Although I’ve posted a few times about seeing Korea, I wanted to post some stuff about Japan too. My wife’s maternal-side of the family lives outside Utsunomiya, Japan, which is a medium-sized city in Tochigi Prefecture, 2 hours north of Tokyo by car.
If you are in the Tokyo-area, you can actually take a direct, regular train up to Utsunomiya using the Shonan-Shinjuku line. Try to get the express though as it does save some time. But even if you can’t, it’s a nice relaxing ride and much cheaper than the Shinkansen.
Anyhow, my wife’s relatives live on the west-side of Utsunomiya’s suburbs, which are somewhat rural. During the afternoon (which was more humid than Kawasaki city), I took Little Guy for a walk in his stroller (bebiikā ベビーカー in Japanese) and found some nice rice-fields nearby:
We had a great dinner that night with the whole family, and my daughter got to see her second-cousins (hatoko 再従兄弟/再従姉妹) again. Some of her second-cousins (children of my wife’s cousin) live in Utsunomiya, while other second-cousins came from other parts of the world such as the Middle-East. It was a rare, rare chance for them all to meet. They had a lot of fun playing together, lighting Japanese fireworks (sparklers for us Americans) and so on.
Tagesan is a Shingon-Buddhist temple and famous for having lots of steps:
I was carrying Little Guy while trying to climb these steps. It was not easy. :p
The main deity in the temple is the esoteric figure, Fudo Myoo, who is a kind of guardian figure in Shingon Buddhism. Most temples with Fudo Myoo have names like Fudōson (不動尊) or something like that, so it’s easy to recognize.
We also found a large array of “Jizo” statues like these:
The red-bibs are commonly seen on statues of Jizo Bodhisattva. I’ve heard a couple different reasons why this is done (I’m not sure which is true):
- They are supposed to protect children who died young (Jizo is a protector of children among other things), or
- They are used to build up good merit for devout Buddhists as a kind of devotional offering, similar to this famous tale.
Here’s the main, central statue of Jizo Bodhisattva:
Finally we enjoyed some Ramen:
Utsunomiya seems to have a lot of Japanese-Chinese food, or chūka-ryōri (中華料理) including ramen and my personal favorite: gyoza (potstickers). As my wife and kids know, gyoza are my favorite food,1 so I love going to Utsunomiya and eating there. 🙂
Utsunomiya is a nice city to visit and I definitely recommend visiting Tochigi Prefecture if you can. I always enjoy going there.
P.S. Gyoza are especially good with Chinese chili oil from Ishigakijima. We bought some during our recent visit. 🙂
1 I like them so much that my wife and daughter made them for me by hand on Father’s Day. I was very happy. 🙂