Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jan 4 - 武射祭+戦場ヶ原でのハイキング

Every year on January 4th, the Samurai Archery Festival (武射祭) is held at Futarasanjinjya Chugushi (二荒山神社中宮祠). The jinjya is located on the Chuzenji Lake (中禅寺湖), which is half way between Nikko downtown (currently where I am staying) and Yumoto (where I last stayed). The festival began at around 10:30am, and because it would take 30-45 minutes to get there, I had to really hurry this morning to catch the bus. Here's my Japanese style breakfast.

Since the New Year holiday was over, there're only a few people at the festival. In fact, when I mentioned it to the hotel owner this morning, she said she didn't know there's such a festival.

Anyway, it's very interesting experience, as I've never been to a Japanese matsuri (祭り, or festival) before. At 10am, several priests led a prayer for all the participants. There were around 15-20 people altogether, males and females.

And look at the female samurais.

After they circled outside the jinjya, they went to the archery field at around 10:30am, where it was just located beside the main temple of the jinjya.

The participants were divided into 4 groups. The first group had just 1 person, and I think he's one of the priests. The 2nd group had 3 people, and I suspect they work for the jinjya. The 3rd and the 4th group had around 5-6 people each. They didn't look like jinjya people, but they must have close relationship with the jinjya, and so I think. Each group fired 2 rounds, and in each round each person fired one arrow. After each round, someone would hit a drum and exclaimed. There're reporters and one TV crew, and of course they were given the best seats. Here's one of the participants after he fired one. These people must have practiced throughout the year as I don't think a layman can do it.

The whole event lasted around 30 minutes. After all arrows were fired, what happened? Well, people would roamed and tried to find them!

And here's a lucky person who found one. I think those arrows are supposed to drive off evil spirits.

After the festival, I did some hiking at Senjogahara (戦場ヶ原). As I mentioned before, I had wanted to hike it when I was staying at Yumoto, but didn't have time. Today's my last activity day and so this was my last chance. The trail is flat and it takes about 2 hours. I was not disappointed. Here's some of the photos I took on the trail.

Ah! While hiking, I spotted a monkey, eventually!

The weather was quite unstable, as snow was falling from time to time. I started at around 11:30am and by the time I finished, it's already 3:00pm. I was very lucky because there's heavy snow after 3pm while I was waiting for the return bus.

I didn't have lunch. Instead, I brought a cake with me and ate it while waiting at the bus stop.

There is one more place that I wanted to go though. For some reason, the place was very intriguing to me. It was an abandoned gasoline station. I passed by it a number of times while I was on a bus. I thought it was beautiful. So, on my way back, I stopped by and took a few pictures. Again, I was lucky as the sun had set just after I was done. This is one of the pictures I took.

Have you ever seen the inside of a gas pump? Now I know how it looks like!

Dinner included pickles, salad, grilled seafood, yuba, grilled fish, clam soup, and ice-cream (the same ice-cream served in the past 2 days). Here they are.

This pretty much concludes my adventure in Nikko, as I'll return to Tokyo tomorrow by the 11:30am train. I don't plan to do anything tomorrow morning.

I wish I could come back in autumn so that I can enjoy the Koyo (紅葉 or fall color).

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