What’s ” Korori” ? ( Kuroishi, Aomori )

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

 

Our trip in Aomori was exciting – indeed rather too exciting for us.

We had a  lot of very unusual experience in Aoni hot spring. The first day We stayed in a place where only oil lamps are available. It was interesting but not easy.

We realized how much we always depend on electricity. The place is surrounded by nature. I was amazed to see the sky at night. I have never seen so many stars in my life. I was even scared by the stars. I felt like they were all going to fall on me ! It’s not an exaggeration.

   

The following day we went to the town. The city is called Kuroishi city.

That city has an old arcade called “ Komise “. It was made around 300 years ago . In winter, this area has a lot of snow so this kind of arcade has been quite useful. This area still has old buildings such as a sake brewery.

   

As we took a walk we found a nice old house. The entrance wasn’t wide but inside is very spacious. This house used to be a shop for the lord of this area ( Kuroishi Han )and was dealing with rice, bean paste, soy sauce and salt.

This building is designated as an important cultural property.

The owner of this property is a very knowledgeable, friendly and interesting person. She told us many interesting stories. Over a cup of coffee we talked about many things.

One of the interesting stories is about this “ Korori Jizou “

This Jizou or deity is said to help people pass away without suffering for a long time. This Japanese word, “ korori “ is a kind of onomatopoeia used often for describing someone’s sudden death without suffering in pain for a long time.

Everyone must die someday (in the future) and I guess everyone wishes to pass away without suffering, without causing trouble for one’s family.

The owner’s husband passed away many years ago. Since he had been healthy and nobody expected him to pass away so soon, when her husband passed away, she was very sad. However she thinks it was lucky for everyone.  She thinks this deity helped him to pass away in that manner.

In Aomori, to my surprise, almost all of the people have a spiritual counselor called “ kamisama”. This word literally means “ god “ in English but it’s not equivalent. Anyway the person called “ kamisama” looks the same as anyone else, I mean they don’t wear any special clothes or carry special spiritual

gear. But they can communicate with the dead. Once she visited “ kamisama” to have her husband’s spirit called. She was amazed to see when her husband’s spirit came on “ kamisama”, “ kamisama” started to behaved exactly like her late husband used to do. The “ kamisama” hadn’t seen him before and she hadn’t talked about him. During the session, the late husband said he is happy now and had nothing to complain about. According to “ kamisama” since the husband devoted himself to disabled people as a teacher, his status in the world seems to be high in ranking.

 Now I started to worry about my future, I mean after death. I have to do something nice for others !

  

 

Lake Towada and Towada shrine ( Aomori )

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

 

We stayed at an inn on Lake Towada. I took this photo from the tea room of the inn after sunset.

We took a walk early in the morning along the lake. It was not very hot and the air was crystal clear. This lake is a caldera lake. In the 10th century there was a huge eruption. The eruption was so big that the ashes of the eruption reached as far as Kyoto which is about 800 Km away. A priest of Enryakuji temple kept a diary . According to his record, it suddenly got foggy and they couldn’t see the sun or the moon clearly. He was also worried about mulberry that the ashes would harm his mulberry leaves. Did you know Lake Towada’s eruption is the second biggest in Asia ? The biggest one is Baitoushan which lies on China and North Korea. Baitoushan also had a big eruption in the 10th century.

A few decades ago, this lake’s transparency was about 20 meters but its visibility declined so they took great care not to dump used water in the lake, however visibility hasn’t improved yet and now it’s about 9 meters. They don’t know why. For me the lake is very beautiful and romantic.

When I first I saw this lake I was struck by the power of nature. The lake is so huge and natural forests grow strongly. In Aomori “ Osorezan “ is famous as a power spot and so is Towada shrine. No wonder it has a special atmosphere.

      

It is said the oracles of this shrine hit it. On weekends, fortune telling sessions are also available. If you go up this trail, you can reach a view point.

It has a nice view but it’s from a 30-meter high cliff. The fortune teller goes down the cliff using an iron ladders and below the cliff, he / she ( I haven’t seen the person ) sees the clients’ fortune. Then the fortune teller goes up and tells the clients their fortune. Clients can’t go down the cliff. It sounds interesting. Next time I’ll go there on a weekend and try it out.

