Day 57 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – Walking Around Takeda Castle Town, And Hiking Up Mt. Asago to Ritsuunkyo and Onaru Pond In Takeda, Japan

Day 57 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – Walking Around Takeda Castle Town, And Hiking Up Mt. Asago to Ritsuunkyo and Onaru Pond In Takeda, Japan

Takeda castle is set so high up its mountain that it is called the “Machu Pichu of Japan.”
The castle itself is long gone, but the stone foundation and ruins of this impressive castle are still an amazing sight.

A famous photo of the “Castle In The Sky” is posted everywhere in this area, taken on a misty day in which the ruins emerged from the clouds.
It is a beautiful photo indeed.

This morning we were served breakfast in our Machiya.
It was a delicious mélange of Japanese and Western food that included, to our surprise, a freshly baked pita bread.

After breakfast, the woman who runs the other Machiya hotel in Takeda town came over to help us move our backpacks to her Machiya.
We’ve planned to stay another night in Takeda, in order to see the place and hike around the mountains in the area.

We checked into the new Machiya at 10:00 AM, a rare privilege that can only happen when there are absolutely no guests checking in or out.

She showed us around the beautiful town house, expertly restored with high end touches and design.
This is a much better accommodation than the one we stayed at last night, even though it is located only a few steps down the road.

The Machiya has adobe mud walls, beautiful wooden floors, sliding wooden Shoji doors and bespoke furniture.
The bathroom has a wooden tub and stone tile.
It is really a beautiful restoration and modern upgrade without losing any of the original beauty and functionality of the traditional Machiya house.

The hotel normally has a restaurant, but because there are no guests, they are not serving dinners.
The woman made some phone calls for us and inquired about what was open in town.

We had two choices, a pricy sushi bar or a Taiwanese restaurant.
We chose to eat our dinner in the Taiwanese restaurant.

We left the comfortable Machiya and went for a long walk around the historic town.
The town is located along a wide river in a valley below the castle.
Most of the houses still have tile roofs, and are located along either the canal or the river.
A line of cherry trees was planted along the river.
It must be a beautiful sight when the Sakura are in bloom.

On the slopes of the mountain, there are three Shinto shrines and a few beautiful Buddhist temples.
All the temples were once located high up on the mountain, just below the castle.
After the castle burnt down and the great fire had burned the whole town, these temples were relocated to the edge of town, on the slopes of the mountain.
It happened in the 1600’s.

Takeda is a beautiful old town.
Most of the Machiya houses are in good shape, and there are a few historic restorations that must be lovely to see when they are open.

There is a cool cafe in town, just across from our Machiya.
The young couple who own it made us the most delicious pancakes we have eaten in a very long time.

They bake their pancakes in individual cast iron pans, and serve them with homemade seasonal jam and butter.
The food and atmosphere in their cafe was so pleasant that we promised to come again tomorrow to eat their breakfast, before leaving town.
There are no other travelers in the whole town except for us.

After walking all the streets of Takeda town and visiting all the temples and shrines, we headed towards the mountain.
There are two hikes to do in Takeda – one is the hike to the castle ruins, and the other is up Asago Mountain to Ritsuunkyo for a view of the Castle, and then farther up to the Ryujin waterfall and to Onaru Pond.

We could not do the hike to the Takeda Castle Ruins, because the castle was closed, so we chose to hike up Asago mountain.
As it turned out, we were delighted that we had chosen this hike, because it is the only place from which we could see and appreciate the castle’s strategic location, and get an amazing view of the entire valley.

We walked up a steep road, which turned into the mountain, and then became even steeper.
When we got to the parking lot, we saw a few cars parked there, but the hut collecting the hiking fee was closed.
There was a box with a hiking book where hikers could sign their names, and a few maps and brochures written only in Japanese.

Jules said that perhaps we should not cross the partially blocked entrance.
I saw up the hill a groundskeeper working with a land surveyor.
I climbed up the stairs of the trail, and asked if it would be OK to hike up the mountain.
They told me that it was OK.
I made a mental note to pay the hiking fee into the honesty box, upon our return down.

We started hiking up the many hundreds of forest steps.
The cherry trees were no longer in bloom, but the Azaleas looked beautiful in pink and the trees shaded us gracefully.

We walked among boulders covered in moss, and enjoyed the amazing views of the castle across the opposite mountain range.

The waterfall was just a trickle of water, because it has been a very dry week with no rains.
Above it was a beautiful pond, with a wooden bridge and a wooden gazebo in which we sat to enjoy some rest.
It was a very steep climb.

We returned the same way we had come.
We saw only a handful of other hikers, two photographers with their equipment and two other ladies hiking.

We stopped in one of the shaded gazebos to have our tea.
We felt so fortunate to be in this beautiful forest, surrounded by flowers, rocks, trees and beautiful views.

It was late by the time we arrived back in the parking lot.
We deposited the hiking fee, signed the book and continued down the steep car road back to the village.

It got much colder after sunset, and we wore another layer of clothing and went to dinner.
We ate dinner in the Taiwanese restaurant across the river.
We ordered too many dishes, and ended up taking most of the food home, to eat tomorrow for lunch during our walk.
It was a tasty meal, with lots of vegetables, rice and noodles.

Back in our stylish Machiya, we showered and wore the Yukatas that they had given us, and sat in the living room enjoying the calm of the evening.

Hoping you are keeping yourself in good Spirits, and not allowing the global news to darken your vision…
Love, Tali and Jules

Daily stats:
Steps walked – 27,005
20 km. walked
Active walking time – 5 hours
Total walking time today – 7 hours.
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 986 km

Temple Visited:
None of the Saigoku, but a few temples in Takeda

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