Hiraizumi, Iwate

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November 20th 2007
Published: November 20th 2007
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I have always understood the logistics of there being snow somewhere in November but I never thought I would actually be in a place to see it. North Carolina is a pretty hot place and snow is few and far between. It snowed this weekend. Sendai didn't get all that much but I was still around when I got up on Monday morning for my little excursion to Hiraizumi. Hiraizumi is in Iwate Prefecture; which is directly north of Miyagi. There was at least 3 inches of snow on the ground when I got there and there was flurries on and off all day. To top it off it was below freezing the entire day and I was walking around with wet jeans from the snow.

I almost didn't get out of bed for this trip. My alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 7:45am and I was very close to just going back to sleep and planning Hiraizumi for another weekend. I didn't fall right back to sleep so I got myself out of bed and showered, took a quick picture of the snow outside my balcony, grabbed breakfast at 711 and headed to grab my 9am train to Ichinoseki. The train trip took about a hour and a half and the whole way there were rice patties and farmland covered in snow. A few farmers were out lugging through the snow to get their crops before they died. It was absolutely spectacular and I loved every minute of it.

When I got to Ishinoseki I found that my next train would not be leaving for another hour. So I wondered around the station for a bit before heading to my platform and finding the train waiting. After asking the conductors in the train was going to Hiraizumi I sat and enjoyed the heating system and not being freezing. The train was decently full when we left and 5 minute later I was off and standing in the small Hiraizumi station at 11:45am. The manager of the station took my ticket and I had to pay extra, I didn't know how much to buy a ticket for so I just put 850yen on it and thought I could change fares in Hiraizumi. I was off by almost 1000yen (roughtly $10). I had a game plan for the whole day so I started out toward Chuson-Ji then would make a slight loop to Motsu-Ji and the small hike to Takkoko-no-Iwaya Bishamon-Do. With this brief game plan in my mind I set out toward Chuson-Ji.

Hiraizumi once rivaled Kyoto for the number of temples the were built there. Chuson-Ji is a large temple complex at the top of a semi-steep hill. After I followed the cute brown tourist signs and almost killed myself by crossing the crossing bridge that was covered in snow I got to the base of the hill with the other tourists out in the freezing snow. I hadn't seen anybody else heading towards the temple complex so I thought I would be by myself walking around the complex. I was very wrong. The other tourists just took buses or taxis everywhere. Me, being the semi poor teacher walked everywhere.

Chuson-Ji was beautiful. The leaves were still red and orange but they were covered with snow. The path up the hill is ceder lined and there are random torii gates along the way that were very picturesque. It was the best when it would start to snow again. Walking around Chuson-Ji really was like being back in Kyoto. All you had to do was keep walking and you would find another large shrine or temple to take pictures off. It was great. I did have a slight battery emergency while I was there and I was very lucky to find a stall that had some batteries for sale. I changed them out and the headed right back on the temple trail. There was a couple temples you had to pay to get into but I was much happier with the temples that were free and a little quieter.

After walking around at Chuson-ji I made it over to Motsu-Ji and then decided not to go in it. Motsu-Ji was a temple complex that was larger then Chuson-Ji but now only a large Heian era garden remains. The gates were cute but I wanted to head out to Iwaya and the LP mentioned a path that went there and took about 30 minutes by bike. I thought, thats not a bad hike, it's only 1:30pm and I have plenty of time before it gets dark to make it there and back. an hour each way maybe an hour at the temple and then I'm back in time to catch the 4pm train back to Ichinoseki and then back in Sendai before 7pm. So off I hiked. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't the fact that the path was really the main road that lead into and from town. The snow was a good 3 inches thick and it was soaking my jeans even more and was slowly seeping into my shoes and socks. I ended up walking on the road for the most part and then moving out of the way of oncoming traffic. I must have looked so weird walking along because I was basically in the major farming land by now and I was had to be only the second person who had walked this way. There were foot prints in the snow of the other poor soul who walked along the road first. Not only was I a foreigner but I was a WALKING foreigner. Most of the farmers who were out looked at me pretty funny as I passed. The walk was very beautiful and it was really nice to get into the more rural areas. The snow just made it all the better.

I almost turned back but then I saw that I was halfway there and I just sucked it up and kept going. I was freezing and my pants and feet were cold and my ears felt like they would fall off but I kept going. Thinking the whole way there that the temple would be closed. At about 3/4 of the way there a guy pulled up along side me and asked where I was going. When I told him he offered me a ride and I gladly excepted. He told me he had seen me walking earlier and then said that it was starting to snow so I just took the ride he gave me for free and not 5 minutes later was dropped off at the gates of Iwaya. Iwaya is a small but beautiful cave temple that it designed much like the famous Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto. There are a couple smaller shrines set up around the shrine and a cute little pond to go with it. For 300yen and almost 3 hours of walking I thought it was very worth it. Though it would have been a lot more relaxing if it hadn't been so cold.

I asked the ladies if a bus came out there and they told me 'no' and asked how I was getting back. When I told them I would walk they wished me good luck with some loud laughter and off I walked. The walk back wasn't nearly as bad as the walk there. I think it was mostly because I was prepared for the walk and I was pretty determined to get back to the station and sit down and grab a snack before heading home. I left Iwaya at around 2:30 and got into Hiraizumi station at about 3:45pm and just missed the hourly train back to Ishinoseki. So I ended up sitting around the station for a hour and grabbed a snack from the small convince store that consisted of Vitamin Water, because I addicted to it, and a frozen snickers bar. Yes, it was frozen almost solid. About 45 minutes later I was on my way back to Ishinoseki and then caught a rapid express back to Sendai from Kogata. My co and I went out to dinner at this cute Italian place and then we both crashed back at our apartments.

All in all I say it was very worth it to head all the way out there and it was an even bigger bonus that it snowed while I was there.

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