Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Juroku Rakan Iwa

On November 23rd, hubby and I visited Juroku Rakan Iwa in Yuza town of Yamagata prefecture. Juroku Rakan Iwa is a set of 22 Buddhist statues carved into the lava rocks protruding into the Sea of Japan in Fukura village. Juroku Rakan signifies sixteen Buddhist priests who have attained enlightenment. Fukura was a fishing village facing the Sea of Japan and many local people have been killed in the sea. So Ishikawa Kankai, the 21st priest of Zen Buddhist Kaisenji Temple, along with local stone masons began carving these statues in 1864 and completed them in 1868. These statues were meant to watch over those who perished in the sea and also to pray for the safety of the living from any harm at sea.

The 22 Buddhist statues consist of 16 Arahats along with statues of Sharihotsu priest, Fugen bosatsu, Shakamuni butsu priest, Mokuren priest, Monju bosatsu, and Kannon bosatsu. The 16 Arahats are a group of saints in Buddhism who were predecessors or disciples of the Buddha. The 16 Arahats are called sonja and are named as Bindorabaradaja, Kanakabassa, Kanakabarudaja, Subinda, Nakola, Badara, Kalika, Bajarabutara, Jubaka, Hantaka, Ragon, Nagasena, Ingada, Banabasu, Ajita, and Chudahantaka.

We reached Juroku Rakan Iwa rocks at around 12 noon. After parking our car, we walked towards the rocky cliff and saw that the sea was rather rough that day. After walking down a few steps, we saw several statues carved into the lava rocks. The statues are all busts and are carved to fit in with the shape of the rocks and compliment the natural beauty of the area.
Rocky cliff along the Sea of Japan near Juroku Rakan Iwa

Juroku Rakan Iwa

I am standing near the lava rocks

Several Buddhist statues sculpted on the lava rocks (click on the photo for an enlarged view)

Hubby standing next to a group of statues

Several Buddhist statues along with the mythical shishi (rightmost)

We walked further down the steps and reached an open space in front of the Rakan statues. We saw that most of the statues are arranged around the figures of Shakamuni, Monju, and Fugen. For the sake of convenience, I have divided these statues into two groups. One group has statues of Sharihotsu butsu, Fugen bosatsu, Shakamuni butsu, Mokuren, Monju bosatsu, and mythical stone lion shishi. Another adjacent group has three statues, namely, Ingada sonja, Bindorabaradaja sonja, and Jubaka sonja. We turned around and saw a regal statue of Kannon bosatsu at a slightly higher level on the cliff. Though not so much larger than life, these statues wear varied expressions.
I am standing at an open space in front of the Rakan statues

First group of the Rakan statues (left to right): Sharihotsu, Fugen, Shakamuni (upper), Mokuren (lower), and Monju

First group of the Rakan statues from another angle

Second group of the Rakan statues (left to right): Ingada, Bindorabaradaja, and Jubaka

Statue of Kannon bosatsu

There were several more statues that are carved into the cliffs which run for several hundred meters against the rough waves of the Sea of Japan. We missed seeing almost all other statues as we did not look for them that carefully.

After enjoying viewing the Juroku Rakan statues, hubby climbed up the rocky cliff to get a better view of the sea waves. The sea was rather rough and it was fun to watch the waves hit the rocky cliffs. I compiled a video of the rough sea near Juroku Rakan Iwa cliff.
Hubby enjoying the rough sea waves

Hubby and the Sea of Japan

Sea waves hitting the rocky cliff

A compiled video of the rough sea near Juroku Rakan Iwa cliff

It was really nice to see so many Buddhist statues at Juroku Rakan Iwa cliff. Later hubby and I had lunch at a nearby restaurant. Ramen and gyoza dumplings were delicious.
Hubby having ramen

I am having gyoza

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Swans in Sakata

On 23rd November, hubby and I visited Mogami-gawa Swan Park. The swan park is located on the north bank of Mogami River in Sakata city of Yamagata prefecture. This park and its neighborhood are famous for wild swans which fly in from Siberia every October on their way to warmer regions. It has been reported that the migration area on Mogami-gawa is the largest in Japan with around 10000 swans coming every year. Besides the swans, wild ducks and sea gulls also visit this area. The swans and other migratory birds stay in the park during the winter season and return back to Siberia in spring.

