Japan – Ishiyama-Dera

Today I had plans only for the morning as I was going to be helping someone move to Osaka in the evening.  So with Ishiyama right on my doorstep it made sense to head over and explore the place where The Tale Of Genji was written!

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I took the JR line to Ishiyama, which was only a few minutes on the JR rapid service.  As you exit the station there is a statue of some famous guy, the said Bashuo Matsuo, who I think was a poet or something to that effect.  Either way he’s buried in a local temple.  Also the square outside the front of the station used to be part of the ancient highway route from Kyoto to Tokyo.

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I was headed for Ishiyama-dera about 2km south of the station, I could have used the private line from the JR station to get there withing minutes, but in Japan I have found it normally more fun to walk and see what you find on the way.

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I passed through some small shopping streets and fun signs, my favorite of which is the above one.  I ended up heading for the river so I could walk alongside it, over the river was a golden bridge which looked nice, apart from the traffic on it.

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Following the river was a really great walk, I passed lots of people fishing, some small boats, people canoeing and a few nice trees.  The scenery around Shiga is really the best ever! It’s so clam and relaxing all of the time.

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The river walk only took about 15 minutes at a leisurely pace, I picked up a ice cream from a vending machine (as you do), when I rejoined the streets I was slightly surprised to see a pedestal of shallow water which housed a lot of goldfish! It was a bit surreal but the fish were friendly and there was even a bit of food so I could feed them.

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The fish seemed happy enough so I left to doing their own thing while I decided to hike up a trail through the woods I’d spotted.  The hike was in a woodland forest area and I thought it might lead to some high ground with a good view of Shiga, I ended up following the windy dirt trail up a very steep hill though tall trees.  There wasn’t single person around, just the sound of the forest.  About 30 minutes later I reached the top, only to find a small grass clearing in the woods with a single bench, there was a slight gap in the trees where you could make out the river, but that was about it.

IMAG4399.jpgWith no other routes leading off, it was back down the way I came and onward to Ishiyama-dera.

IMAG4406.jpgThe main gate to Ishiyama-dera was smaller than most other places I’d seen, however it was supported by two large statues and some crossed Japanese flags which were waving in the wind.  The other unique thing is that this temple had lots of stickers of writing on the gate, not sure what they said though.

IMAG4416.jpgI passed through the temple gate paying my 500 yen entry fee, I cleansed my hands in the water with the bamboo paddle, passed a pond with some really friendly and rather huge koi carp, then headed up the steps.

IMAG4418.jpgAt the top of the steps lie the main courtyard of the temple, this had lots of smaller buildings with various gold statues and figures in.  The trees had started to bloom but weren’t yet in full swing, and there were some coloured flag strips waving in the wind that gave me the feeling I was more in somewhere like Bhutan.

IMAG4426.jpgInside the main building lie a massive red lantern surrounded by the large wooden temple beams.  There was a collection of national treasures inside, but no pictures were allowed.

IMAG4441.jpgMoving further up into the temple grounds I found a statue of the writer of The Tale Of Genji (which by the way I still need to read!).  At the back there was also a temple building on large supports, similar style to Kiyomizu-dera but on a much smaller scale.

IMAG4442.jpgNext to this I managed to get up close to some Sakura in full bloom!! The Sakura looked so beautiful and stunning in the sunlight!

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However as beautiful as the Sakura were, the temple had a far more impressive treat for me to see.  I walked around the back of the temple area and spotted a small animal sniffing around in the grass, it noticed me and hopped back to the edge of the grass and just sat looking at me.  I approached it slowly to try and get a better look (and a photo), sadly my phone camera didn’t get a picture as close as I would have liked though.

IMAG4440.jpgThe animal kept switching from looking at me to looking at the grass, it was a strange looking creature and it moved quite quick as it jumped about.  I just stood and watched it until it eventually ran under the temple to a place I couldn’t see.  I now know this was a Tanuki! A sort of racoon dog!  Many shops have a model of one outside as they are a sign of fortune I believe, but as the Tanuki is also believed to have shape changing ability they look a little different.

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Making my way back through the temple I passed by more trees with colourful flowers on, got a view out over Ishiyama (or part of it at least), then headed back home ready to help one of the guys move to Osaka.

The guy who was leaving was the guy who had helped me settle in when I first arrived, he had just got back from a week back in the UK and was now moving to start a new job in Osaka.  It was a shame to see him go as he was a pretty cool guy and we had good times in the house playing on the PS4 to.

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We left off in the evening carrying 2 suitcases each, thankfully we avoided rush hour on the trains.  The Rapid from Otsu took just under 1 hour, then another 30 mins on the loop line.  We found the area without any issues, but it then took 1 hour of walking around the city block to find the address! Addresses in this area are not in any order!

Eventually with the help from some passers by and friendly neighbours we managed to find the address, it was a pretty cool apartment and made me wish I could get one in Japan.

With him settled in I headed back to Otsu before I missed the last train, though I did managed to grab some Osaka takoyaki before jumping on the train home.

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