Wednesday, November 12

Gujo Hachiman

Gujo Hachiman-jou

On November 2nd, geez, almost two weeks ago now, I took a solo road trip to Gujo Hachiman, in Gifu Prefecture. My original plan was to go to Takayama the day before, but a bad cold and a much-needed trip to Ye Olde Isha-sanne kept me home.

I had the route all planned out: highlighted in the map book and with turns and such written out on another sheet of paper. But I got too cocky, and thought I knew what I was doing, and halfway there I turned left when I should have gone right, and I ended up in Minokamo. No offense to anyone who lives in Minokamo or holds it dear, but that place is a mess. It's not my first time there - I used to go once a week for soccer practice. But trying to get across the city to the road that would take me back up where I wanted to be proved to be most trying.

Kaki (persimmon) hang to dry outside a home.

Not only that, but the road I took quickly turned into a double-debacle when the traffic slowed to a crawl due to preparations for road work. After several kilometers of this I went crazy, doubled back and got on the expressway. What the heck, it was only 8k and one exit. The AR-J could handle it and so could my feeble little wallet.

Wall outside Anyou Temple, below the castle.

Passing Anyou Temple on the way up to the castle.

But 'twere my nerves that couldn't handle it, because after cruising for about 2 or 3k, I came to another creeping crawl as it turned out the preparations were for road work on the expressway.

Long story short, what should have been a two-hour drive ended up taking 4. And when the sun gets to going down around 4:30 or 5, a 2pm arrival doesn't leave much time for sightseeing and picture taking.

Anyou Temple

But before the wrong turn, the drive was super. It involved winding mountain roads through little tiny towns, views over the valley, cedar forests and lots and lots of inaka.

When I got to Gujo Hach, I was able to find my way and get parking pretty quickly, which was key. My first stop was supposed to be the Kinenkan (Memorial Hall) to pick up a map, but I didn't find it until just before I quit to have dinner.

Kazutoyo, his horse and Gujo Hachiman Castle

So for a couple hours I strolled about town, went up to the castle, and strolled about some more. These are the fruits of my labors.

At the castle

It was when I took this traditional picture that I realized Joseph was at home.

I had no one to take a picture with me, so I took this little girl's picture instead.

Inside the castle.

Walking the streets after leaving the castle.
There were several troughs along the road, some for drinking, some not. I'm guessing this one was for drinking.

They have wooden gutter covers.

In case of fire.

I was so tempted to buy one of these little guys - they reminded me of the soot balls in Spirited Away. But the logistics of buying a block of stone deterred me.

The road to Sougi Spring.

A funky little alley paved with different shapes of stones and colored marbles.

The Kinenkan at last...

Izumizaka, where I had dinner: "Gujo-yaki", something akin to okonomiyaki (heart heart).

There's evil in them thar hills.

There was another sign with an inoshishi attacking a car, but someone was behind me and I hesitated too long. 'Twas the only of its kind to be had on that road.
But if you're ever on Rte. 256 near Gujo Hachiman, keep your eyes peeled.

The road home brought no mishaps and I arrived safe and sound in under two hours. The ride was much more pleasant than the ride there, and I was sorry I missed the views in the dark.

Rating: A great little road trip if you're coming from my area and don't miss your turn. It really only needs a day, but according to the brochure I picked up at the Kinenkan, it looks like loads of fun in the summer what with swimming, kayaking and fishing abounding!

Editor's note: While Saturday was a clear blue glorious day, Sunday brought wispy clouds. That and the low light of the late afternoon often necessitated black and white pictures.


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