JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when traveling.

Image search results - "odani"
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Mt. Odani has a series of peaks and the castle was built along the ridge. Odani Castle is one of Japan's five most famous mountain castles.
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Mt. Odani in the distance. The first time I visited Odani Castle, I walked from Kawake Station.
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Warning sign for flashers.
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Odani Castle stone marker near the entrance to the paved road going up the mountain.
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Entrance to the paved road going up the mountain. There's a small parking lot, small park, restrooms, and resthouse here.
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Rest house at foot of Mt. Odani.
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Map and history of Mt. Odani and Odani Castle, a National Historic Site. Odani Castle was built around 1523.
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Road going up Mt. Odani. You can walk up, but easier if you have a car. I don't recommend walking up in the heat (and flying insects) of summer. MAP
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Welcome sign and phone No. for a volunteer tour guide. But even if you call, you have to make reservations and it makes no sense if you're already there.
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Otemichi path is apparently an alternate way up, but it is closed off to visitors.
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As you go higher up, the views get better.
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Map of Mt. Odani and Odani Castle (National Historic Site). There is a series of castle keeps (maru) along the mountain ridge. Odani Castle was thus a yamajiro or mountain castle.
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If you're walking up Mt. Odani, this is one of the best scenic viewpoints on Odani. Good place to rest too.
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View of Lake Biwa and Chikubushima island.
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View of Lake Biwa and Chikubushima island from Mt. Odani.
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In 2011, the Go and Azai Sisters Expo was held in Nagahama. The west side of Nagahama Station had shuttle buses going to the Odani pavilion. Buy the roundtrip bus ticket at the little office near the bus stop at the train station.
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The 1,000 yen ticket includes admission to all three pavilions and roundtrip shuttle bus fare. Best to go the Odani pavilion first, then take another shuttle bus to Odani Castle.
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The shuttle bus leaves once or twice an hour from Nagahama Castle. It comes with a bus guide.
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At the Odani pavilion at the foot of Mt. Odani, a shuttle bus with a bus guide is provided for 500 yen roundtrip during 2011. A lot easier than walking up the mountain.
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The shuttle bus goes almost halfway up Mt. Odani. We then got off the bus and walked as the tour guide led us. I went on this tour on my second visit to Odani Castle. Lot easier than the first time when I walked all the way from Kawake Station.
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The first thing we saw was this, the Kingo-maru keep, a hill. Named after Asakura Norikage (Soteki) (朝倉 教景) who was stationed here while defending the castle against Rokkaku Takayori (六角高頼) in 1525.
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About the Kingo-maru keep in Japanese.
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After a short walk was the Bansho guard house site here. 番所
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Bansho guard house site at Odani Castle. It was a security gate for castle visitors.
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Bansho guard house site
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Illustration of Bansho guard house.
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About the Bansho in Japanese.
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Walking further along the castle tour. The tour guide explained each site in Japanese with a megaphone. The tours were quite popular.
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Trail blocked off.
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View of Mt. Toragozen (near Torahime Station on the JR Hokuriku Line) where Oda Nobunaga's troops were perched prior to their attack on Odani Castle in 1573.
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Beware of wild goats (kamoshika) on Mt. Odani.
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Site of the Ochaya which was right above the Bansho. It was Odani Castle's first castle keep or bailey within the castle's central area. 御茶屋跡
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Illustration of the Ochaya (on the lower left terrace). The area was divided into two by a dirt wall and had an L shape. It was a military outpost and included a small garden. 御茶屋跡
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About the Ochaya in Japanese.
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The trail is pretty level most of the way. It's not a strenuous tour.
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Horse-washing Pond. There were two ponds, this bottom one to wash off the main dirt and another pond behind this one on the upper level for cleaner washing. On the left was the Horse Stable. 馬洗池
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About the Horse Washing Pond and Horse Stable in Japanese.
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Next to the Horse-washing Pond is a large area called the Ouma-ya or Horse Stable. It is not known if there actually was a horse stable here. This was enclosed on three sides by high earthen walls.
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Site of the Ouma-ya Horse Stable. This castle keep was used to defend the castle's Honmaru keep. There was a water well in the center.
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About the Horse Stable in Japanese.
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Illustration of the Ouma-ya Horse Stable (center terrace). You can see the two Horse-washing Ponds at the foot of the stone wall.
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Azaleas blooming around the Horse Stable in May.
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View from the Ouma-ya.
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View from the Ouma-ya. That's Yamamoto-yama in the distance.
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Peak of Mt. Odani as seen from the Ouma-ya.
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Some steps. Since the trail is not paved, it would get muddy on rainy days.
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The tour was quite interesting. Our tour guide was a retired local person. It's too bad these tours would last only in 2011. It should be continued.
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View of Mt. Ibuki from Mt. Odani.
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The next point of interest is a little more grisly.
