Monday, March 4, 2013

Climbing Mount Kuno

During New Year holidays, hubby and I visited his relatives in Ichinomiya City of Aichi prefecture. This year we went to Ichinomiya by our car. I have written earlier in the blog post of January that on 3rd January we had visited hubby’s cousins and relatives in Okazaki City of Aichi prefecture. That night we drove up to Shizuoka City and stayed at a hotel overnight. On 4th January, we visited Kunozan Toshogu Shrine located in the city.
Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Suruga Ward of Shizuoka City in Shizuoka prefecture. It is the original burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu of Tokugawa Shogunate, and is the oldest of the Toshogu shrines in Japan. The shrine is located near the top of Mount Kuno, which is 216 meters high steep peak on Suruga Bay.
Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is located about 30 kilometers northeast of the hotel we stayed in Shizuoka City, and it took us about an hour of car ride to reach the base of Mount Kuno. The drive was fun and we enjoyed the passing views. It was a very clear sunny day and we got a spectacular view of Mount Fuji.
Mount Fuji
After reaching the base of Mount Kuno, we parked our car at a parking lot located nearby. From the parking lot, we could see the shrine located at the top of the small steep mountain. We could also see the stairs of a winding walkway on the mountain. We noticed that there were many visitors to the shrine that day. This is because it is a traditional Japanese custom to visit a temple or a shrine during the New Year. This first trip to a shrine or temple is called hatsumode. Such New Year festivities are held at practically every shrine and temple across the country.
Kunozan Toshogu Shrine located at the top of Mount Kuno as viewed from the car parking lot
 Winding walkway and a gate of the shrine located on Mount Kuno
It is possible to reach Kunozan Toshogu Shrine located near the top of Mount Kuno by two ways. A walkway from the foot of Mount Kuno is the main approach to the shrine. This main approach is accessed from the south and involves a considerable climb up the mountain. There are 1159 stone steps zigzagging up the mountainside, which allows for impressive views of Suruga Bay along the way while climbing. Another way to reach the shrine is by using a ropeway from the north from Nihondaira plateau. It was a clear sunny day and we decided to walk up to the shrine.
From the car parking area, we walked up to a nearby stone Torii Gate located at the foot of Mount Kuno. This Torii Gate marks the beginning of the ascent to Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. As we started climbing up the walkway, we turned around and saw the Suruga Bay in the far background.
I am standing in front of the stone Torii Gate
Hubby standing in front of the Torii Gate
Steps that mark the beginning of the climb up the walkway
Suruga Bay
As we climbed up the steps of the walkway, we saw that many trees surrounding the walkway were refreshingly green although it was mid winter. There are many resting places with benches along the walkway. After climbing for about 10 minutes, we took rest for a while at one of such resting place. From this place, we saw that the Suruga Bay and the town had became more visible, and realized that we had climbed up quite a lot of steps.
I am posing while climbing up the steps of the walkway
Suruga Bay and the town as viewed from the resting place
After taking rest for a short while, we again continued our climb up the steps. While climbing, we looked up and could so clearly see the zigzag walkway further up the mountain. The walkway has 1159 steps spanning 760 meters with 17 switchbacks. I also noticed several wonderfully shaped deciduous trees with many branches and most of its leaves shed. These trees stood out so distinctly amongst the other trees having fresh green leaves. We continued our climb and felt good about skipping many resting places. But after another 15 minutes of climbing up the steps of the walkway, I was really tired and stopped to take rest for the second time. From this resting place we got a wonderful view of the Suruga Bay.
Zigzag walkway and a tree with many branches and no leaves
Yet another wonderfully shaped tree with many branches and almost all leaves shed
Climbing up the steps of the walkway
Wonderful view of Suruga Bay from the place where we took rest for the second time
