April 1st. 2023
Akabane Loko Park
When we went to sleep at Akabane Loko Park we were far from the michi no eki, out along the sea front. We were also alone.
In the morning there are 20 or 30 vehicles stretched out along the beach. These are surfers who have arrived during a Friday night.
Before breakfast, we move to the michi no eki Akabane Loko Station itself for the facilities and availability of coffee.
Our eventual departure sets us up for a day of driving as we head for Nihondaira. First, along a lengthy stretch of Route 42 following the beach to Hamanako. This an inlet from the sea rather than a lake and famous for eels.
As it is a sunny Saturday, the roads are busy and our progress slow.
Finally driving up Nihondaira Park-way then arriving at Nihondaira, we find a confusion of cars trying to park in a large but already full car park. There are no elderly, baton wielding gentlemen to sort out the chaos.
Eventually, we find a space and wander to the viewing platform ‘Nihonndaira Yume Terrace‘ . This is better regulated than the car park and has a one-way system in force. We are pleased to recognize the work of Kuma Kengo, the architect of Tokyo Olympic stadium fame. We have come across his work here and there but notably in Yusuhara, Shikoku.
From this Terrace we could see Mt. Fuji, The South Alps, Izu peninsula and the sea in the right weather conditions, but, unfortunately, we could see none of them.
Kunozan Toshogu, Tokugawa Ieyasu Mausoleum
Our main object in coming here is Kunozan Toshogu, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s mausoleum with its 1000 or whatever stone steps. We are confused to discover that access is by ropeway that is going down from Nihondaira. We readjust our perception and drive another 20 minutes down Shimizu Nihondaira Parkway and around the mountain to find the entrance at the bottom amidst the strawberry fields.
The climb up the steps is not that arduous – estimated at a 20-minute walk.
The shrine itself is well worth a visit. It is not as gaudy and over the top as its Nikko rival. Both shrines claim to house Tokugawa Ieyasu’s remains.
There is a lot of fine, carved wood decoration, all painted but the overall impression is dark red and black with highlights of blue and gold. Sombre despite the ornamentation. Quite remarkable.
From Nihondaira, we drive back some distance on Route 1 and head into the mountains to reach Gyokuro no Sato. This is a rather lonely michi no eki, chosen for that reason, it being a Saturday night not far from Tokyo.
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.