Mogami-gawa Swan Park is located about 69 kilometers southwest of our home and it took us 1.5 hours to reach there by our car. We reached the swan park at 6.30 am and the sun had risen. So unfortunately, all the swans had already left the river in search of food. We could see a pair of swans in the river and hubby joked that they were lazy just like us! We realized that we should have started at least an hour earlier from our home, and so decided to visit the swan park again some other day.
Mogami-gawa Swan Park

Mogami-gawa Swan Park

A pair of swans in Mogami River

The pair of swans in the river

The pair of swans in the river

Hubby and the pair of swans

While driving back home, we saw a small herd of swans in a rice field. Rice had already been harvested and only the stubble and/or fodder crop remained in the fields. The swans were feeding on waste rice grains left over after the harvest, as well as on insects and small invertebrates that inhabit rice fields. We stopped our car and had fun watching the swans in the field. We took a few photos of the birds.
A herd of swans in a rice field

A herd of swans in a rice field

Close up view of the herd of swans

Close up view of the herd of swans

After driving for another 10 minutes or so, we saw a very large herd of swans gathered in another rice field. Again we stopped our car and walked towards the rice field. We took several photos of the amazing view from afar.
A large herd of swans in a vast field

A large herd of swans in a vast field

I am walking towards the swans

The rice field was vast and we had to walk for about 5 minutes to get a better view of the large herd of swans.
View of the rice field and the herd of swans to our left

View of the rice field and the herd of swans in front of us

View of the rice field and the herd of swans to our right

As we neared the herd of swans, some of the birds started getting agitated. We did not wish to disturb the swans and so we decided not to go too near them. It was marvelous to see so many swans in the vast rice field. We took a few photos of the birds.
Close up view of the herd of swans

Close up view of the herd of swans

Close up view of the herd of swans

As we were walking back towards our car, we saw a small family of swans in a nearby field. We also saw several other swans spread their wings and take off to the sky. It was so wonderful to watch them.
A small family of swans

Swans flying in the air

Swans flying in the air

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Big Boy restaurant

On November 21st, hubby and I had lunch at Big Boy restaurant in Akita city. Big Boy is a restaurant chain that originated in USA. It was founded by Bob Wian in Glendale, California, in 1936, and presently has its headquarters at Warren, Michigan. Big Boy Japan was started in 1977 and presently has its headquarters at Minato-ku in Tokyo. As of June 2010, Big Boy Japan operates at 322 locations under three restaurant names, namely Big Boy, Victory Station, and Grill Dan. Although Big Boy restaurant is a burger house in USA, here in Japan it is a family restaurant specializing in hamburger steaks.

The first time I had been to Big Boy restaurant was in Chofu city in Japan way back in 1997 and had fallen in love with the food of this restaurant. I used to have lunch or dinner probably about once a week at this restaurant for almost 2.5 years during my initial stay in Japan. This time I had lunch at Big Boy restaurant after more than a decade. On reaching the restaurant in Akita city, we saw the trademark chubby Big Boy mascot in red and white checked overalls holding a hamburger steak in a platter. Seeing the mascot warmed my heart.
Big Boy restaurant

Big Boy restaurant

Big Boy mascot

We had late lunch that day, and so there were very few customers inside the restaurant. There was a salad bar, a soup bar, and a drink bar. The salad was fresh and superb, and we also had various kinds of cold drinks.
Salad, soup, and drink bar


Hubby having salad

I am drinking melon soda

Hubby ordered a lunch menu named ‘Big Boy cheese in hamburg and cut steak’, which included a cheese-stuffed hamburger steak and a few slices of thinly cut steaks. I ordered an ‘egg hamburg’, which was a hamburger steak topped with a fried egg. Some vegetables and potatoes were also included in these menu dishes. We each had a plate of rice also. The food arrived in sizzling platters. The food was prepared perfectly and the service was also very good. The food was excellent, really filling, and absolutely delicious.
A platter of Big Boy cheese in hamburg and cut steak

A platter of egg hamburg

Our lunch

Hubby having lunch

I am having lunch

Hubby and I had a tasty experience at Big Boy restaurant. We have decided to go more often to the restaurant.