Japan (April 2019): Yonago and around

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After spending three days on the island of Nishinoshima I took a ferry to Sakaiminato on the main land and from there a train to Yonago. Yonago (pop. ~150,000) is a pleasant city, but not an especially interesting one. My main goal in stopping there was to use it as a base for a day climb of Mount Daisen and side-trips to two other nearby places: the Adachi Museum of Art and its garden, and the Buddhist Zuikozan Kiyomizudera temple.

 

Sakaiminato:

 

Shigeru Mizuki (1922-2015), a famous Japanese manga author, was raised in Sakaiminato. He specialized in stories of yokais, characters with supernatural abilities that have been part of the Japanese folklore since times preceding the Edo era. Recently, the city of Sakaiminato has dedicated one of its streets, Mizuki Shigeru Road, to him. This street is lined up on both sides with over 100 bronze statues of yokais appearing in his stories. Looking at some of them was a good way to spend time while waiting for the next train to Yonago.

 

Giant Yokai mural on the facade of the Sakaiminato ferry terminal at one end of the Mizuki Shigeru Road.

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Some of the yokai statues along the Mizuki Shigeru Road.

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Yonago:

 

Monumental structure welcoming travelers exiting from the Yonago′s railway station.

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Walls remaining from the former castle of Yonago.

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Views from the top platform of the castle site:

- Over Yonago (toward the north), with the Sea of Japan in the back.

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- Of Mount Daisen (toward the east).

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- Over the lake Nakaumi (west) at sunset.

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Adachi Museum of Art:

This museum is located roughly half-way between Matsue and Yonago, a short distance south of Yasuga city. It was created in 1980 by Adachi Zenko (1899-1990), a businessman born in Yasuga. The museum, which displays a large collection of paintings by Japanese masters, is set in a garden that has been regularly ranked as the best garden in Japan. Here I saw more visitors in a few hours, especially non-Japanese, than in all the rest of my three-week trip to Japan. Most seemed to be coming by tour buses on a side-trip from the southern coast of Honshu (Okayama), lured by the award-winning garden. I personally found the museum gorgeous, but the garden less so. The collection of paintings is remarkably diverse and unlike what can usually be seen at other places, especially the paintings by Yokoyama Taikan. The garden is beautiful, but definitively not as inspiring as older Japanese gardens that can be seen elsewhere. In my opinion the museum is really the main attraction, with the garden providing a great surrounding; not the reverse. (Photos in the museum are not allowed.)

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Zuikozan Kiyomizudera temple:

 

Also located near Yasuga city, this Buddhist temple (Tendai sect) has the same name, Kiyomizudera, as one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. Set on a slope of Mt. Zuiko in a peaceful forest environment, it boasts the only three-storied pagoda on the San-in coast. It was founded more than 1400 years ago, in year 587. Kiyomizudera means ″pure water temple″, while Zuiko means ″light of good fortune″.

 

Layout of the temple complex.

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Main gate (daimon) at the base of the stone steps leading to the temple complex.

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Statue representing King Acala (known as Fudo Myo-o in Japan) on the left side of the daimon. Acala, a protective deity (a dharmapala), is highly venerated in Tendai Buddhism.

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The elegant Takatoro lantern standing below the stairs leading to the main prayer hall.

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Path of torii toward the small Inari shrine in the complex.

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Gomado (left) and Korodo (incense burner, right).

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Statue of Acala (also known as Fudo Myo-o) inside the Gomado.

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The main prayer hall (Konpondo).

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Lanterns and paintings on wood tablets inside the Konpondo.

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The pagoda.

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Some of the statues along a prayer path behind the pagoda.

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Ascent of Mount Daisen (day trip):

 

At 1729m Mt. Daisen, an extinct volcano, is the highest mountain in the Chugoku region, the westernmost region of Honshu. Although not very high compared to other Japanese mountains further north, it is quite prominent as it stands at only 14km from the coast of the Sea of Japan. During the winter it receives a considerable amount of snow that remains on its upper slopes until the end of April. It has also been a sacred mountain for several centuries. Starting in the 8th century, it was a major site for Shugendo, a syncretic religion that combines Shinto, Buddhism and former local religious practices. Today the lower section of its northern slope is home to Daisen-ji, a Buddhist temple, and Ogamiyama-jinja, a Shinto shrine, both located within a short walking distance from the start of the trail to the summit.

 

Mt. Daisen has two main peaks, close to each other: Kengamine (1729m) and Misen (1709m). Reaching Kengamine requires traversing an unstable knife-edge ridge and is roped off. So, the climbed summit is Misen. The ascent starts from Daisen village at an elevation of approximately 800m.

 

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Mt. Daisen seen from the ferry between the Oki islands and the Honshu mainland port of Sakaiminato.

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Another view of Mt. Daisen from a location near Daisenguchi (small coastal town east of Yonago).

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View of Mt. Daisen from the Sada river near the start of the climb (north of the mountain). This photo shows that it is a more complex volcano than suggested by the previous two photos. While Mt. Daisen looks like an almost perfect volcanic cone from the west, it is actually an elongated range shaped by many eruptions (that occurred more than 10,000 years ago) and erosion. Its two main peaks are located on the western end of the range (on the right in the photo below).

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At the beginning of the climb the Natsuyama trail consists of stone stairs.

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These stairs lead to Amidado, an isolated hall belonging to the Daisen-ji temple.

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Above Amidado the vegetation turns to a forest of beech trees, with some occasional nice flowers.

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The stairs are then made of tree logs and are less regular. They equip almost all the rest of the route.

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The trail gets increasingly covered by snow, which was probably tamped down during the winter by backcountry skiers. At some point vegetation turns to smaller shrub.

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View of the mountain range toward the east.

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Getting close to the summit ridge.

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View of the summit ridge from below.

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Marker on Peak Misen. Note the precision in the measurement of the elevation (although most maps indicate 1709m).

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View of the ridge from peak Misen, with the slightly higher peak Kemgamine visible at the center of the photo.

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Southern slopes of peak Misen.

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Climber on the boardwalk below the summit beginning his descent. I started mine shortly behind him.

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I reached Daisen village a couple of hours before the next bus departure to Yonago. This gave me time to visit both the main hall of Daisen-ji and Ogamiyama-jinja

 

Stairs and gate leading to the main hall of Daisen-ji.

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The well-proportioned main hall. The hall was destroyed by a fire in 1928 and reconstructed in 1951.

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Ox statue and small pond on the right side of the hall.

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Ogamiyama-jinja.

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I took this photo of Mt. Daisen from a train on the next morning. During the night the weather had turned sour and remained so for the entire day. I had been lucky to do the ascent under fair weather.

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