Togakushi Kodo and Okusha, Lake Kizaki 戸隠古道、木崎湖
Otari michi no eki
Otari michi no eki is a noisy place, even on a Sunday night. It is on a straight stretch of road at the bottom of a long hill so the trucks, of which there are many, really get up speed, sweeping down or taking a run up for the climb. They roar past very close to the parking.
The morning is bright, hot and sunny so we think we will grab the chance to walk Happo-One and see the view. It is only a 10 or 15-minute drive but during that short period the cloud has rolled in and the nearby hilltops are lost in mist.
Abandoning the plan to walk Happo-One, we drive to Lake Kizaki, or Kizakiko, and take a pleasant lakeside stroll instead. At the lake there are boats for hire but not much in the way of business for them as we are the only people about. We walk along the lakeside, away from the boat hire places, for a kilometre or so before the track turns right to join the main road. At this point we retrace our steps, so the rice paddies are on our left and the lake on our right. There are a couple of fishermen out on the water and a lone water skier. Herons flap about and we see a hawk of some kind flying low over the rice fields.
Togakushi Okusha, via the Togaku Kodo
After the lake, we move on to Togakushi Shrine. Here, in a famous soba area, is a famous shrine. We mistakenly don’t buy food before getting into the mountains. On the drive there is nowhere to pick up something for lunch and on arrival at the shrine there are only high-priced soba restaurants. D. doesn’t even like soba very much.
We also make the mistake of paying 600 yen for parking near Togakushi Chu-sha. There is a free shrine car park that we have used before only a few hundred metres further on.
After looking at Chu-sha, where D. has her Goshuin inscribed, we walk to Oku-sha along the Togakushi Kodo. If you drive to this popular avenue of cedars at Oku-sha (upper Togakushi shrine), you will incur another 600-yen parking charge. It is a pretty nice walk anyway.
From Chu-sha to Oku-sha is about 4km. and almost flat. Togakushi Kodo map
We stroll the avenue of cedars but do not bother to venture as far as the shrine itself. This is at the far end nestled under to mountains. We have been there before and the shrine does not warrant the extra effort unless, of course, you are into Shugendo.
The trees on the way are magnificent and full of birdsong, though heavy on the Uguis I admit. By one of the gates, in a stone lantern, someone had skillfully balanced a couple of small pebbles to create a silhouette of a monk in a conical hat. A beautiful and tiny detail that we only noticed by chance and probably, very few people do.
From Togakushi, we drive to Obuse as we want to see some work by Hokusai housed in a temple there. In Obuse there is also a Hokusai -kan which I thoroughly recommend, having visited it on a previous trip.
For the night, we pull into Obuse michi no eki. We have stayed here before and I don’t advise it, but we can’t be bothered to drive out tonight and come back tomorrow. It will have to do.
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.