Inaka and beyond: Amabikisan rakuhoji

If you ask people from Tokyo or the area around it, then you’ll probably get only one opinion about Mito: countryside. In Japanese that’s called inaka. It is the vast randomness that you encounter on the route between Tokyo and Mito, and the fact that you have the occasional rice field within the city, which make the point of calling it countryside.
Obviously, if you are traveling deeper into Ibaraki, you will get to even more remote places. One of those is the destination of today’s trip. First we took a train to Tomobe, then changed for Iwase, to take a taxi to go to Amabikisanrakuhoji.
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The train is not overly crowded. My friend Ben, who is accompanying me, really loves the countryside. It was his idea to actually make the trip.
Just in case you did not believe it before, Ibaraki is the inaka; have a look out of the window.
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The train station, where we changed to the cab is really almost in the middle of nowhere; but Suica is working here, which is great. We used Skype to call a cab and the driver is very friendly, he took us right there. It is mainly country roads, with fields left and right off the track.
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Amabikisanrakuhoji is a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Extensive buildings, with the usual inner sanctum on a way up a hill.
It is one of the treasures of Ibaraki and it comes with the promise of early Sakura bloom. Unfortunately the weather is not overwhelming, but equipped with an umbrella it was quite okay. In fact, the umbrella was completely unnecessary and it cleared up quite well.
The cherry trees are just after their peak bloom, already with green leaves shining through. Nevertheless a beautiful sight. You can already make out the Ajisai bushes here and there, and how amazing it will be during June or early July. Due to its remote location, I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to go back.
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Since it really is in the middle of the countryside, trees are surrounding the temple, which is located within the mountains. It has a very spiritual atmosphere. It would be very quiet, if it wasn’t for the many birds here. There are several peacocks, ducks, rosters, and geese.
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The structure is very complex, with lots of different buildings. Right at the parking lot there is a traditional gate marking the entrance.
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Next to it is one of the biggest stone lanterns I have come across during my visits.
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As usually you have to climb up quite a few stairs to get to the main shrine.
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About half way you’ll find another gate, this time in red. It reminded me a lot about Howaen, where the entrance is marked in a similar way. As it turns out, I failed to actually take a picture close up from the gate. Instead, you can have a view from slightly below through the trees, seeing only a small part. I guess now I have to go back to take the picture.
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The main temple building is like most buddhist temples kept in a bright red.
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On the left side next to it is a pagoda. It is quite impressive, when you stand right in front of it.
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There are several playful arranged waterfalls and ponds on the premises, joyfully connecting the various buildings.
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Quite a few peacocks inhabit the place, and as I earlier stated, I have a lot of respect for these creatures from early childhood on. They might be peaceful animals, but I don’t trust them. Especially not this one.
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A little apart from the main buildings there is another very small shrine, where I think a monk is enshrined. But I cannot be certain about it.
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Behind the buildings you can climb further up the hill along various paths. Alongside those you’ll find many small Buddha statues aligned.
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From the top you have quite a nice view over the countryside. It really is inaka here, but it is beautiful nature.
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When we went down again, we found a small restaurant and had a Chinese style lunch set. After that the weather cleared up. We continued our adventure back to the station, from where we went to Kasama. That, however, is material for a new entry.

Addendum: I must have been a little blind when writing the article; I found the picture of the red gate. I guess now I don’t really have to go back, unless I want of course, which I do, but you never know what’s coming next.
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