Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tokyo German Village Illuminations and More Chiba Explorations (Nokogiri-yama, Nihonji, and Oyama Senmaida Rice Paddies)

If you are a regular reader, then you remember how much we L-O-V-E-D our Chiba explorations with Clayton and Tisha a couple months ago (if you're not a regular, here is that link:  Chiba1).  Just across that little bay there is such a different atmosphere....less buildings, more hills, less people, more open spaces.  We enjoyed ourselves so much that we just had to take Grandma and Grandpa for a little excursion.  

This time we decided to rent a van from MWR and drive across the Tokyo-Wan Bridge-Tunnel.  We actually saved a bit of money this way since the toll to get across the bridge (one way) is like 3000 Yen!  Then, we also had the 1000 or so yen to get up to the bridge (and then again on the way back home at the end of the day), as well as the 1000 or so we spent driving up and down Chiba. Renting the van saved us all the tolls.

We were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day!  The last time we were here it was very cloudy and rained on us too.  

It was pretty darn windy out in the middle of the bay.  Garytt, Grandma and I were the only ones brave enough to fight the wind all the way down to the front of the island.  Well, there were all those stairs, too!

This is the blade that was used to cut the tunnel.  And, our reflection in it.

Hanging out with the sea turtles

Once we were across the bridge, we made our way south to Nokogiri-yama.  
Sawtooth Mountain.  Nihonji Temple, where all the statues are found, was founded in 725.  There are so many paths to meander through on this 1,000-ish foot mountain.  I forgot how many stairs there were!!  Yowza!

This is the Hyaku-shaku.  Hyaku means 100 and Shaku was a unit of measure based on the distance between nodes on bamboo, its use discontinued in the 1960s.  So, if the average distance between nodes is about 30 cm, then multiplied by 100, that makes this Goddess of Mercy relief about 30 meters tall.

As we were entering Nihonji Garytt tugged on my shirt and said, "Momma, it's Ryan!"  I turned around and, yes, it was his friend from karate, Ryan and about 50 other teenagers from Yokosuka Middle School.  Oh, yay, a field trip!  Oy...we tried to get out ahead of them, but wow were they loud.  So, when we got to the Jigoku Nozoki, "View of Hell", we held up for several minutes to allow the mass of laughing and running teenagers to get ahead of us.   As we were waiting, I was texting a girlfriend and she said, oh, Sierra is there today on a field trip.  Sure enough, she was!!  We were all ecstatic to see sweet Sierra on this mountain across the bay!! 

We had amazing views today!! those regular readers...I went crazy with the statue pictures again!  :)  It's just so hard not to notice something new with every step!   They are hiding in caves several feet above our heads, sitting in caves at our feet and even eye level.  They are at the end of paths, all along other paths.  They are smiling, frowning, yelling, scowling.  Some are seated, some standing, some even laying down.  They are as varied as the people you see walking along the paths of the mountain, each with their own little story to tell.

With the rain we had in the days before, the paths were a bit muddy.

Once we were through the 1,500 Arhat statues (actually there are only about 540 now) we walked down the road to the 31 meter seated Buddha, the largest seated Buddha in Japan.  This Daibutsu (Big Buddha) represents Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing.  He took 3 years to carve, between 1780-1783.  He is incredibly large, but so...peaceful.  He gently emerges from the rock behind him, legs folded, hands cradled.  Poised gracefully on his lotus pedestal.  

 From Nokogiri-yama, we made our way over to the rice paddies.  Last we were here there were several brown paddies, as they were being harvested.  Today, we found a lot of the paddies filled with water, probably from the rain over the previous few days.  Today, we were the only visitors taking in the views at Oyama Senmaida.

As we were walking along the edge of the field, Kris noticed little lanterns.  Those were not here the last time we visited.  Hmm...wonder what those are for...Google?  Well, turns out a few days ago there was a Tanada no Yomatsuri, Night Festival at the Terraced Rice Paddies.  This happens every year at the end of October/beginning of November.  We just missed it, but as it turns out, they continue to light up the fields for a few weeks after the festival! was still a few hours until sundown, and we still had the German Village Illuminations on our list to see for the evening.  What to do, what to do...BOTH!!!  We made our way up to German Village and hoped to make it back to the paddy before the lights went out.

It took us about an hour to wind our way through the valleys toward German Village.  

We paid our fee at the gate, about 1500 yen for the car, and we arrived a little after 1600.

As soon as we pulled into the park we found a spot along the road, by the pond, to park and walk around the flower gardens before looking for the lights.  

We were greeted with amazing displays of flowers!

As we were walking through the flowers Boy spotted ducks in the pond.  All of a sudden they all made a mass exit from the pond.  And, as a massive group, made their way toward a little shed.  What was going on?  We just stood there and watched the cute guys quacking and walking and obviously waiting for something.

Turns out, the gentleman in the video was about to feed them.  He talked to them and walked with them.  I think he told us their name was "Daigono".  I'm not sure if that's the type of duck they were or if he just gave them all one name.  

The Duck Whisperer told them which way to walk, and they listened.  He gave Garytt the bucket and had Garytt give the ducks directions.  They walked all around us quacking and just looking so darn cute!  

They got pretty close!

After finishing up our walk through the flower gardens, we decided to make our way toward the lights.  

First stop, though, was at the park for a little running, sliding and climbing.

Even the grandparents got in on the zip line fun!

Mackenzie and Garytt decided to climb this rope tower that looks a bit like Tokyo Tower.  Mackenzie went straight to the top.  Garytt was okay just going halfway up.

As the sun was getting lower, we hopped back in the car and drove around to the other side of the park.  Here we hopped out and made our way into the German Village Illumination.

I'm glad we got there just before sunset so we could see what the displays look like before they are blasted millions of little lights.

A bubble machine that forces you to exercise!  Kenzie could have stayed there half the night!  And, Boy was happy to let her pedal while he popped the bubbles.  

Looking toward the backside of the entrance.  Behind me is the giant robot.

While we waited for the sun to set, after we had a quick look around at the displays, the kids had a blast running and rolling up and down the hills as the older Japanese folks smiled at their silliness.

Here is a view of the field before it's lit up.  If you look toward the top of the picture you can see white posts.  That is a path up that little hill.  We will walk up there later in the evening.

The sun is mostly down!  It's light show time!!!  You can see some of the path we took in the picture above...from the wooden dock at the bottom of the picture to the path in the middle of the picture and then we  meandered back toward the back of the park and up the hill at the top of the picture above.  

The kids loved these little houses.  

As I walked by the house I heard Kenzie giggling.  Then, I glanced at the house and saw that cute face smiling at me just before he yelled, "Hey, kids, get off my lawn!"

So, as we walked along the paths through the lights we tried to figure out what some of the pictures were.  They were kind of hard to tell.  We think that's a duck.

"Look, a bunny."

A field of green with little flamingos in the back.  

So, here's why that path is important.  It puts you at a vantage point where you can actually tell what the picture is below you!  How awesome!  That's not a bunny at's a teddy bear!  The rainbow lights above the toy picture, about center frame, are the lights on the top of the houses back at the entrance.  Off to the left side of the background is a ferris wheel and a rocket.

Finally, we made our way to the tunnel of lights for a quick family shot.  

We were pretty sure we had enough time to make it back to the rice paddies for the illumination!  So, after a pitstop at Lawson's, or maybe it was Family Mart, whichever it was, we loaded up on fried chicken, gyoza, sandwiches, and onigiri for dinner.

Another hour ride later, we made it to the paddy.  Wow!

It was so pretty at night!  And, oh so quiet!  Like a field of stars at our feet!