When I was younger, I longed to live somewhere with lots of flowing green grass and wide open spaces. And then I grew up and had to mow my own half acre of lawn, and drive 23 miles each way to work, and … that dream lost its appeal. I grew to envy my friends who lived in big cities, who didn’t have to drive, who didn’t have to worry about lawns or tree roots, who could walk to the places they wanted to go. And so my desire to live in a real city (not suburbs) grew and grew. Now that I live in a genuine big city … I love city living. It’s convenient, it’s easy, and if I never have to drive a car again, all the better.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate nature, or open space, or quiet. I do. But I also don’t have far to go to find all of these things. Whenever I visit a new city here in Japan, I invariably seek out the local gardens and shrines. I’ve seen quite a few in my travels, but the joy in visiting them hasn’t grown old. Japanese gardens are beautiful, whether they are highly sculpted, like Korakuen in Okayama, or allowed to be more natural, like Ritsurin in Takamatsu. And I find shrines peaceful and relaxing. Just wandering around the grounds makes me feel happy and at ease.
I’ve been to a number of the local major shrines — Sumiyoshi, Hakozaki, Kushida and, a bit further afield, Dazaifu Tenmangu — but not all of them. And while I had been to a well-known garden in Hakata, Rakusuien, I hadn’t been to the nearest garden, which is just the other side of Ohori Park from me. So this past weekend, I wandered over to the garden for a stroll, and ventured over to Nishi-ku (West Ward), to visit a large neighborhood shrine there, Kashii.
Shame on me for not having visited the garden sooner! It’s moderate-sized, well laid out and just plain lovely (and just 190 yen to enter). There’s a pond, waterfalls and even a zen rock garden in the back. While I was there, a Shinto wedding party was taking photos in traditional dress (looked like an American guy marrying a Japanese woman). I’ll definitely be back when I need something a bit more sheltered than Ohori Park, which is itself lovely, but usually teeming with people.
Kashii shrine is a bit of a pain to get to, since it involves multiple JR lines going to smaller stations (and sometimes infrequent trains, especially when you miss a train because of timing and end up waiting almost half an hour at another station for a train going the right way!), but it’s a lovely shrine set in a quiet wooded area. The day I visited was apparently an early day for the Shichi-go-san (7-5-3) ceremony, so there were families with small children in the more adorable hakama and kimono running about.
I am always drawn to the a shrine’s koma inu, or guardian dog statues. Or, in the case of Inari shrines, the guardian foxes. Kashii had both, and something unusual: guardian chickens. No idea why. The koma inu were odd as well, as their heads (which didn’t seem to be replacements) were tiny by comparison to their bodies, giving them a comical appearance.
Plus, there was a cannon, which I really can’t explain. But there it was, alongside the main shrine building.
All in all, two lovely mini-trips with such peaceful settings. Very glad I checked them out.