JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when traveling.

Image search results - "tatebayashi"
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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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About Tatebayashi Castle's Honmaru.
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Hachiman Shrine on Tatebayashi Castle's Honmaru, Gunma.
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Hachiman Shrine on Tatebayashi Castle's Honmaru. The shrine has a protective housing. Hachiman was the patron god of Tatebayashi Castle, Gunma.
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Most of the former castle grounds are now occupied by the Tatebayashi City Hall and other public facilities.
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Hachiman Shrine on Tatebayashi Castle's Honmaru.
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Hachiman Shrine on Tatebayashi Castle's Honmaru. Gunma.
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Chiaki Mukai Children's Science Museum has a planetarium and space-related exhibits. Closed Mon.
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Tatebayashi's most famous citizen is Mukai Chiaki, Japan's first woman astronaut. She flew on the Space Shuttle in 1994 and 1998.
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Statue in front of Chiaki Mukai Children's Science Museum, Tatebayashi, Gunma. The boy holds a space shuttle.
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Tayama Katai Memorial Museum of Literature. Tayama (田山 花袋 1872–1930) was a novelist from Tatebayashi. Closed Mon.
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Across the street are historic buildings. Free admission.
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Former Jomo Muslin Company Office built in 1910. The company was a textile maker. Later went bankrupt. The building was donated to the city. Closed Mon.
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Entrance to former Jomo Muslin Company Office Closed Mon.
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About former Jomo Muslin Company Office.
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Remains of former Jomo Muslin Office's telegram office.
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About former Jomo Muslin Office's telegram office.
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Former Jomo Muslin Office is one of Tatebayashi's 100 Famous Spots.
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Stones from Tatebayashi Castle.
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About the stones from Tatebayashi Castle.
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Old road marker.
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This area was part of Tatebayashi Castle.
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Boyhood home of novelist Tayama Katai (田山 花袋 1872-1930). Lived in this house from age 6-14. Free admission. Closed Mon.
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Boyhood home of novelist Tayama Katai, former samurai house.
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Bust of novelist Tayama Katai.
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Nearby is Obiki Inari Shrine. 尾曳稲荷神社
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Obiki Inari Shrine. 尾曳稲荷神社
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Obiki Inari Shrine is one of Tatebayashi's 100 Famous Spots.
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Behind the shrine is this Benzaiten Shrine in a little pond.
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About Benzaiten Shrine
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Cherry trees along Lake Jonuma shore.
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Iris garden.
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Former Akimoto Villa built for the Akimoto clan who ruled Tatebayashi. 旧秋元別邸
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Inside Former Akimoto Villa. 旧秋元別邸
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Netfishing sculpture.
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Festivals in Tatebayashi.
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Morinji is a Soto-Zen temple famous for the Bunbuku Chagama (分福茶釜) folk tale about a tanuki raccoon dog that transformed into a steel pot used by the temple priest. Near Morinji-mae Station on the Tobu Line. One stop before Tatebayashi Station.
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Morinji-mae Station. Morinji temple is a short walk away (660 meters).
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A symbol of Tatebayashi, Tanuki raccoon dogs welcome you in front of Morinji-mae Station. A hint of what's in store. A story panel starts to explain the tanuki story. Other story panels are found on the way to the temple.
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The first panel explaining the famous Bunbuku Chagama (分福茶釜) folktale about a tanuki raccoon dog which turned into a tea pot. Morinji temple is where the folktale originated. There are multiple versions of the story.
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Even at the Morinji temple parking lot, tanuki statues.
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Women's restroom at the Morinji parking lot has a tanuki design.
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The way to Morinji temple is lined with some tourist souvenir shops.
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Morinji's tourist souvenir shops sell mainly tanuki statues made in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture.
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It felt like I was in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture.
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First you see this Somon Gate (総門), built in 1468 and normally called Kuromon Gate (黒門), to enter Morinji temple, one of Tatebayashi's main tourist sights.
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Map of Morinji temple. Morinji was founded by the priest Dairin Shotsu (大林正通), During a pilgrimage, Shotsu met an old priest Shukaku-osho at the foot of Ikaho in Gunma.
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In 1426, Shotsu took Shukaku with him to Tatebayashi and built a tiny temple. In 1468, the local Aoyagi Castle lord Akai Masamitsu (赤井正光) indebted to Shotsu, donated some of his land for the temple.The 13th panel explaining the famous Bunbuku Chagama folktale.
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The Sando path (参道) from Somon Gate to Sanmon Gate (山門) is lined with 21 tanuki statues on both sides. The temple really plays up on its Bunbuku Chagama folktale fame.
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Tanuki statues on the left side of the Sando path to the Sanmon Gate.
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Tanuki statues on the right side of the Sando path to the Sanmon Gate.
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A few statues shows a tanuki morphed into a steel tea pot at Morinji temple, Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture. Based on the Bunbuku Chagama folktale.
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Another tanuki morphed into a steel tea pot at Morinji temple, Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture. Based on the Bunbuku Chagama folktale.
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In folklore, tanuki is a mischievous shapeshifter so it is often depicted in many different costumes.
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Tanuki morphed into a steel tea pot at Morinji temple, Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
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Tanuki morphed into a steel tea pot at Morinji temple, Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
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The statues recently got painted. Before, they were just bare stone statues.
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Most of these tanuki came from Shigaraki in Shiga Prefecture. Shigaraki is one of Japan's most famous pottery centers.
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Tanuki raccoon dog statue at Morinji temple at Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
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Shigaraki tanuki is said to bear Eight Lucky Omens (八相縁起). 1. The hat is protection from unexpected disasters...Shigaraki tanuki is said to bear Eight Lucky Omens (八相縁起). 1. The hat is protection from unexpected disasters. 2. The smiling face is for affability, 3. The large eyes is for seeing the situation and making correct and considerate decisions, 4. The large belly is for being calm as well as bold, 5. A sake flask in the left hand for innate virtue, 6. An unpaid bill in the left hand symbolizes trust, 7. Large gonads between the legs which is the money bag for prosperity, and 8. A thick tail for reliability and stability no matter what.
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2. The smiling face is for affability...
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3. The large eyes is for seeing the situation and making correct and considerate decisions...
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4. The large belly is for being calm as well as bold...
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5. A sake flask in the left hand for innate virtue...
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6. An unpaid bill in the left hand symbolizes trust...
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7. Large gonads between the legs which is the money bag for prosperity...
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8. A thick tail for reliability and stability no matter what.
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Tanuki raccoon dog statue at Morinji temple at Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
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A giant Tanuki raccoon dog statue at Morinji temple at Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture. Donated by Tobu Railway in 1960.
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