This weekend our friend Matt, Brett and I went on another Japanese adventure. This time we decided to take the train the opposite way, instead of into Tokyo, we went out to the countryside. It was BEAUTIFUL out there! We picked up a map at the outdoor center on base, found a train stop about 8 stops up that looked like it had 2 temples and a sake brewery near it, and off we went. First stop, the Ozaka Sake Brewery.
We were actually about 15 minutes late for the last tour, but never fear...they were still serving sake for a few more hours. Brett and Matt were much relieved, as you can tell here...
The courtyard area was gorgeous, and we picked a perfect day to go. The weather was awesome, and we just sat out here and enjoyed the view for a few hours. The boys drank sake and beer, the dutifully mom that I am drank water and ate edamame. Here's my 25 wk pregnant self posing by a Japanese Maple tree.
Here's another part of the courtyard. It just looks so typically Japanese, doesn't it? I swear I was having flashbacks to Karate Kid!
The Tama River runs right by this brewery. It is supposedly very polluted downstream from here, with lots of mercury and other nasty things, but it looked gorgeous from where we were. Of course, it is MUCH less crowded with people up this way, and this river hasn't reached Tokyo yet at this point. I guess the pollution is further down.
This is the bridge over the Tama River to get to the temple that was on the other side.
Across the river was a Shinto Temple. Almost all Japanese believe in a combo of Buddhism and Shinto religions. These temples (shrines are prevalent across Japan also- they are just smaller) are where they go to worship. Almost every village has one. They don't have one large, overseeing God- they have several small ones, and these shrines/temples are places to honor the various spirits and Gods. Their religion has a lot to do with family, nature and respect of those things, so you almost always see the temples in natural settings, like a hill by a river such as this one. They also believe in cleanliness, and there is usually a place to wash your hands before entering. The gong or bell is a way to release prayer and praise the Gods as well. (Yes, I am still Christian myself- I just find this stuff interesting.)
Matt, Brett and I on the platform of the temple, overlooking the Tama River.
After much sake drinking, and walking around this temple, we decided it was time to head back. We walked back to the train station (straight UP hill) and found that the next train didn't come for 30 more minutes. We also discovered there was another temple across the train tracks, so we walked over there to see it for a few minutes.
We walked around the grounds a bit, and then I said "when are these temples open?" Matt tries the door, and it slides open, with the help of the caretaker lady inside. We were a little surprised and muttered "sumimasen" (excuse me) several times, but she invited us in to take a look. It was very pretty and ornate inside. I have no idea what all the various items are for or what they mean, but it was really neat to see. You have to remove your shoes and leave them outside, and their are straw mats on the floor. Their was an "alter" type area at the front, an area to the side which looked like a prayer/worship area, and all sorts of gold items hanging at various places inside.
After looking around and thanking the lady over and over, we headed back to the train. On our way home, we had to switch trains at the Ome station. We saw, from across the tracks, a big festival going on. We didn't get to go over there, but I took a picture of it anyway. This is what is known as "Golden Week" here in Japan, and they have festivals and the kids are out of school. They have various holidays like that that honor the various emperors thruout history and also serve as ways to worship their various Gods.
We ended the night with dinner at "Strongarm" sushi, with our friends Jeremy and Lynn joining us. (That isn't really the name of it, but the name of course is in Japanese. The sign has a picture of a guy flexing his bicep, so it is known to the Yokotan's as Strongarm sushi). It was GOOOOD! It was one of the ones with a conveyor belt that goes around which was fun. The tables are all set up in a big rectangle, and the belt goes around all of them. Inside the belt are the chefs, who will randomly shout out things in Japanese and ring bells and stuff. We have no idea what they were saying, but it was good stuff! Lynn and I stayed mostly with the cooked items (we blame being pregnant as we both are, but I actually would eat that way regardless) although Brett, Matt and Jeremy were more adventurous- just pulling random dishes off the belt and eating them. When you are finished, you pay for your food by the color of the plate it was on. Amazingly, sushi fills you up!
It was a fun, adventure filled day- we hung on to the map we picked up and have decided that we will have to go out that way more often, as their are lots of hot springs, camping areas, fishing holes, hiking trails, etc. out in that direction (I'm sure we can find another brewery or 2 as well!)
P.S. For those of you on facebook, I finally posted some Japan pictures on that site as well. This blog thing is more fun though, as I can sorta "tell the story" to go with them. Sorry if I bore anyone with all my Japan tales- it is an easy way for me to scrapbook our memories. Plus, I'm sure I won't be as good about keeping up with it once the lil' bean arrives!!