This August we have been visiting Japan and in this blog post, you can read about the highlights of our second week in Japan where we explored the Gujo Odori Dance Festival, Nikko Toshogu shrine, Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Jodogohama beach and how we were packrafting the Hei River. We bought the Japan Rail Pass to visit the places mentioned in this blog post and it was super convenient to travel on the Shinkansen (bullet train).
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Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
When I arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo I decided to visit the temple area of Narita which has a history of 1000 years. It is about half an hour’s walk from the train station to the temple and you can find plenty of restaurants and small shops along the road.
The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is quite fascinating. There are several buildings which can be visited and also a big park with a waterfall. There were also a few tourists wearing Kimonos while taking pictures of themselves with the buildings in the background.
Gujo Odori Dance Festival
Gujo Odori is one of the three most important bon dance festivals in Japan and has has been celebrated for 400 years. The festival lasts for a month and dance classes are held several times during the day. The dance itself consists of 10 dances and songs and the festival was established to bring the people of the town together. To the performance itself, there is a small group of singers and musicians on a little stage in the middle of the street who are surrounded by dancers. The name of the song which is performed is displayed in a lantern and we also spotted some tourists in the dancing crowd.
Packrafting the Hei River
The next day we went by train (Yamada Line) to Morioka. Some friends picked us up and drove us to our campsite next to the Hei River which we paddled the next day. Even so, the water level was quite low, it made it more challenging to paddle and was really fun. There were actually just a few spots where we had to get out and walk a little bit along the river. The area was really breathtaking but it was quite warm and we should have protected ourselves a little bit better against the sun.
Nikko Toshogu shrine
One of the highlights on our trip was a visit to the Nikko Toshogu shrine which was built in 1617 as the final resting place of Tokugawa leyasu who was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The shrine complex consists of 55 buildings and we also discovered the most decorative gate in whole Japan. The gate is called Yomeimon Gate.
There was also a 5 story pagoda at the entrance which was quite impressive too. In the Honjido Hall, it was demonstrated to us that an echo can only be generated in the room when you stand under the head of a white dragon. Moreover, the shrine complex is listed as a World Heritage site.
Next, we went to Jodogohama beach, which is one of the most famous places of scenic beauty on the Rikuchu Coast. It has also been referred to heaven due to its contrast in colors such as the sand of the beach, the rocks, and the water. It is also listed as one of Japan’s best beaches. Nearby the beach is also a small restaurant with an observation deck that can be accessed free of charge.
In Inuyama we were visiting the Momotaro shrine where we camped next to it so that we had enough time to paddle down the Kiso river on the next day with our packrafts.
The Momotaro shrine was somehow interesting as it was quite different to the other shrines we have visited so far. So what was different? There were statues that we have not seen in other shrines. The shrine is supposed to be the birthplace of Momotaro (the peach boy), a popular hero of Japanese folklore. This spot is also a popular place for Instagram photographers.