Wednesday, March 30, 2011

day 2 hikone

Saturday, we awoke to what we thought was a beautiful day.

As we checked out, the lady at the front desk had no idea if the ferry to Chikubushima was running, but mentioned that it was quite windy and was snowing...WT?

So, we moved our plans to check out Chikubushima to Sunday and decided to take the Isuzu Bonnet Bus around the town to see some sights instead.

It was a good thing we did this too because the 20 minutes or more walk to the harbor would have been in vain. We later found out that they weren't running that day (because of the weather).

So on the bonnet bus, we found out that this bus only runs during the weekends and holidays. You can pay 200 yen per ride or buy the all-day pass for 500 yen to ride unlimited times.

Since we didn't know how many times we would ride the bus, we decided to buy the all-day pass.

On the bus you will find volunteer guides who give you bits of history and tell you of the sights.

This particular guide was very helpful and explained a lot of things in detail.

The bus doesn't run too frequently, so it does give you a lot of time to check out the area you get off at.

Our first stop was Ryotanji.

Ryotanji is also called Darumadera (daruma temple) by the locals.

They have a large festival on April 1 and 2 which the prayer room is filled with daruma. Too bad we would miss it.

Most times when you see a daruma, only one eye is painted in. This means that the wish has not been granted yet.

If you see both eyes painted in, then the wish was granted.

At the temple, there was even a 6-foot daruma! which is used for the festival.

This temple also had a beautiful garden.

Nearby we also visited Bodaiji & Seiryoji.

And just as the bus came (to take us back to the station), so did the snow or should I say sleet...

We got off at the JR Hikone station and decided to eat something warm for lunch.

We decided on champon at Champon-tei, which is apparently a famous dish in the area.

I got the curry version (750 yen) while Satoshi chose the miso version (700 yen).

The noodles were like ramen topped with lots of veggies and very tender pork.

This was good and really helped us warm up.

After lunch, we went to Tenneiji, this temple was not on the bonnet bus's route, so we needed to take the city bus to get there.

It was a 10 minute ride and the snow was falling here and there.

The first thing we saw here was the 500 Rakan, this was an amazing sight.

The 500 rakan are made of wood. It took 10 people to carve them in 5 years and no face is the same.

Rakan are the disciples of Buddha. It is said that Ii Naonaka (11th lord of Hikone) executed a woman who was pregnant with an "illegitimate" child.

On learning that he was actually the father of the child, he built Tenneiji as a memorial to the woman and child. It is said that if you look at each face of the 500 rakan, you will find the face of someone you have been longing to see.

Just outside of this hall, is a large statue of Hotei (Budai in Chinese).

Hotei (god of good fortune), is one of the 7 gods of good fortune. It was made of wood then covered with gold leaf and stands 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall and is 300 kilos (660 pounds).

It is believed that if you touch his belly button your fortune will grow and if you touch his fan your luck will grow.

It was amazing to see something so large and was more amazing that we could actually touch it too.

Since the distance from Tenneiji to the JR Hikone station wasn't too far, we decided to walk back.

Unfortunately, halfway there, we were caught in a major snowstorm. The snow was coming down so hard and sideways that we ran for cover inside a gasoline station.

Wet and cold, we waited for the snow to stop.

When the snow finally started to slow, we began walking back to the JR Hikone station.

Since the bonnet bus was on its lunch break, we decided to walk the distance from the station to the castle area, about 10 minutes.

On the castle grounds there are turrets and storage areas which you can walk around in.

Some have holes in the walls...triangle shaped holes are called teppozama and were used to stick guns out of to shoot enemy approaching the castle. Rectangle shaped holes are called yazama and were used to stick bow and arrows out to also shoot enemy approaching the castle.

Another thing you can experience is climbing the almost 90-degree "stairs". Definitely not a place to be wearing a mini skirt or heels, as you will sometimes see whenever travelling around Japan!

Makes you also wonder how those samurai did it in those long skirts that they wore along with their long swords. Knowing me, I would've stepped on my own hem...sigh!

After seeing the inside of the castle, we walked to Genkyu-en, which is also on the castle grounds. These gardens were built in a modern style, rather than be looked at from afar, these were designed to be walked through.

Again, we were met with snow, rather heavy snow.

