August 24, 2007

We woke up early to go on about four of the walking tours that we got from the Tourist Information Center that we combined into one long walk. First thing I want to say is that I love walking in Japan, just walking is an experience in and of itself because you will see so many differences in architecture, land, and people. We started going to a monument that was across Nakatsu-gawa, we had a hard time finding it because it was basically a polished stone with Japanese written on it with no English explanation, but the walk to find it was nice so it was worth it.

From there we headed back over the river towards the remains of Morioka Castle. I say remains because duing the Meiji Restoration it was destroyed, but it is still a nice sight to see because the walls still stand and you can walk through it without a problem. Here is what the English information said outside the site:

THE SITE OF MORIOKA CASTLE, IWATE PARK

Construction of Morioka Castle started in 1597 and it became the residence for Nambu, the lord of the Morioka Clan in 1633.
The castle was built on a hill near the confluence of the kitakami and Nakatsu Rivers. It was made up of three major buildings; Honmaru, the main building where the lord lived and worked, Ninomaru, the second building where official business of the clan was carried out, and Sannomaru, the third building which was used for Shinto rituals. The castle’s stone foundation walls were made from local granite and in some parts stones were heaped up in different ways in different ages.
The castle buildings were totally demolished in 1874. The Iwate Prefectural Government made the old castle grounds into Iwate Park and opened it to the public in 1906. The Morioka City Government gained full ownership of the park in 1934. The grounds of Morioka Castle were registered as a national historic site in 1937.
Many residents of Morioka visit Iwate Park, which harmonizes with the impressive old stone walls, to enjoy seasonal changes through the year; cherry blossoms in spring, fresh green leaves in summer, red and yellow leaves in autumn, and snowscape in winter.

We exited the castle grounds from the North exit and took a few pictures of the temple located near the exit then headed further North to see the Rock-Breaking Cherry Tree (Ishiwarizakura 石割桜 ) in front of the district courthouse. It is quite an impressive thing to see. Not to burden this site with quotes from informational tablets or anything but it says it better than I could so here it is:

The Ishiwarizakura is one of Morioka’s most famous symbols of the spirit; endurance against all hardships, even the impossible; a cherry tree growing from solid granite.
Moreover, the beautiful delicate petals come and fall each April and they have been growing for the past 350-400 years.
Standing strong in front of the Morioka courthouse, the uniqueness of this is such that it has been designated a national treasure, dear to all who take pride in being from Morioka.

From the Rock-Splitting Cherry Tree we went on our way North-East to Hoonji Temple. We kind of got lost on our way there, so when I asked one of the policeman at a koban where it was he actually led us to the temple and told us to have a good time (Japanese police are awesome). Hoonji was considered the head temple among the 208 operated by the Nambu Clan. One of the reasons it is worth your time to take the 20 minute or so walk out there is that it is the home of Rakando (Statues Hall), which has the extremely impressive statues of 500 disciples of Buddha made of wood and finished with Japanese lacquer. Included within the display are statues of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Yet another English information stand was present:

Hoonji was first built in Sannohe in 1394 under the authority of Lord Moriyuki Nambu. In 1601 at the time of Lord Toshinao Nambu the temple was moved to its present location. Hoonji belongs to the Zen sect of Buddhism called Sotoshu. The temple precincts covers an area of 23,000 saim, which contains facilities for the ascetic practice of Zen. the main temple building is dedicated to the Buddha Sakyamuni. The upper story of the temple gate enshrines the Eleven Faces of the Goddess of Mercy jichimen kanzeonbosatsu. The Hall of Disciples of Buddha rakando houses the five hundred disciples of Buddha which profoundly surround the Buddha Biroshana biroshanabutsu. The Zen temple dedicated to the Buddist saint monjubosatsu contains room for up to fifty disciples.

After leaving Hoonji we went to Mitsuishi Temple because of the devil’s handprints. Because this post is going to be extremely long, it was our busiest day of our trip, I will make a part 2 to this which will follow shortly, until then!

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