Keisokuji Temple 鶏足寺, Shiga 滋賀県

I exited Kinomoto Station and was greeted by two middle-aged men wearing Happi. For a moment, I wanted to ask them which bus stop is for Keisokuji Temple. But in the end, I just lined up in the area where there were four old men in complete hiking outfit. When the bus arrived, I went straight to the back part. I wasn’t expecting only a few local tourists to head to my destination. I thought maybe the place isn’t just popular. After 12 minutes, I pressed the alight button and got off at Imyojin Bus Stop as recommended by Google Map. I was left wondering why the other men ,who I assumed to be headed to the same place as I was, didn’t get off. I had the feeling I chose the wrong stop.

It’s autumn in Japan and I didn’t want to miss seeing the striking colors of Japanese maple leaves. Kyoto was my first choice, but I decided to go to Shiga Prefecture at the last minute. Kyoto might be one of the best places to visit during the fall, but I just couldn’t appreciate the place because of the crowd. In Shiga, there’s a place famous for its carpet of red maple leaves.  I saw it several times in Instagram and that’s how I ended up going to Keisokuji Temple.

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Thoughts on Walking

I put on my white Adidas shoes as this is the only pair of sneakers that goes fashionably well with skirts, dresses, and suits.  I hurriedly went down the stairs of my apartment trying to make it to the main street before the school hymn of the nearby school came to an end.  It’s normally my cue to leave the apartment already or else I’d be late for work.

My workplace is a 30-minute walk from my apartment.  I’ve been walking to school for more than a year already, so I usually make it one or two minutes before my log-in time.  And that includes grabbing lunch and snacks in the supermarket next to my workplace.  My apartment is situated uphill and my workplace is located in another uphill ground.  It’s like going from one valley to another valley.  On regular weekdays, I walk a total of almost 5 kilometers.  I’ve walked in different seasons and I’ve realized that the different seasons play a big part on what I feel and what I think while walking.

SUMMER

Summer is unforgiving.  The heat is intense and the wind does not even let its presence be known.  I start to pity myself.  My upper clothing is drenched in sweat.  And because of that, I usually bring a towel and an extra blouse.  There seems to be no point wearing make-up.  By the time I arrive in the workplace, I look as if I’d just completed a morning workout.  My hair is messy, which is enough to be stressed out for the day.  Walking in summer feels like never ending especially if it’s an upward slope.  Every turn I take, I would wish it were the last.  And in every step, I’d repeatedly question why I placed myself in this situation.

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Summer – Shirotori Garden, Aichi Prefecture

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AUTUMN

Autumn is the beginning.  I’d like to think of autumn as the start of good things to come.  It’s much more comfortable walking in autumn.  It is when the feel of the cold temperature seems so much more inviting.  The color of the autumn leaves is striking—- may it be yellow, red, or orange.  There is a gingko tree with dark yellow leaves alongside the street I pass by.  I used to hate that tree not knowing what it was because its fruits would fall all over the ground and smell so bad.  Sometimes I would see its owner cleaning up the ground with a broom and I used to pity her.  It made me wonder why she would go through the hassle of sweeping the ground early in the morning.  Sometimes she’d collect a total of four garbage bags full of rotten fruits.  I didn’t understand then that that tree is like a shining star in the autumn daylight.

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Autumn- Tachikawa, Tokyo Prefecture

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WINTER

Winter is depressing and lonely.  That’s when all the dark thoughts occupy the mind.  It’s five in the afternoon and the light has retired early.  I shiver in cold as I walk my way uphill with nobody in sight.  Sometimes I daydream I am in the setting of M. Night Shyamalan’s chiller movie The Village.  On rare occasions, I see some students on their way home.  It sometimes boggles me how the female high school students can manage the cold in their mini skirt uniform whereas I, completely bundled up in my coat, scarf and gloves, can still feel the biting cold.  But if I’d have to choose, I’d pick winter over summer because I still look exactly the same as when I leave the apartment—- make-up intact and strands of hair still in place.