To avoid getting totally wet and cold again, we ducked into a tent that was selling local products including this daimyoyaki by Furukawa Hinoborido.

This was similar to dorayaki, the filling was sweet bean and chestnut. We bought 3 for 390 yen.

With all the cold weather, stair climbing and walking, these daimyoyaki definitely helped us re-fuel.

We then jumped back on the bonnet bus which took us to an area called Ginza-machi, a large shopping arcade.

From here, we walked to where we would stay the night, the Kiyotaki Ryokan.

This tiny inn is family run. Since we were cold and tired, we were lucky to be able to take a bath right away and warm up a little.

Most small inns have specific bath times for guests, but since we were early, they let us bathe right away.

Dinner was very delicious...fresh sashimi (scallops, yellowtail & shrimp), grilled sawara (Spanish mackerel), komatsuna (mustard greens) with aburage (fried tofu), assorted tempura.

The most surprising tempura was the fried umeboshi. At first I thought it was a mushroom, but when I bit into it, it was soft and sour...different but delicious.

It was quite a long day, but we got in a lot of sights despite the weather.

So, the question is, will we finally be able to go to Chikubushima? check back tomorrow...

9-6 Asahimachi
Hikone, Shiga
Phone: 0749.23.1616
Open 11:00-22:00

Furukawa Hinoborido
6-22 Chuo-cho
Hikone, Shiga
Phone: 0749.22.0037
Closed Tuesdays
Open 9:00-19:00

Kiyotaki Ryokan
2-7-10 Kawara
Hikone, Shiga
Phone: 0749.22.0071


OkiHwn said...

The dinner at Kiyotaki Ryokan sounds delicious!

jalna said...

I loooved this day. Boy, I'm beat.

Deb in Hawaii said...

You two are so bold in that weather--I'd be whining and crying to go back and stay inside. lol ;-) The 500 Rakan are an amazing sight.

Rowena said...

I like how you guys were able to fit all of this sightseeing and eating into one bad-weather day without showing one pic...of the weather. I know that you'd rather forget about it, but your description is so vivid that I wouldn't have minded seeing a little bit of it in a video.

I LOVE the daruma figures. I loved this post.

K and S said...

was a nice homey atmosphere Nate :)

rest-up Jalna :)

at times I felt a bit cranky Deb in Hawaii :)

Rowena, I think I was probably too focused on not getting wet (or more wet) than to take video, plus my Aunty once commented that only someone from Hawaii would video snow falling :p

Take care everyone.

Rowena said...

That's because in the days when sugarcane was king, the only snow we ever knew was the "black" kine. Always hated it especially if I had laundry hanging outside. If the trades happened to be blowing in our direction... Dang, wish I had a video of that. Buahaha!

K and S said...

I remember "black snow" too Rowena, miss those days.

Take care.

Rowena said...

Another thing that caught my interest was the inn. You say that they have specific bath times? Does this mean that it is a "shared" bath? Is it a normal thing or are there inns that have baths ensuite? In Italy shared bath means you use the one down the hall. I believe it's mostly in 1 or 2 star hotels/inns. We always go ensuite for privacy and convenience.

K and S said...

Rowena, larger inns have men and women baths with specific bathing times and private toilets and tubs in your room. this particular inn only had one bathing area and had a set time for women only. Since we were there before the set time for women, we decided to go bathe together. The toilet on the other hand we had to share with everyone.

Take care.

Take care.

Japan Australia said...

The bonnet bus looks like a great way to get around!!

Japan Australia

manju said...

What a cool day (no pun intended) -- bravo for persevering despite the weather. I'm most intrigued by the umeboshi tempura -- the salty deep-fried reminds me of Rowena's fried olives. May have to try that...
; )

K and S said...

definitely J-A :)

be sure to keep the seed in Manju, I think it will help it from smooshing when you fry.

Take care you two.

KirkK said...

Hi Kat - Man that was some effort..... better than the postal service! Thanks for sharing.

K and S said...

he he thanks Kirk :)

Take care.

Pandabonium said...

Buses with volunteer guides on them - wonderful.

The daimyoyaki looks like just the thing on a snowy-sleety day. And then a nice bath upon arrival. ahhh!

What an adventure you were having!

K and S said...

you know PB, me I'm always game for snow, crazy "Hawaiian", yeah??

Take care.