Tuesday, May 12, 2009
This is the draincover for the town of Toyohira, now a part of Kitahiroshima in western Hiroshima Prefecture. It's a picture of buckwheat, soba in Japanese, and one can presume that its a major crop in the area. We were driving through the area on Route 433 heading across country on back roads towards Kyushu.
As is usual, whenever we spy a torii we stop so I can explore the shrine. There was nothing of particular note at this shrine in Shijihara village except the biggest plastic shimenawa I've ever seen.
However, on the way into the shrine we spied a thatched roof nearby that turns out to be the only remaining thatched roof temple gate in Hiroshima.
The temple, Jodo-ji, was fairly large with a good collection of carvings and statues, dragons etc. The priests wife came out to greet us and then spent an hour taking us around the temple.
The gardens on 3 sides of the temple property were extensive and rather nice. I remember thinking that if this was in Kyoto there would have been a hefty entrance fee, but we were getting a free guided tour. The gardens were not built by anyone famous, just 15 generations of the temple priests.
The roof of the main hall was impressively large. I always feel pleased with myself whenever I'm off exploring the backroads and discover something really nice, and I was really chuffed with having discovered this place. But there was more, the priests wife beckoned us to follow and she took us behind the temple to a spot where a BBC film crew had spent 3 months making a documentary, for here was a breeding spot of a rare, threatened creature, the worlds second-largest Salamander, the Japanese Giant salamander
They had a craft workshop where kids from all over come and make models of the salamander and learn about it's ecology and why it's threatened with extinction. I'll post more about this creature later as it can be found in our local river.
So, a brief stop to check out a shrine turned into a pleasant 2 hours with history, art, gardens, and ecology, all for free!!