown above. The tree just started to bloom and the blossoms increased rapidly during the day. Pictures above show the view of my second visit in the afternoon. It grew to 30% bloom. I like to come back again two days later to see full blossoms.

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There was Ayame-en Garden across a road from the shrine. Many cherry trees were in full bloom in the garden as shown above.

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(Kamiyo-zakura, Aizumisato, April 17, 2018. 神代桜 会津美里 4/17/2018)
There was another old sacred cherry tree called Kamiyo-zakura just adjacent to the garden as shown above. The tree was 300 years old.

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(Miyakawa-senbonzakura, Aizumisato, April 17, 2018. 宮川千本桜 会津美里 4/17/2018)
Lastly, I walked along the Miyakawa River bank just adjacent to the shrine. Hundreds of cherry trees were planted along the river bank by local people. This was called Miyakawa Thousand Cherry Trees as shown above. It was not a perfect view today with light cloud hovering over far mountains but I hope you can have an image when the sky was cloudless with a clear mountain view.

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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Tracing Isabella Bird's tracks in Fukushima (Day 3), July 22, 2016 (イザベラ・バードの福島の足跡を追って(3日目) 2016年7月22日)

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The third day started from Ouchijuku and I headed to Aizubange Town, mostly passing through broad area of Aizumisato Town. In her book 'Unbeaten Tracks in Japan', she referred to 'magnificent pass of Ichikawa'. I believe this is today's Ichino Pass in Asahi-Ichihawa district of Aizumisato Town. Photo above shows a description board at Ichino Pass which says this was a track that Isabella Bird traveled. (The board says the height of the pass is 870m, but my GPS measured 880m.)

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After I left Ouchi-juku, I followed the old Nikko Kaido (=Highway) for a while as shown above. This should have been a way Isabella traveled, but this road today had a dead end. So I switched to a paved road instead.

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Soon after, I came to Ouchi Dam Lake as shown above. When Isabella traveled here, there was no such big lake. As she wrote '---passing the pretty little lake of Oyake---', there was actually only small Ouchi Pond. This was expanded to Ouchi Dam Lake afterward. Ouchi Dam is now being used as an upper reservoir for Shimogo Pumped-storage Hydroelectric Power Plant.

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From Ouchi Dam Lake at the height of 800m above sea level, I could see a magnificent view of mountainside on the other direction as shown above. You can overlook Ouchi-juku village on the small basin near the center. I imagine that this may be a similar view that Isabella experienced 138 years ago.

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Near the end of Ouchi Dam Lake, I came to a branch to a mountain road which Isabella Bird traveled. And there was even a sign pillar of her name as shown above.

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There were similar sign pillars with her name in other places as shown above. This mountain road passing Ichino Pass was really a hard one for both ascent and descent.

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Descending from Ichino Pass, I pedaled through a large plain of rice field as shown above and finally came to a town of Aizutakada. This is the center of Aizumisato Town. Isabella wrote, 'An avenue of crypromeria and two handsome and somewhat gilded Buddhist temples denoted the approach to a place of some importance, and such Takata is ---'. I am not sure which temples she meant, but I visited two temples along the way at Aizumisato Town as below.

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The first temple was Fukushoji Temple. The Tomioka Kannondo Hall as shown above is a historic heritage and it is designated as a National Important Tangible Curtural Asset. It is also the 26th of 33 Aizu Kannons for Fudasho tour, which were designated as Japan Heritage.

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The second temple was Ryukoji Temple. Ukimi Kannon of this temple is also one of Aizu 33 Kannons for Fudasho tour, although it is an extra one.

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Lotus flowers were blooming at lotus garden of Ryukoji Temple as shown above. The bloom was in the latter half of the whole stage.

Tonight, I stayed at an inn in Aizubange Town. Isabella also stayed a night at Bange due to fatigue.

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. (Up: 5.4%, gained elevation: 330m, Distance: 36.5km)
下の地図で、ルート再生や標高を見ることができます。(上り5.4%、獲得標高330m、走行距離 36.5km)
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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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