While I was there, Jan (she with whom I will track out into the most bizare and remote places to ooh and aaah over old rocks) proposed that our next trip be one where we head off into the middle of nowhere to ooh and aaah over things of great historical (and probably little tourist) value. She's thinking of basing out of Nagano and visiting the old Kawanakajima battle site. Maybe have an Uesugi-Takeda focused trip?
I swear, she came up with that with absolutely no prompting from me. Honest. There are even witnesses. (Not that that helps any, since said witnesses probably have no idea what we were talking about.)
Being no fool, I merely smiled and said that would be nice, since I've been doing some research in that area anyway.
This past weekend seshat (she with whom I go on mad shopping binges in Japan) suggested that for our next Japan trip we "head out into that area we were driving around last time, with all the hot springs." Her idea was that we spend a lot of time lounging around in hot springs, maybe rent a car and drive around checking out the countryside a bit.
Just as a side note, the place we were tooling around last time with the hot springs and all was the Myougi/Usui area.
Honestly, why do my friends think my obsessions need fueling??? It's like pouring gasoline on a bonfire. Not that I'm complaining, mind.
So that said, I'm gathering some notes together for Fueling Obsession Idea #1. (Fueling Obsession Idea #2 was just proposed the day before yesterday, so I haven't had time to pull up a complete itinerary yet. Give me a couple of days.)
An Uesugi-focused trip has to include Yonezawa, of course, since a lot of the clan lords are buried there. Kenshin himself is not buried there. (Since, IIRC, by the time the Uesugi were transfered to Yonezawa he was long dead.) Kenshin, conveniently, is buried near Kasugayama Castle. Hm, yes. I am going to have to do one of the walking tours from this page:
Start at the statue of Kenshin. Proceed on to the third bailey, which appears to have a granary and Saburou Kagetora's mannor. From there enter the second bailey which has a well (that is very large, according to Shirofan.) Beyond go on to the remains of the inner keep (which is supposed to have fantastic scenery at sunset.) After that, go on to the Bishamon Hall and the Naoe manner. Then go down the mountain to the Sengi Gate and Kasuga Shrine. At the bottom there is ... I'm not sure what one of those is, other than a big field that is associated with the castle. The other is a museum.
Rinsenji (where Kenshin's grave is) is about half a click from the walking tour. Not a problem, right?
Important note to self: You have to take a bus out to the castle ruins. The stop is something obvious, like Kasugayama Jinja-mae, or something like that. Another important note to self: The bus leaves out of Takada station, not Kasugayama. From Kasugayama-eki it's supposed to be about a 20 minute walk. Which I wouldn't think anything about -- before I went to Azuchi. Now, I have been to the castle that took over a mountain located in the city with no transport. I wonder if perhaps taking the bus might not be the better part of valor. We could always walk back, in the incredibly unlikely event that our feet are not tired.
Hm, that was a huge side track. I was starting with the north loop. I'm thinking the day after we land (since it's impossible to do anything more than get out of the airport and get to the hotel on the day we land) we get up early and head up toward Yamagata. If we ship our luggage, I'm thinking that maybe we stop off in Sendai and check out some stuff there. That castle has been taunting me for years now...
I have been completely unable to find any reasonable accomodations in Yonezawa, but Yamagata has a Toyoko Inn. Or was it a Tokyu Inn? Either way. Business hotel, but it's the only thing I could find that didn't require forking over a man a night. (Er, "man" = 10,000 yen. It's a unit of Japanese currency. No, I am not talking about using guys as payment.) Bad news: it's a Western-style hotel. Good news: It has free Internet access in the rooms. And it doesn't cost a fortune. And it's across the street from the train station. I hear good.
I'm going to have to see if there really is anything to see in Yamagata. So far I haven't seen anything rise up and interest me.
Yonezawa has a temple that contains the graves of the Uesugi lords from Kagekatsu forward, along with the remains of Yonezawa Castle. Which, IIRC, are located right next to the train tracks. Not that they taunted me when I went zooming by on the train and was unable to get off. (I had to get to the airport to catch a train.)
I seem to recall that something to do with Yoshitsune happened in this area, but I can't remember what. I guess that's why I have [insert fanfare here] a book on the places associated with Yoshitsune. Complete with pictures and maps. 'Cause I'm researchfully-enabled that way.
Since Murayama is only about 20 minutes away, I think I really should plan some time to visit the Hayashizaki Jinja. Considering that I just because an officially accepted practitioner of iai, it would be sad for me to be that close to the shrine and not stop to pay my respects. And it would give me a good reason for having the shrine's address memorized. (I had to in order to pass the written part of the test.)
All in all, I'm seeing spending maybe three days out in the area. This will depend on what other things of incredible Nift I find out there. I had been thinking that maybe Hirosaki could be a good idea. After sorting through the routes involving airports and (bite me!) busses, I'm thinking maybe not. I've heard that Bitchu-Matsuyama is out in the area as well, though the directions I was looking at mentioned starting out of Fujiwara-machi in Tochigi. (See note regarding "is pouring gasoline on the fire of my obsessions really a good idea?)
