JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

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Omatsuri is actually a place name. The small settlement has a lodge and restaurant.
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Bus to Taba. The bus runs from Okutama Station in Tokyo. It is the only public transportation link with the village.
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Omatsuri bus stop for Okutama.
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I was in Okutama and noticed that the bus goes on to Tabayama village in neighboring Yamanashi. I got really curious and rode the bus to Tabayama. This is central Tabayama.
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Omatsuri bus stop for Taba.
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When I walked around, my planned 20-min. stay turned into a 2-hour walking tour of this pacifying place, full of mountains and a clear river. A delightful discovery. Suigen Park
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On the side of the road near the bus stop, there is a trail going down to Tama River.
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Completely surrounded by mountains with a clear river running in the middle.
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A suspension bridge over the river.
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A few bridges span the river.
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Tama River as seen from the bridge.
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Tama River
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Tama River, looks very inviting in summer.
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Tama River, very quiet and peaceful.
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Upriver as seen from the bridge.
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Crystal clear water of Tama River
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Crystal clear water of Tama River with fall leaves.
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Entrance to the bamboo grove at Takebayashi Park. 竹林公園
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Trout fishing ponds for customers in warmer months.
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Higashikurume's farming homes used to each have a bamboo grove.
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These photos were taken in Feb. Probably scenic in fall.
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Riverside fishing ponds
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However, due to urban development, the bamboo groves were fast disappearing. So from 1974, the city decided to preserve this one bamboo grove.
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Mountain with a patch of green.
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Path to Otaki Waterfalls 雄滝
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A nice short trail goes through the bamboo forest.
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Bus stop. Notice the monkey crossing the road.
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Waterwheel 水車
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There were many hikers on the bus, and I wondered where they were going, so I followed them.
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Bamboo forest, Higashikurume, Tokyo
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Numerous monkey poop along the road.
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Waterwwheel (not working)
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Trail to waterfalls
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Pretty scenic area.
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When I was walking here, I did not know there was a waterfall.
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The area is part of the Chichibu-Tama National Park.
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Path from above.
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In the bamboo forest is one of Tokyo's 57 Famous Natural Springs.
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Trail to Mt. Kumotori, Tokyo's tallest mountain. That's where the hikers were headed.
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One of Tokyo's 57 Famous Natural Springs 竹林公園・東京の名湧水57選
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Trail to Mt. Kumotori
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Waterfalls
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Clear water, but I could not find any spot where the water was gushing out.
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Tama River
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Otaki Waterfall
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By coincidence, I found this man-made waterfall.
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An observation deck is also provided.
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View from the observation deck
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Waterfall
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Fishing pond
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Riverside picnic pavilions
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Picnic pavilion with charcoal grill (for the fish caught).
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Outdoor stage
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Tennis courts with snow.
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Fishing ponds
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Camping bungalows
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Camping bungalows along the river. For warmer months.
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Glorious Tama River
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Scarecrow
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Scarecrow
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Roadside waterwell
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Taba bus stop
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Taba bus garage
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Taba bus stop and bus garage
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Bus to Okutama, Tokyo
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Tatebayashi Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line (connects to Hanzomon subway line in Tokyo), east side. Takes almost 90 min. from central Tokyo by regular train. Costs only about 1100 yen.
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Tanuki raccoon dog in front of Tatebayashi Station, east side.
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Tanuki raccoon dog in front of Tatebayashi Station, east side.
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Tanuki raccoon dogs in front of Tatebayashi Station.
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About Bunbuku Chagma folktale, explaining why all the tanuki in Tatebayashi. Click here for the story.
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Flower fountain in front of Tatebayashi Station.
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Flower fountain in front of Tatebayashi Station.
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Tourist information office in front of Tatebayashi Station.
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City mascot "Pon-chan" goods sold at tourist information office in front of Tatebayashi Station. "Pon" refers to the character's pot belly.
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"Pon-chan" goods sold at tourist information office in front of Tatebayashi Station.
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Sights in Jonuma area, dominated by Lake Jonuma.
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Manhole with tanuki design in Tatebayashi, Gunma.
