Day 51, October 2016,
Wake early, about 15 minutes before the 6:30 alarm, to find D. peering out of the window trying to identify the birds chirping loudly outside. They are sparrows.
Off for an early bath, only to find the rotenburo hogging, old man wallowing again. Luckily, he leaves and I have the bath to myself. Soaking, enjoying the cold wind on my face and watching the high, blue sky laced with white strato-nimbus (guessing) and with ragged, grey rain clouds racing beneath. I can’t see the mountain from this side of the building but there is a good view into the distance and a glow of the early morning sun. I am reluctant to get out of the bath, into the biting wind, but the 7:30 breakfast time is approaching.
Breakfast proves to be another pleasant surprise. It is of the rice fish and miso soup variety, but it is very good quality. There are, again, a lot of kinoko (mushroom), asari shellfish in a hot nabe (pot) and the ubiquitous salmon but this is not dry, salty or tough. There is also a glass of an excellent drink yogurt and limitless coffee. ‘Chokaisanso’ is a good place to stay.
Domon Ken Gallery, Sakata 土門拳記念館
Next is Sakata, and the Doman Ken gallery. This we failed to see last time we passed through Sakata by train. The gallery boasts his entire collection of 70,000 photographs but it is quite small, so only a fraction of his work is displayed at any one time. Unfortunately, the current exhibition we find is of Buddhist statutes of which Domon Ken took few pictures. The vast majority of the display is, then, work by his assistant.
The exhibition is full of interest nevertheless and we are not too disappointed. A number of the pictures on display were taken at a particular temple here in Yamagata and we resolve to take a look. They were of the Twelve Heavenly Generals at Jionji.
The Domon Ken museum also has a water feature designed by Noguchi Osamu whose “Sea Fountain” failed to work, literally, for us in Sapporo.
We drop into Honda, to see if the problem we are having is with the car electrics or the inverter. Honda happily test this for us and we set off to Autobacs to buy a new inverter. This is important as without it – no phone, no tablet, no navi and no information. After lunch we head off to Mt. Haguro.
＊Domon Ken Gallery; 900 yen / adult
＊Access; bus 16 min. from Sakata St.
; Car 5 min. from Sakata IC (free car park in Iimoriyama Park)
Mt. Haguro 羽黒山
It is already 4:00, and overcast, when we arrive. We walk a few hundred meters viewing a number of small shrines and visit a famous old sugi (cedar) tree reputed to be over 1,000 years old. Nearby, is the famous 5 story pagoda. The place is very atmospheric with majestic trees, wooden shrines, a dark waterfall, a curved red bridge, stone lanterns and autumn colours. There is also the inviting path of stone steps leading upwards through an avenue of stately Sugi.
Within an hour, however, it will be dark, so we have no time to follow the steps and, reluctantly, return to the car. Consequently, we change our plan and, instead of pushing on to the next road station, we retrace our steps to stay the night at a nearer one we passed earlier, vowing to return to Haguro in the morning.
The other two mountains in this temple complex close at the end of the month, in a few days in fact. We can see the snow falling on Gassan as we pass on the way back to the road station. The rice fields down on the plain still host large numbers of swans, though it is getting dark rapidly. When we stop at the road station and select our parking spot, swans beat their way back to Sakata to roost over our heads.
Dine on liver (sold openly here). The rain that has been threatening all day, finally, begins to fall in earnest.
＊michi-no-eki ‘Shounai Mikawa‘ on Prefectural road 333
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.