Gujo Hachiman and Enku 郡上八幡
Day 74, November 2016,
During the night, I had to remove some layers of clothing and we were not using sleeping bags. The morning is damp and very warm. We look around the michi no eki ‘Kokindenju no sato Yamato‘ which is a very pleasant place. It is laid out with small gardens and square ponds full of carp, linked by canals. There are large, flat stones placed here and there to serve as benches.
The vegetable market is open and doing good business. On display are some odd vegetables that I have never seen before as well as the usual suspects.
The temple museum that houses the Buddha images that D. wants to see does not open until 10 so, we take the opportunity to visit Gujo Hachiman castle. We drive through the old town and again Taketa in Oita pref. comes to mind.
Gujo Hachiman Castle
The castle is high on a peak overlooking the town. Near the top, as we drive up, we find a number of elderly gentlemen, (volunteers?) directing the traffic into a large, free car park. They explain that the option of driving to the top is available but, the road is steep with very tight hairpins or a ten minute walk. We opt to walk and are we gratified to see a few cars struggling with the climb?
The view from the castle is of the surrounding hills and the town in the valley below but, in fact, little of the town is visible. The maple leaves are glorious and the surrounding hills wreathed in mysterious mists.
We skip entering the castle, having had enough of swords and armor, and set off for Gifu city and a temple museum, which is on the way. As we turn off the road, to take a side road to the temple, we follow a very picturesque stream that flows down the valley.
Enku-butsu (statues) in Minami Furusatokan 美並ふるさと館
The museum ‘Minami Furusatokan’ is not so popular as the large car park holds only our car and one other that, on consideration, probably belongs to the guy who collects out entrance fee. The temple is famous for its collection of wooden Buddhas carved by the 16th. Century itinerant monk Enku.
He was not a craftsman nor artist but carved thousands of statues, presumably, as his form of worship. The statues are crude and cut in an angular fashion. Many of these figures are tiny, some larger, none of any size. A few, I feel, have some presence but they are not to my taste. Not that I know anything about these things. D. likes them. There is also a small museum depicting the past lifestyle of the villagers. There are wooden bowls and utensils and displays concerning rice farming, hunting, silkworms and timber. In the car park there are more Buddhas but modern copies not works by Enku himself.
＊Minami Furusatokan ; 220 yen
From here we push on to Gifu city, looking for a particular temple which we find but cannot stop at, as it is situated in a narrow residential street. We circle the area but the traffic is intense as it is near Gifu castle and a large park. There are long queues to enter the car park so we abandon the idea of visiting this particular Buddha. A wickerwork one, as far as I can gather- perhaps it was for the best.
Michi no eki ‘Iitaka-eki’
We pull out of Gifu and make for the Ise Peninsula. A long haul out of Gifu city and on to the highway which we exit at Matsuzaka. After getting supplies, we head for our chosen michi no eki ‘Iitaka eki‘. This one has an onsen. Another drive in the dark and in heavy rain along a rather unpleasant road, busy, dark and suddenly narrow in places. The michi no eki is busy when we arrive but few of the cars look as if they are staying the night. The bath turns out to be busy but not as crowded as we feared. The night is, suddenly, very warm and we have too much bedding.
＊Iitaka no yu (hotspring); 660 yen
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.