Friday morning we awoke to snow! it fell quite steadily as we walked to the station.
From Osaka it takes about 2 hours by Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Yamaguchi.
After arriving in Yamaguchi, we then caught a bus to Hagi.
The bus ride took about another 2 hours, winding through the mountains and isolated neighborhoods.
When we arrived at Higashi-Hagi station, it was drizzling and windy.
Hagi city has a bus line, called Ma-a-ru bus (go around bus). One vehicle runs clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. They run every half hour, no matter how far you ride on this bus it is only 100 yen (about US$1).
The city also has a larger bus line which runs more frequently but costs according to the distance you ride.
Since we had just missed the Ma-a-ru bus, we walked to Shoin Shrine, a shrine dedicated to Yoshida Shoin, who helped develop many activists for the Meiji Restoration.
While walking around this shrine, we had a Shoin dango, rice cakes heated over a fire then coated with a sweet miso....330 yen (about US$3.30)
This really hit the spot since we hadn't had time for lunch.
Around this shrine, you will also see these paper umbrellas and colorful washi (Japanese paper) hanging from the trees. We found out these were o-mikuji (random fortunes).
Usually when you go to shrines, you see white paper o-mikuji tied to tree branches, they had these types too but these umbrellas & washi were definitely pretty to see.
From Shoin Shrine we walked to Ito Hirobumi's house, a 4-term prime minister, follower of Yoshida Shoin and the person who drafted the Meiji Constitution.
We also visited Tamaki Bunnoshin's residence, who is the uncle of Yoshida Shonin.
Down the road is Tokoji, this temple has many oni-gawara (devil tiles) on the roof tops to ward off evil.
It is also the place where many lords of the Mori clan are buried.
There is an area towards the back of the temple with 500 stone lanterns. It was kind of eery to see this place in the rain.
Since we had missed another bus, we decided to find something to eat.
Luckily, right across from Tokoji are some tiny shops.
We popped in one for lunch.
I ordered a ji-biru (local brew) called Chonmage (top knot--the hairstyle that most samurai had), and shared it with Satoshi.
This was their brown beer called, Alt, it was fruity and delicious...650 yen (about US$6.50)
We also ordered some udon...450 yen (about US$4.50).
This came with thick thick slices of tamagoyaki (rolled omlette), kamaboko, lots of green onion and wakame (kelp).
Since it was still very cold and drizzly, this really hit the spot.
From Tokoji, we caught the Ma-a-ru bus to the birthplace of Yoshida Shoin.
His birthplace is in the same area as his grave is and there is apparently a nice view of Hagi city and the Japan Sea, but the weather was still bad, so we couldn't really get a good view of it.
We jumped on the bus again and went to an area called Aiba Waterway.
This waterway runs in front of many homes, where they used the water to wash their vegetables and dishes. It was also used as a means to transport firewood.
In many homes, it was common to see hatoba, an area to wash dishes or clothing.
There were also many koi (carp) outside the homes in the waterway as well as landing areas to wash garden tools.
Hagi is famous for its pottery, which was influenced by Korean pottery.
Most have a transparent white glaze and are pastel colored. There are also pieces that are more rustic looking, with chunkier glazing.
I got to watch the owner of the Genshu Gama as he worked on a piece on the pottery wheel.
After a long cold day, we enjoyed our kaiseki meal which included a fugu (blowfish) hot pot, sashimi & chawan mushi (savory custard) among other items.
Way too much food as usual but I managed to eat my share after all that walking and trying to keep warm.
You may notice at the bottom of your tea cup there is a nick.
It isn't damaged. Apparently in the feudal days, only samurai were allowed to use ceramic ware. When the lord made a nick, this signified that the piece was "damaged" and could then be passed down to the peasants.
A long first day, very cold and wet...but that was only to be the beginning of things...stay tuned!
p.s. you can check out more photos on my Flickr Yamaguchi Set.