ok, the third and final castle from my trip! On Sunday I went down to the nearby town of Iwakuni ( 岩国 ), about 40 mintues away from Hiroshima (
google map). Iwakuni is actually in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and its most known for the fact that there is a US Marine base there... when I was living in Fukuoka we would get a lot of these guys coming down on the weekends.
Anyway, I wasn't there to see any Marines (although I did anyway!), I was there for castle... and I got a litte Edo style bridge thrown in!
Iwakuni Castle ( 岩国城 ) is actually a mountain top castle, its up on a hill overlooking a river valley that includes some old temples, gardens, samurai mansions and the famous Kintai Bridge (
Wikipedia page on Iwakuni -
Again, using the power of the
7x zoom on my new camera, you can see it peaking out from the trees up on the hilltop.
But before we get to the castle, let's talk about the Kintai bridge ( 錦帯橋 ):
Its a traditional bridge originally built in the 1600s. According to the literature its one of the three most beautiful traditional bridges in japan! (i'm guessing #3)
Like almost everything in Japan, its been rebuilt and/or refurbished many times. It was washed away in a typhoon in 1950 and then rebuilt 3 years later. In 2004 they completely replaced all the wood.
A bit hard to cross actually, since it gets kinda steep going down. I'm guessing this was more of a foot bridge and less of a vehicle bridge. :-P
Supposedly, according to all the tourist info, there are no nails used in it making it either, (except of course for those nails right there in the picture holding the planks down...
To be honest I wasn't too impressed w/ the bridge... it looks better from far away than it does from on it (except for the low water level). The two kindergarteners crossing the bridge is actually the most interesting thing to see here. :-P
On the other side there is basically a giant touristy area w/ a park and museums... and the ubiquitous shops selling tourist trinkets and food.
The most interesting was this place with like 8 million varieties of ice cream. Some of them are really bizarre like:
green onion (negi)
I can't figure out what '
伯方の塩' is though (uncle's style salt flavored ice cream!?)
It wasn't too hot air temperature wise, but it was incredibly sunny, i had to run from shady spot to shady spot to make my way through the park areas.
This area used to be the private gardens of the shogun guy who controlled this area, Kikkawa Hiroyoshi... For some reason they put in this fountain w/ castle-style wall designs (which automatically makes it picture worthy!). There were also some temples and shrines nearby.
One thing that this area is famous for is their unique Iwakuni white snakes. Some kind of sub-species only found in this area. Apparently they are a symbol of a goddess of wealth so some people pray to them for good fortunes. They had a tourist trap type exhibit w/ a few of them in a glass enclosure:
But unlike Fukuyama, and most of the other rebuilt ones, this one wasn't burnt down during WWII:
Man, what a waste! they went through all the trouble to make it, it took then 5 years to finish it, and then it was demolished after 8 years! (stupid one castle per prefecture rule!)
So, yes, Iwakuni has the relatively rare distinction of being a modern reconstruction of a long disappeared castle... which makes me wonder how close the present appearence is to the original...
Actually its a scam! they didn't even build it in the same place! The original foundation is about 100 feet away:
The rebuilt one is in the center
of this map, the original foundation in the picture is above it -- apparently the original was too far from the crest of the hill, so they put the new one closer to make it easier to see from the bridge... the whole thing is designed from top to bottom as a tourist trap rip-off! Etchy demands non-commercially motivated historical accuracy! :-D
[don't worry, i wasn't upset, i knew beforehand that this was the case, i still really enjoyed this castle!]
Inside the tower they had the typical museum stuff...
I only took a picture of this because it was an extremely large two handed katana... I thought Eric might enjoy seeing it.
There was no balcony at the top of this one like most castles. In this case its just big windows with those coin-operated binoculars. But of course with my new 7x zoom camera... I won't be needing any binoculars. :-P
Thats the river valley area and the Kintai bridge. I think it'd look nicer if there was more water in the river... or at least if they weren't using the dry river bed as a tour bus parking lot. :-P
2nd to last but not least:
At the top cable car station they had this mechanical clock which would do some musical number on the hour. It wasn't too earthshaking, but the notable thing is the numbers on the clock face... they're in kanji ( 漢字 ).
seriously thats gotta be the first time in all my years in China and Japan that I've seen this. I was critical of the first episode of '
Heroes' which had scenes that were supposed to be set in tokyo that were completely inauthentic, and the #1 thing that showed that was the clock w/ kanji on it, as I never saw one like that anywhere in tokyo or japan...
And final picture:
Me and my '
24 Herbs' T-shirt stop for a pose in front of this statue of Sasaki Kojiro.
You know who he is right? (if not, read
this) I wasn't sure why this statue was here, until i got home and read up on wikipedia. According to
this, he learned his signature move, the swallow cut ( 燕返し ) here at the Kintai bridge... interesting stuff!
[to put this in context for those who don't know me that well, after watching Toshiro Mifune's Musashi Miyamoto
'Samurai Trilogy', in 2005 I made a trip to Ganryujima in the Kaimon Straits, the island where the famous Sasaki-Miyamoto duel took place (
Photo of the statue they have there) ]
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