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Head Display Stone is where Azai Sukemasa (first lord of Odani Castle) displayed the beheaded head of a traitor (Imai Hidenobu 今井秀信) among his samurai retainers in 1533. 首据石
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About the Head Display Stone in Japanese.
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We soon came to the path leading to the Akao Yashiki residence where Azai Nagamasa committed suicide in the face of defeat by Oda Nobunaga in 1573.
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Short path to the Akao Yashiki residence. This was not part of the guided tour so I went here after the tour was over and stayed behind.
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About the Akao Yashiki residence.
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Marker for the Akao Yashiki residence. The Akao family was one of the Azai's important samurai retainers. The proximity of the residence to the Honmaru is indicative of this.
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The Akao Yashiki residence was on a terraced area on the mountain slope near the foot of the Honmaru stone wall.
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Stone marker indicating the place where Azai Nagamasa committed seppuku on Sept. 1, 1573 at age 29. Under siege by Nobunaga's forces, Nagamasa was unable to get back to the Honmaru and instead entered the Akao residence to cut his belly.
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About the place where Azai Nagamasa committed seppuku and left behind his wife and three daughters who were allowed to escape.
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Illustration of the Akao Yashiki residence.
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Now here is Sakura-no-Baba or Sakura Horse Grounds. This is one of the main highlights of Odani Castle due to its scenic views.
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Sakura-no-Baba is where they filmed the scene in the NHK Taiga Drama "Go--Himetachi no Sengoku" when Nagamasa proposed marriage to Ichi.
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Sakura-no-Baba is between the Oumaya Horse Stable and the Ohiroma Hall.
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About Sakura-no-Baba in Japanese.
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Sakura-no-Baba is also one of the best spots for scenic views atop Mt. Odani. These wooden "benches" are actually explanatory panels which never got completed.
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View from Sakura-no-Baba. Yamamoto-yama is on the right.
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View from Sakura-no-Baba with Lake Biwa and Chikubushima island.
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Illustration of Sakura-no-Baba Horse Grounds, seen on the slender terrace on the right, overlooking the Ouma-ya.
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Within the Sakura-no-Baba is this memorial for the Azai clan.
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Memorial for the Azai clan in the Sakura-no-Baba. It's not a grave. Azai Nagamasa's grave (along with this father and grandfather's graves) is at Tokushoji temple in central Nagahama (photos at bottom).
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Can't read this.
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Marker for Odani Castle.
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Sakura-no-Baba also overlooks the Ouma-ya Horse Stable.
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Site of Kurogane-mon Gate that was the entrance to the O-hiroma bailey. They also filmed a scene here for the NHK Taiga Drama, "Go." 黒金門
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About the Kurogane-mon Gate in Japanese.
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O-hiroma is Odani Castle's largest bailey. The site of a large hall where Azai Nagamasa and Ichi held their wedding. See the illustration. On the far end is the Honmaru.
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Stone marker for O-hiroma. The enclosure is about 85 meters long and 35 meters wide.
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Illustration of O-hiroma hall that was next to the Honmaru seen on the left.
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About the O-hiroma hall in Japanese.
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Stone wall of the Honmaru at the far end of the O-hiroma. There are steps on the right to go atop the Honmaru.
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Well in the O-hiroma bailey.
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The O-hiroma Hall was said to have had 1,000 tatami mats. As seen from the Honmaru.
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O-hiroma as seen from atop the Honmaru. Lots of rocks, not sure if any of them were foundation stones.
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About the Honmaru.
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Top of the Honmaru which was the castle's central keep and focal point. Covered with trees now. This is where Azai Nagamasa lived until his defeat and the fall of the castle.
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The tenshu castle tower that stood here in the Honmaru was moved to Hikone Castle where it became the Nishinomaru three-story turret.
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About the Honmaru grounds in Japanese.
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Beyond the top of the Honmaru is a deep ravine. The guided tour ended at the Honmaru, but Odani Castle has other castle keeps beyond, and I left the tour to see them by myself.
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Trail going beyond the Honmaru.
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This is the deep moat right beyond the Honmaru which divided the main area of the castle into two sections.
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About the large moat.
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After the Honmaru, the castle spreads out further along the mountain ridge all the way to the peak. This is Nakanomaru, just north of the large moat.
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Nakanomaru had three terraces that can still be seen. 中丸
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Nakanomaru
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About the Nakanomaru bailey in Odani Castle.
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Illustration of Nakanomaru. You can see the three terraces of Nakanomaru. The Honmaru is on the right, separated from Nakanomaru by the large moat.
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Terrace of Nakanomaru.
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Third terrace of Nakanomaru. You can see the Sword-washing Pond marker on the right.
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Stone marker for the Sword-washing Pond next to it. This is on the third and highest terrace of Nakanomaru.
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Sword-washing Pond on the left of the steps going to Kyogoku-maru.
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Nakanomaru as seen from Kyogoku-maru.
