Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Yanaizu & Enzou-ji
Over the weekend, I went with friends of mine up to the mountains for a hike. I drove Jake and his girlfriend Junko out to an area near Yanaaizu, about 2 hours East by car. I've been to Aizu before, but never so far East. Steep rugged mountains covered in green trees surrounded the narrow windy highway.
It was a relatively easy hike. It only took about 2 hours to reach some kind of radio transmitter on the summit. There was a lovely town far below. See the pictures.
We also found an injured preying mantis. Like most people in the world, most Japanese have an aversion to insects, although entomology is a popular hobby. But this aversion to insects seems to have 3 notable exceptions: big stag beetles, dragonflies, and preying mantises. While most people will freak out if they find a spider or an ant on them, if Japanese people see one of the above, it is typically regarded as cute, kind of like a hampster or a parakeet. This particular mantis was injured, as you can see from the picture, which is probably why he didn't try to escape from us.
Anyways, after the hike, we visited a unique temple where a guy was doing very unique throat singing. I've never heard anything like it live before. The temple also had an unusual amount of ornately carved cedar on it. Very pretty.
The entire Aizu region is famous for a mythical red cow that supposedly helped some farmers move a tree stump and then suddenly disappeared into the forest. A big bronze statue of the cow was there outside the temple.
Following this, we went to an onsen, which is Japanese for Hot Springs. You bathe off before you get into the water, and then you sit around and chat. You go in naked and they only give men a tiny loin cloth. Women get a substantially bigger towel for obvious reasons.