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Tsutsujigaoka Park is a 15-20-min. walk from Tatebayashi Station.
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It's a pleasant walk with azalea decorating the sidewalk.
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There were these flower racks too.
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Azaleas continue to lead the way to the park.
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Street corner with another tanuki. These tanuki are made in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture.
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Tanuki in Tatebayashi, Gunma.
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Entrance to Tatebayashi City Hall is also decorated with azaleas.
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Wisteria
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Along Tsuruudagawa River were koinobori carp streamers flanked by cherry trees and azaleas.
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Koinobori and azaleas in Tatebayashi, Gunma.
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The length of most of the koinobori is shorter than usual. Unlike the giant ones at Kannamachi also in Gunma.
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The koinobori are strung from late March to mid-May. Especially spectacular when the cherries are in bloom during late March to mid-April.
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In April and May, thousands of flying carp streamers grace the Tsuruudogawa River connected to Lake Jonuma.
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View from Fureai Bridge. These carp were once registered in the Guiness Book of World Records as having the most koinobori (over 6,000).
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View from Fureai Bridge in Tatebayashi.
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Way to Obiki ferry boat
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Lake Jonuma
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Obiki ferry dock is on the left above the bridge on this map.
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Obiki ferry takes only several minutes to reach Tsutsujigaoka Park. Fare was cheap, includes admission to the park. It's also possible to walk to the park.
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Boat ride was pleasant enough.
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Relaxing ride, only me and a mother and child.
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Koinobori at a lakeside house.
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Approaching Tsutsujigaoka Park
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Boat dock for Tsutsujigaoka Park. Other boats offered cruises.
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Map of Tsutsujigaoka, a National Scenic Site. It's a low, flat hill full of azalea bushes. There is a maze of foot paths going through the azalea. 名勝
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Tsutsujigaoka Park is a lakeside park featuring this low hill almost 200 meters long and 80 meters wide.
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Even the edges are incredibly colorful. This edge had group photo stands.
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Mind-blowing just to see so many azalea along the edges. But much, much more was waiting on this hill.
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Tanuki and azalea, a good match? I prefer women and flowers. Tsutsujigaoka
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Tourist information office
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Shopping street for tourists next to Tsutsujigaoka.
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Tsutsujigaoka Park, Tatebayashi
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Rest house on Tsutsujigaoka.
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Tanuki sighting near Lake Jonuma
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A few azalea bushes had passed their peak.
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The hill also has a few azalea tunnels.
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My friend in Tatebayashi tells me, "The legend of the azalea park is that the lord of Tatebayashi, Sakakibara Yasumasa, had a mistress named Otsuji.The wife was jealous of her and gave her such a hard time that Otsuji threw herself into Lake Jonuma and died. Since her name sounded like tsutsuji, the lord planted the garden to console her soul."
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Poplar tree and azalea
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The occasional white azalea give your eyes a break from all the bright colors.
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Now this is an entrance to Tsutsuji-en, a long, slim azalea garden. I walked through this on the way back.
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I was going to overdose on azalea. Had never seen so much azalea in my life. Tsutsujigaoka Park, Tatebayashi, Gunma.
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Love red and white flowers at Tsutsujigaoka Park, Tatebayashi, Gunma.
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Edge of Tsutsuji-en Garden.
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Tatebayashi Station platform
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Tatebayashi was a castle town, but almost nothing remains of the castle. This Dobashi Gate was rebuilt in 1983.
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Tatebayashi Castle's Dobashi Gate is in the former Sannomaru keep of the castle. 土橋門
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Tatebayashi Castle's Dobashi Gate. 土橋門
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Tatebayashi Castle's Dobashi Gate was at the Sannomaru keep. 土橋門
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Short castle wall at Tatebayashi Castle's Dobashi Gate. 土橋門
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Door in Tatebayashi Castle's Dobashi Gate. 土橋門
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Other side of Tatebayashi Castle's Dobashi Gate. 土橋門
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Tatebayashi Castle's Honmaru is marked by this Hachiman Shrine on a mound. Gunma.
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