Nagano is probably about 3-4 hours from Yamagata. IIRC, the Shinkansen line that goes through Yamagata stops in Omiya, which means that we can take off about an extra hour, versus going all the way back into Tokyo. (There are advantages to having large chunks of the Kanto -- and particularly Gunma -- area transit system memorized.) Again, if we are shipping the luggage I'm tempted to say that we could pop off the train in Takasaki. Jan could go see the castle, and I could grab a yuki-ichigo and jet down this one street to check out a gas station. Because it's really pissing me off that I haven't yet.
(This is rapidly becoming the trip of "fixing things that have been pissing me off. Which would be nice, since the list of things that are pissing me off is getting longer all the time.)
As an alternative, we might be able to catch a local and stop off at Ueda Castle. (Yes, that would be another one that pissed me off when we went jetting by it on the train.) I believe the Shinkansen doesn't stop there. *checks* No, I am incorrect. It looks like one of the Shinkansen out of Takasaki stops there. (And, wow, some of those routes are pretty darn bizzare. Takasaki to Naoezu to Nagano to Ueda. I think I will skip that, thank you. Though it is better than going to Huis Ten Bosch.)
I really need to do more research of stuff in the Nagano area. Obviously we are planning on hitting the Kawanakajima battlefield and the associated historical spots there. (There are at least two castle ruins there, both of which played a role in the battle. For the really obsessive MoB fans, one of the castles, Kaizu, was under the command of Kousaka Danjou Masanobu during the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima.)
We already have a hotel picked out in Nagano. While it is a business hotel, it also happens to 1) have Japanese-style tatami rooms, and 2) appears to have a stunning bath in the basement. Oh yeah, and it has internet access. And a laundry, I think, which could be handy. Convenient laundry facilities may help cut down on the amount of luggage, which in turn leaves more room for, uh, books. Said hotel is close to the train station, and is about a 10 minute walk from Zenkou-ji. (Zenkou-ji also played a role in the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima. Because I am a font of useless trivia.)
While basing out of Nagano we will spend at least one day jetting out to Kasugayama to take advantage of the walking tour that I mentioned above. How much else we do in the area will depend on what other things of extreme coolness we find out there. Though I'm betting we aren't getting out of the area with anything less than 4 days.
One thing that will factor into how long we stay there is when Koufu decides to hold their annual Takeda festival. The information I've been able to find says that it's held on a Saturday on one of the first couple of weeks in April. Said festival has a bit held in a town called Isawa-Kawanakajima. Given the name, it's appropriate that they stage a re-enactment of the battle of Kawanakajima. (And from here on when I refer to it, I am meaning the fourth one, which was the only one that had much of interest happen in it.) Actually, it's no coincidence. The town decided, all things considered, it would be appropriate to stage a re-enactment. Which I think is cool. I think this re-enactment even cooler than the one up in Yonezawa. Why? Because it's not held on *%$#@ Green Day. Hey, Yonezawa? Your taunting little festival will have to wait a long time. Why? Because you decided to hold it on bloody Golden Week. Le'grr.
Jan was talking about basing out of either Kofu or Matsumoto for a while as well. We'll have to see what else is in the area. Depending on how much is out there, I'm tempted to base out of Tokyo and commute out to Koufu. It's only an hour and a half or so. And it could give us an opportunity to finally stop off in Hachiouji to hit the castle ruins there. (Formerly the castle of one Hojo Ujiteru. Yes, I am a font of random Mirage-related historical trivia.)
Getting out of Kofu and heading south is just plain stupid. There is a train line that looks like it might eventually meander out somewhere near Shin-Fuji. But it doesn't happen to, oh, meet up with the Shinkansen line. And it's not like trains stop in Shin-Fuji very often anyway. (And do we really want to be on one that does? It's a long way to Nagoya, and that's the next most likely place to pick up a reasonably fast train.) Given that, it makes sense to back-track to Tokyo. I'm thinking hanging there for overnight or maybe a day or two might make sense. If seshat comes along, I'm sure she would like to do a little bit of shopping. And I'm thinking that maybe raiding Jinbocho for used books could be nifty. Not to mention hitting Kinokuniya. I was most pleased with their history section, for all that I only had about an hour to peruse. It was noticably superior to Avanti's.
I think the schedule I've outlined should leave about four days in Kyoto. Hm, though I have forgotten something important! On our way down to Kyoto we must pop off the train in the Mikawa area and see Noda Castle. Since, after all, this is the Uesugi-Takeda trip, and that is where Shingen was killed. Death by flute -- does it get any more silly? (Yes, there is more of a story there; he was not bludgeoned to death with a woodwind.)
I'm not entirely sure what to do in Kyoto. Following the theme of knocking off things that have been pissing me off I'm thinking: Yoshino, Enryaku-ji, and do the walk from Kibune across to Kurama (and then soak in the hot springs!!) Huh. Those are all Yoshitsune-themed. Well, it's not like we're going to continue the Uesugi-Takeda theme down in Kyoto anyway. I'm amused that the top things on the "pissed off I keep missing them" are all related to Yoshitsune. Hm, if we have more time I'd toss Mt. Koya and Mt. Shigi on the list. And *&^%$ Tamon-jou. Which goes nicely with Mt. Shigi.
Hm, I think that's a reasonable start on the trip. I'm really glad to have over a year to pull the research together. So much to look at, so little time!
Oh yeah, the proposed dates on the trip? April, 2007. It won't be terribly good for people who haven't been to Japan before, since we're mainly going to obscure places that require a lot of time spent sitting on trains.