We continued our climb up the steps and saw a few jovial school children having fun and enjoying their school trip to the shrine. Hubby compiled a video of our climb up the steps of the walkway. We felt very nice to walk on such a sunny day and enjoyed the surrounding beauty. But as we got higher up the mountain, the climb got difficult and I became tired very easily after climbing only several steps. So after climbing only for 5 minutes, we took rest for the third time. From this height of the resting place, we got fantastic views of the Suruga Bay and the town. Along the coastline we saw a lot of artificial breakwaters to protect the town from typhoons or rough waves. We also saw many rows and rows of large white vinyl buildings which are greenhouses for growing strawberries. Suruga town and the surrounding area of Mount Kuno are famous for growing delicious strawberries.
I am climbing up the steps and two school children enjoying their trip
Climbing further up the steps
A compiled video of our climb up the steps of the walkway on Mount Kuno
I am standing at the resting place where we took rest for the third time
Fantastic view of Suruga Bay and many rows of greenhouses for growing strawberries
Two breakwaters along the coastline and many rows of greenhouses
We continued our climb at a rather slow pace for another 10 minutes, and took rest for the fourth time. From this resting place we could touch the branches of one of the wonderfully shaped deciduous trees. The well shaped tree was very aesthetically pleasing and we spent about 10 minutes appreciating the tree.
An aesthetically pleasing tree
Hubby appreciating the tree
Suruga Bay and breakwaters as seen from our fourth resting place
Afterwards we again started climbing up the steps. After climbing for only another couple of minutes, we reached near the top of the walkway where the first gate named Ichinomon Gate of Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is located. From the Torii Gate located at the foot of Mount Kuno, we had climbed 909 steps to reach Ichinomon Gate. From this place, we got a breathtaking view of Suruga Bay.
Several steps of the walkway leading to Ichinomon Gate
Panoramic view of Suruga Bay, breakwaters, and rows of greenhouses as viewed from Ichinomon Gate area
Ichinomon Gate is a modest wooden structure through which we entered the grounds of the shrine. However, visitors using the ropeway do not pass through this gate as the ropeway takes them a bit higher up the mountain. After entering the grounds of the shrine, we realized that Ichinomon Gate leads to more steps along the walkway. Inside the shrine grounds, right in front of Ichinomon Gate, a small wooden gatekeeper station is located.
I am standing in front of Ichinomon Gate
Ichinomon Gate as viewed from inside the shrine grounds
Hubby standing inside the shrine grounds in front of Ichinomon Gate
Gatekeeper station
After climbing up the stone steps of the walkway inside the shrine grounds for about 5 minutes, we saw the museum building of the shrine to our right side. The museum exhibits some of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s personal belongings and many shrine treasures. We did not visit the museum. After climbing the steps for another couple of minutes, we reached the place where the ropeway station is located. Around this place there are many shops that sell souvenirs and food items. After passing the shops, we climbed a few more steps and saw the second gate named Roumon Gate of the shrine. This gate is an elaborate wooden structure which delimits the shrine.
I am climbing up the steps of the walkway inside the shrine grounds
Stone walls of the museum
I am standing near the ropeway station
Tokugawa crest on a rain catcher located near the shops
Hubby standing on the walkway with Roumon Gate in the background
By the time we reached Roumon Gate, we had already climbed almost 1100 steps of the walkway and only few tens of steps had yet to be climbed. Although the climb up the walkway was a bit difficult and sometimes I struggled to keep on climbing but it was worth it. We were rewarded with magnificent views during the climb and we took our time to enjoy the views. In addition, the views from the top of the mountain were also amazing. According to a Shinto legend, climbing up the stone steps leading to the shrine is a purifying ritual. So we felt purified and were ready to enter inside Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. I will write about the shrine in the next post.


Mekkan said...

Hi! I always admire your blog. Lots of information! I really studied a lot. I also feel happy for you that you share lots of time with your husband. So what's next? Have a nice Sunday afternoon.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thank you Mekkan for your nice comment. Hubby and I used to do a lot of sightseeing but nowadays he is very busy with work, so we have not visited any place for a couple of months now. Hope to visit some place soon.
Thanks and hope you also had a nice weekend.