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 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)

Ryumon China workshop and Sakudari Kannondo in Aizumisato Town, Nov. 22, 2015 (会津美里町 の 流紋焼 と 左下り観音堂 2015年11月22日)

Following yesterday, I stayed in Aizumisato Town today and visited Ryumon China workshop and Sakudari Kannondo. Ryumon China is one of the traditional Aizuhongo Pottery group and has its unique beautiful surface pattern and color. Sakudari Kannondo stands on a slope of a rocky cliff creating an astonishing 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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Picture above is a view of the Ryumon China workshop. This is one of the 14 pottery and china workshops in Aizuhongo district of the town. Aizuhongo pottery started more than 400 years ago. Today I visited here together with some of the members of Omotenashi Guide Fukushima as a group study tour. A workshop staff explained us in details about the process.

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Ryumon China workshop is dedicated to producing hard china products. Producing china needs special pottery stone which is a rare kind. Okubo pottery stone shown above which is mined from nearby mountain is the only kind available in eastern Japan.

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Ryumon China has its unique pattern on the surface. Pictures above show some of the products. You can see some liquid dropping or flowing pattern on the side. Also they have artistic beautiful colors such as ultramarine.

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Then I visited Sakudari Kannondo located in the southern part of the Aizuhongo district. This building was built in 830 by a famous Buddhist priest Tokuitsu. It stands on a slope of a rocky cliff as shown above. The landscape on which it stands makes the structure very astonishing.

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An entrance of a passage to the building is located along local route 23 as shown above. Some of the explanation boards are also shown above. It takes about 10-minute walk from the entrance to the Kannondo building.

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Last night and tonight, during some visits in Aizumisato Town I stayed at Kamonya Inn as shown above. It is located just adjacent to Nakata Kannon or Koanji Temple I visited yesterday as you can see a gate of the temple in the picture. It was just a normal inn with reasonable charge except it offered a very good home-cooked and healthy meal! I think it is a good choice when you visit around this area.

Nakata Kannon in Aizumisato Town, Nov. 21, 2015 (会津美里町 の 中田観音 2015年11月21日)

I visited Nakata Kannondo Hall in Aizumisato Town today. This is a kannondo which world famous bacteriologist Dr. Noguchi and his mother relied upon in their lifetime. (Now, kannondo is a building which houses a statue of Kannon: the Goddess of mercy.) The location is several minute walk from JR Negishi Station of Tadami Line.

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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Pictures above are the explanation and front view of Nakata Kannondo. Inside the building, an old Kannon statue from 13th century stands. But the current Kannondo building itself is not so outstanding.

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It is not allowed to take picture of the Kannon. But a picture above from a poster slightly shows an image of the Kannon, although it has some noise in the left. The kannon has eleven faces, 187cm tall, and is made from copper and gold. It was created in 1274 and once was designated as a National Treasure. Now it is a National Important Cultural Property.

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In the precinct of the same Koanji Temple, there is an old miniature shrine called "zushi" shown above. This zushi was made at the same time as Nakata Kannon and was also designated as a National Important Cultural Property.
同じ 弘安寺 の境内に、観音像と同時に造られた、厨子 があります。これも、国の重文です。

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A lady in the Kannondo told me that the curved shape of its roof (picture above) is a rare kind of structure in those days and is extremely valuable.
この 厨子 は、写真の屋根のカーブの形が、当時としては、珍しく、画期的とのことです。(親切な係の方に、教えて頂きました。)
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