Japan trip – the first
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The first stop on my trip to Japan after arriving at my friend’s place was to head to Ako and the Onishi shrine. Ako is a central place in the famous story of the 47 Ronin who took revenge several years after their daimyo, Asano Naganori was forced to commit seppuku and had his lands in Ako stripped. One of the best movies that retells this story is the 1963 version of Chushingura. Directed by Inagaki Hiroshi, it stars one of the coolest actors ever, no matter what country, Mifune Toshiro. However, at almost 3 ½ hours, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Though not so appetizing for the veggies in the audience, that night for dinner we went out for yakiniku (barbeque right at your table). For those of us who are carnivores, this is akin to nirvana. Some of the best meat you can get, seasoned and then cooked right in front of you. Can it really get any better? (veggies need not answer)
April fool’s day had me hopping a train over the Seto ohashi (Seto bridge) to Shikoku. Thankfully, where my friends live is only a 1 ½ hour ride to the town of Kotohira on Northern Shikoku to walk up the 1368 steps to the inner shrine of Kotohira-gu (more affectionately known as Konpira-san). Before I got going up the strenuous climb, I figured I should start off with some of the udon noodles that Shikoku is supposed to be famous for. I decided to stop in at what looked like a place that had been around for about 200 years and judging by the look of the little obaasan serving, she’d been there since almost the beginning.
At least it was going to be a pretty climb; the sakura (cherry blossoms) were in full bloom. I had heard news reports that had been saying that they were going to be early this year due to the warm winter but no, I hit the cherry blossom season at the right time, as I’ll talk about in a later post.
I didn’t actually count them but the next day, my ass and legs were certainly verifying that 1368 stair number. Now, the main shrine is dedicated to sea-farers but it’s only half-way up. I’m fairly certain that the major deity of the inner shrine is the patron saint of holy-crap-I-made-it.