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Kyogoku-maru
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Kyogoku-maru was the site of the Kyogoku clan's residence. This residence fell to Toyotomi Hideyoshi on Aug. 27, 1573 and cut off the connection between Azai Hisamasa staying in Komaru and his son Nagamasa who was in the Honmaru.
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Illustration of Kyogoku-maru which was the second largest bailey in Odani Castle after O-hiroma.
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About the Kyogoku-maru in Japanese.
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Directional signs.
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Komaru bailey is said to be where Azai Hisamasa (the second lord of Odani Castle and father of Nagamasa) retired and resided. However, under siege by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Hisamasa is said to have committed seppuku here on Aug. 27, 1573 at age 49.
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About the Komaru bailey in Japanese.
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Walking further toward Sannomaru.
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Atop a hill, a sign points to another rare stone wall.
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Large Stone Wall at Odani Castle. The original stone wall supported the Sannomaru bailey. 大石垣
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What's left of the large stone wall. It was 5 meters tall and the largest stone wall at Odani Castle, even larger than the Honmaru's stone wall.
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Odani Castle stone wall. Most of the stones were likely carried away to build other castles.
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About the large stone wall in Japanese.
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Hill of rocks.
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Path to Sannomaru.
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Sannomaru is 400 meters high on the mountain.
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Sannomaru was quite spacious.
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Illustration of the Sannomaru. The center section was the highest where there was the Sanno Shrine dedicated to the mountain god. You can see also how the Large Stone Wall looked, part of it remains on the upper right.
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About the Sannomaru in Japanese. The Sanno Shrine is now Odani Shrine near Mt. Odani.
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Circle of rocks in Sannomaru. Not sure what it means.
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View from Sannomaru.
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Edge of Sannomaru and trail going beyond.
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At the edge of Sannomaru is this trail going down and later up to the peak of My. Odani where the castle continues. However, I stopped here and turned back.
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Peak of Mt. Odani
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View from Sannomaru.
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From the Sannomaru was a back road going down to Shimizu valley below where the most people lived.
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Nicknamed Tsuwano O-Inarisan, Taikodani Inari Jinja is one of Japan's Top Five Inari shrines noted for many vermillion torii gates along the path to the shrine.The shrine worships Uka-no-Mitama, a deity associated with food and agriculture, and the goddess Izanami. It is Shimane Prefecture's second most popular shrine after Izumo Taisha. About a 20-min. walk from JR Tsuwano Station.
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In Tsuwano, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine is on a hilltop with its many toriis clearly visible from the nearby river.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's many toriis going up the mountain.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's many toriis going up the mountain.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's many toriis going up the mountain.
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Entrance to Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine.
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Entering Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine.
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Many of the toriis are very old like this one from 1926.
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Inside the torii tunnel at Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine.
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Inside the torii tunnel at Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine in Tsuwano, Shimane Prefecture
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Moss growing on the top.
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Nice view as you go up. Lower left shows the entrance torii.
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One of the torii switchbacks on the way up.
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Small shrine on the way up.
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Map of the torii path and shrine.
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Another switchback.
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Torii peg.
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Makeshift roof over a bunch of toriis.
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View of the adjacent valley.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine toriis
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On the mountain in the distance, you can see a vermillion torii.
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A closer look at the torii in the mountains.
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This is what the torii looks like up close. It's a giant torii next to the mountain highway on the way to Tsuwano. Donated by someone for the shrine.
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Wash basin to purify yourself before praying at the shrine.
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Gate to Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Finally reached the shrine.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Since it was New Year's 2018, a kadomatsu decorated the Haiden.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Inside Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's Haiden worship hall.
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Shrine offices and souvenir stand.
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Shrine office and souvenirs.
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Ema prayer tablets.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's ema prayer tablet for 2018, Year of the Dog.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's ema prayer tablet for 2018, Year of the Dog.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's ema prayer tablet.
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Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine's ema prayer tablet.
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New Year's charms.
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The shrine's parking lot is downstairs. If you have a car, you can skip hiking through the torii gates and drive up here. There's also a trail to Tsuwano Castle.
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View from the parking lot.
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The shrine's old worship hall called Motomiya. Used before the current shrine Haiden worship hall was built in 1969.
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Inside the shrine's old worship hall called Motomiya.
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Shrine gate
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Shrine gate
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Shrine gate
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Walking back down from the shrine.
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Fried tofu, a good snack.
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From a distance, you see the shrine halfway up the mountain.
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Stone lantern near the shrine entrance.
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Shrine's first torii in town.
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Way to Inari Shrine.
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Near Taikodani Inari Jinja Shrine is anotjer Shinto shine named Yasaka Jinja.
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Yasaka Jinja in Tsuwano.
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Lion dancer was at Yasaka Jinja for New Year's.
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About Yasaka Jinja.
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Yasaka Jinja's centuries old zelkova keyaki tree.
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Train tracks cross over the path to the Inari Shrine.
     
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