Kamakura in Yokote ( Akita )

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

I have been longing for kamakura since I was a child. By kamakura I mean small houses made of snow (and not the historical city in Kanagawa, which I love, too ). It’s summer and pretty hot now in Japan but you can experience what kamakura are like. You can find one in a certain building in Yokote city where a kamakura festival takes place every winter. The day we were there, the temperature was above 30 C ( 86F ) and inside the building where holding the kamakura it is minus 10 C. You have to wear a wataire (a cotton stuffed) jacket before going into the facility.And anyone who has a weak heart should refrain from going in. In fact it was an interesting experience but we couldn’t stay there for a long time. Inside the kamakura a water god is enshrined. They give thanks to the god and enjoy baking rice cakes and drinking something hot. They set candles and usher the people into the kamakura. I hope to go to the festival sometime.

 

I discovered another interesting place in Yokote. But my camera’s battery was flat and I couldn’t take photos of the inn. About 50 minutes drive from downtown Yokote will take you to the inn where we stayed. The area is called Mitsumata hot spring. The facility is kind of old and nothing special but it’s really quiet and relaxing. The hot spring is pretty good and the food they serve is excellent. I couldn’t take photos of them but I’m going back to that place again and then I’ll take photos of them. They serve homemade buckwheat noodles and they still use a windmill to grind the seeds.

Scenic beaches and summer oysters

Friday, August 13th, 2010

     

We drove up to the North along the Japan Sea. As we kept going toward Akita, we enjoyed viewing the beautiful sea. This area is called “Sasagawa Nagare”. We saw many interesting rocks in interesting shapes. According to local people, it has been this sunny and hot since June and many people are going there. Last year, they had many rainy days and business was very slow. Weather does affect economics. This fisherman has just come back from catching summer oyster or “ Iwagaki”. We can eat this oyster from June to the end of August. There are some shops you can buy and try out the oyster on the spot. We tried one. It was very creamy and tasty! The oyster itself has a strong taste and flavor so it was very good as it is. This oyster is very popular and its price is high. If you buy this oyster at restaurants in Niigata or in Tokyo, it’s more than twice as expensive as the price near the beach. If you have a chance to visit this area at this time of the year, it’s worth trying.

Senami Beach in Niigata

Friday, August 13th, 2010

 

On our way to the Northern part of Tohoku we stayed one night in Niigata. Senami( Murakami City ) is located on the coast of The Sea of Japan to the north of Niigata City. There are many resort hotels since it has good hot springs and fresh fish are available. Above all many people admire the beautiful romantic sunset. Fortunately, the weather was perfect to view the famous sunset.

 

 

      

 

The sea was calm and water warm. Next morning I saw a man feeding Japanese gulls. The birds are very friendly and like this person. I talked to him and found that he can’t hear or speak. But we could communicate by sign language. Once I read in a book that people mostly communicate non-verbally and communicate verbally only 20%. I guess that’s true. I could tell that the man is a very warm-hearted person.

 

 

Murakami City is famous for its salmon. A man named Buheiji Aoto completed the method to incubate salmon about 140 years ago. That has greatly contributed to this area’s economy. A long time ago the Japan Sea?was very busy with trading traffic so we can see big old houses and warehouses along the coast. Today we find most of the leading ports on the Pacific Ocean sides, however.

 

    

 

Maitake mushrooms

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I love mushrooms. I am particularly fond of Maitake mushrooms. “ Yukiguni Maitake” cultures and sells mushroom products. It is said that Maitake help  people build a strong immune system. I love Maitake because they are low or zero in calories, tasty and look interesting. Natural Maitake are very rare and difficult to find. People seem to have known their beneficial effects for many years. 300 years ago or perhaps even earlier, natural Maitake were worth their weight in silver. That’s how valuable and hard to get they were. Let me tell you the meaning of “ Maitake “. “ Mai “ means dance and “ take” means mushroom. Those who discovered rare natural Maitake mushrooms danced with joy so the mushroom has been called “ Maitake”.