JAPAN PHOTOS

By Philbert Ono


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Okegawa-juku was the 6th lodging town (shukuba 宿場) on the old Nakasendo Road (中山道) that connected Tokyo (Edo) and Kyoto through an interior route passing through Saitama, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu, and Shiga Prefectures.It was about 526 km long and had 69 lodging towns where travelers could lodge and water their horses. A few buildings from this era still remains. This Okegawa manhole has a safflower (benibana) design. Okegawa was a major producer of safflowers.
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Okegawa-juku marker along the Nakasendo.
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Map of Okegawa-juku showing the old buildings that still remain.
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About Okegawa-juku.
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About Okegawa-juku.
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Shukuba lodging towns in Saitama Prefecture as shown at the Nakasendo Shukuba-kan (中山道宿場館).
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Okegawa Tourist Association (桶川市観光協会) in the Nakasendo Shukuba-kan (中山道宿場館) building right in the middle of the former lodging town.
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Inside Nakasendo Shukuba-kan (中山道宿場館). Various exhibits and pamphlets about Okegawa-juku. Also a short video. No English.
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Map of Okegawa-juku's main buildings.
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Nakasendo Shukuba-kan has woodblock-style postcard printing in three different colors. It's free.
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Make your own Okegawa-juku postcard in three steps. The final print is Keisai Eisen's print of Okegawa-shuku, part of his Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Kaido series.
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Keisai Eisen's print shows a traveler approaching a house to ask for directions to Hikawa Tenman Shrine. A woman farmer is threshing grain, and her husband smoking a pipe in the house. Tobacco leaves are drying from the eaves. A man sits sideways on a pack horse headed in the opposite direction. 岐阻街道 桶川宿 曠原之景
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Our guide showed us around Okegawa-juku on foot. All the major spots are within walking distance.
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Our guide showed us the original kanji characters used for "Okegawa."
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Nakasendo Road in Okegawa-juku. Most of it looks modern.
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Miniature shrine in a tree trunk.
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Inari Shrine in Okegawa-juku. 稲荷神社
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Inari Shrine in Okegawa-juku. 稲荷神社
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Inari Shrine in Okegawa-juku. 稲荷神社
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Inari Shrine in Okegawa-juku. This green sacred rope is actually fake, not made of straw. 稲荷神社
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Inari Shrine's stone lanterns were donated by safflower producers.
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Inari Shrine's stone lanterns were donated by safflower producers. Their names are engraved on the lanterns.
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About Inari Shrine's stone lanterns.
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About Inari Shrine's Power Stone (chikara-ishi). 力石
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Inari Shrine's Power Stone (chikara-ishi). 力石
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Inari Shrine's Power Stone (chikara-ishi) has to be wet for us to see the engravings. 力石
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Inari Shrine's Power Stone (chikara-ishi) weighs 610 kg. A sumo wreslter once lifted it in 1852 as written on the stone. 力石
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What's engraved on Inari Shrine's Power Stone (chikara-ishi). 力石
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Small shrine still remaining from the old days.
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Former wholesaler of safflower, called the Yabe residence. From the Meiji Period. 穀物問屋(矢部家)
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Nakasendo Road in Okegawa-juku.
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Perhaps Okegawa-juku's most distinctive building is the Shimamura family earthen storehouse (島村家住宅土蔵). Mr. Shimamura was our guide. 島村家住宅土蔵
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Shimamura family earthen storehouse as built in 1836 as a three-story storehouse to provide employment to construction workers suffering from a bad harvest that year.The storehouse is therefore nicknamed "Otasuke-zo" (お助け蔵) or "Savior Storehouse" for saving people from famine.
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About the Shimamura family earthen storehouse (島村家住宅土蔵). The storehouse is a National Tangible Cultural Property.
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Shimamura family earthen storehouse roof was recently renovated (島村家住宅土蔵).
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Entrance to Shimamura family earthen storehouse. It's fireproof and it has proven to be earthquake proof too.
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The building is filled with antique items from the old days. Amazing, eclectic collection.
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Stairs to the 2nd floor.
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More antique items on the 2nd floor.
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Edo Period encyclopedia.
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Stairs to the 3rd floor.
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Inside the earthen wall.
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Third floor with roof beams.
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Luggage case.
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Meiji Period dishes.
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Little Mermaid design.
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The Shimamura family storehouse is normally open only on the first Saturday of the month from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. However, groups can arrange to enter the storehouse on other days by appointment. (Call the Okegawa Tourist Association.)
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Another Shimamura family building, now a tea shop sandwiched by modern buildings.
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About Okegawa-juku's Honjin luxury lodge (本陣) where VIP travelers like the emperor, daimyo, shogun, or Imperial princess stayed.
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Only part of Okegawa's Honjin remains today, but it is private property and normally not open to the public. We could only see the entrance gate.During its heyday, Okegawa-juku saw VIP guests such as the Maeda daimyo from Kaga (Ishikawa Prefecture) and Tokugawa Nariaki (1800–1860) from Mito (Ibaraki Prefecture). But the most famous VIP to stay in Okegawa was an emperor's daughter named Princess Kazunomiya (1846–1877) when she was traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo to marry shogun Tokugawa Iemochi. She lodged in Okegawa on Nov. 13, 1861 and her entourage numbered over 30,000.
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Emperor Meiji also once rested here while passing through in 1878 and there's this stone marker for it at the Honjin gate.
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From a side street, we could see the roof of the Honjin stil remaining.Today, Okegawa holds an annual autumn festival called Okegawa Shimin Matsuri (桶川市民まつり) on Nov. 3 (national holiday) reenacting Princess Kazunomiya's procession traveling through Okegawa-juku.
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A former Okegawa-juku Hatago inn for travelers now called the Kobayashi residence. Dates from the Edo Period. 旧・旅籠(小林家)
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A former Hatago inn for travelers now called the Kobayashi residence. It's now a coffee shop. 旧・旅籠(小林家)
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Gate to Jonenji Temple in Okegawa-juku. 浄念寺
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About Jonenji Temple in Okegawa-juku. It's a Jodo-shu Pure Land Sect Buddhist temple.
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About the gate's Nio statues.
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Jonenji's main worship hall is new, rebuilt in 2004.
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Stone tablets
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Oke-chan is Okegawa's official mascot. He is a Nakasendo traveler sporting a safflower on this head.
 
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