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Winter- Shirakawago, Gifu Prefecture

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SPRING

Spring is salvation.  The light after the dark.  It’s the season that constantly makes me want to freeze time even just for a minute, so I could appreciate the beauty of cherry blossom trees that line the street.  There are times when the wind would blow and the cherry blossom petals would rain on me.  And in my mind I’d be doing a twirl in my cute dress.  Or sometimes I wish someone would film me in slow motion as I gaze up completely amazed at the falling white pinkish petals.  But, nope.  None of that as I need to hurriedly get to the workplace. But my hopes are still high as I know there are two more blossom trees on the way.  It’s only in spring when I wish that the traffic lights would remain red, so I could enjoy the view of the cherry blossom tree standing near the stop lights.  And as I completely enter the compound of my workplace, another cherry blossom tree lifts my mood up.

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Spring- Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture

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Walking throughout the four seasons allows me to think of different things.  It’s not just a routine to reach my destination.  It’s a process that allows me to talk to myself and solve my worries.  Sometimes I’d go home filled with problems that only people living abroad would face.  In the whole 30-minute walk, I’m usually able to analyze the why’s and how’s of my situation.  By the time I reach home, the negative thoughts don’t linger anymore.  Walking is an invisible friend.  It’s solitary, yet, it brings me solace.

Tachikawa 立川市

Autumn is my fave because it makes the surrounding strikingly beautiful with the play of colors. This time around, I decided to travel to Tachikawa which is near Tokyo. I went to this park just to see the line of ginkgo trees. I was so surprised that it was somewhat deserted on a Saturday noon. I didn’t really stay long because it was so cold and drizzling. When I came back the next day, the place was jam-packed with people and their cute dogs. There were wedding and cosplay photo shoots, too. It was the weather after all. I guess I was lucky to have enjoyed the place with no crowd when I went the first time.dscf4525dscf4527dscf4535dscf4539dscf4576dscf4592dscf4608dscf4611dscf4616

Shikizakura (Cherry Blossoms in Autumn)

I saw cherry blossoms blooming in November of last year.  It was rare.  I think it defied seasons.  Tourists go all over Japan in autumn to see the beauty of maple leaves in deep red and crimson orange or the gingko leaves in brilliant yellow.  How did I even manage to get a glimpse of cherry blossoms when spring was like five months away?

It took almost an hour and two train transfers before I reached Toyotashi Station.  I had to wait for another hour before the bus bound to Kaminigi arrived.   Just before I boarded the bus, one of the ladies from a very noisy tourist group asked me something in her own native language.  I didn’t understand her question, of course, but told her the bus was going to Kaminigi.  Her group joined in and all throughout the ride, I was trying to decipher what Asian language she was using.  I thought the group was also going to see the cherry blossoms, but they got off at a different place.  I was supposed to alight at Obara Fureai Park, but I missed it.  The kind bus driver recommended another place where I could view the cherry blossoms, and that was how I ended up in Senmi Shikizakura no Sato.

Senmi Shikizakura no Sato is somehow like a park with a number of Shikizakura trees.  You have to climb a hill to see the trees up close.  It was steep that I still tried to rest for a few seconds before I continued my ascent.  Many of the visitors were old Japanese people, and there were some foreign tourists, too.  There were food stalls in the area but only a limited number of benches where you could stop to take a rest.  There was also a bus schedule posted near the entrance, so you wouldn’t miss the last bus home.

At Senmi Shikizakura no Sato , you can find shikizakura which refers to cherry blossoms that bloom in two seasons—spring and autumn.  Shikizakura in Toyotashi can be seen from October to early December.  The best viewing season is around late November.  Based on what I’ve noticed, the flowers of Shikizakura are much smaller than the cherry blossoms that grow in spring.  They somehow remind me of ‘ume’ or the Japanese plum blossoms. The view of Shikizakura and maple trees in Senmi Shikizakura no Sato is like combining spring and autumn into one season.

Seeing the cherry blossoms in autumn was a surprising thing.  It gives tourists an opportunity to see the sakura in case they missed it in spring.  For those who love nature and flowers, Shikizakura is such a beautiful wonder.

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How To Go There:

From Nagoya, you can take the Nagoya City Subway Higashiyama Line for Fujigaoka and get off at Fushimi Station.  From Fushimi Station, you can ride the Nagoya City Subway Tsurumai Line for Toyotashi and alight at Akaike.  From Akaike Station, take the Meitetsu Toyota Line for Toyotashi and get off at Toyotashi Station.  The over-all cost is 760 yen, and it takes 53 minutes.  From Toyotashi, ride a bus bound for Kaminigi.  You can tell the driver to drop you off at Senmi Shikizakura no Sato. There are actually many routes that you can take from Nagoya.  The one I mentioned is just one of the possible routes that you can follow.