JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Due to COVID-19, traveling to and within Japan is currently being discouraged.

Most viewed - Tsuchiyama-juku 土山宿
Tsuchiyama-juku in Tsuchiyama-cho was the 49th of the 53 stations of the Tokaido Road, accessible by this "Aikuru" bus from Kibukawa Station (JR Kusatsu Line and Ohmi Railways). It takes 20-30 min, but the bus does not run so often.645 viewsTsuchiyama-juku in Tsuchiyama-cho was the forty-ninth of the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido Road, following Sakanoshita-juku in Mie. It is right after Suzuka Pass on the Suzuka mountains, one of the two most difficult sections of the Tokaido. Travelers thus were happy to see Tsuchiyama. Nicknamed "Ai no Tsuchiyama," the town is working hard to preserve its old buildings. The Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin where Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and Emperor Meiji lodged is still intact and well maintained. The Tsuchiyama Tokaido Museum is also a major attraction. Special thanks to Uno Yoshinobu who was my guide in Tsuchiyama.
Pine tree from Tsuchiyama at the site of Shinagawa-juku's Honjin in Tokyo.205 views
Diamond Shiga's hot spring. Special thanks for Uno Yoshinobu for driving me around for my first trip to Tsuchiyama.193 views
This is Shinagawa-juku in Tokyo, the site of the Honjin. On the left is a pine tree from Tsuchiyama.191 views
Diamond Shiga, a luxury hotel with a golf course.113 views
Kamoshika-so Onsen lodge, offering hot spring waters next to a scenic river. Phone: (0748) 69-0344110 views
Diamond Shiga's golf course.107 views
And rivers. It's a pleasant drive. It's also part of the Suzuka Quasi-National Park.93 views
Bonkei of Tsuchiyama-juku. Notice the straight wires used to depict falling rain. 土山宿の盆景74 views
Ozuchi Dam71 views
Tsuchiyama is next to the Suzuka mountains with lots of greenery.62 views
The Honjin was the town's most exclusive lodge reserved for daimyo lords, government officials, and even Emperor Meiji. Each post town on the Tokaido had a Honjin.61 views
Page from the Honjin's guest book. Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun, also lodged here and signed the guest book. Saigo Takamori also stayed here.57 views
Sankin Kotai: During the Edo Period, all the daimyo lords were required to work alternately between their own fiefs and the capital of Edo (Tokyo). One year at home, and the next year in Edo. Thus, the daimyo had to travel to and from Edo periodically.56 views
Honjin guest books signed by all the shoguns, daimyos, and other VIPs who stayed here. All of the guest books since the 17th century have been preserved.55 views
Bonkei of Minakuchi-juku, also in Koka, follows Tsuchiyama-juku. It shows a few women drying gourd shavings. Mr. Mikami donated the entire bonkei collection to Tsuchiyama in 1992. He did not make any bonkei for the Nakasendo. He died in 1998.54 views
Panoramic view of central Tsuchiyama from Koka City Hall's Tsuchiyama Branch. Route 1 is in the foreground. The old Tokaido Road runs through the houses seen in the middle. The Suzuka mountains are in the far background, beyond which is Mie Pref.53 views
Tsuchiyama-juku was the forty-ninth of the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido Road, following Sakanoshita-juku in Mie. This section of the old Tokaido is lined with pine trees. Matsu-namiki 松並木51 views
Inside the side entrance of the Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin. If you want to see inside the Honjin, call to make reservations. Admission 300 yen. Phone: 0748-66-0007 (English not spoken)51 views
The Honjin's garden has a stone monument indicating that Emperor Meiji stayed here. It was during the first year of the Meiji Period when he stayed here, and it was in Tsuchiyama when he celebrated his first birthday during the Meiji Period.51 views
Bonkei of Kusatsu-juku in Kusatsu, Shiga. It was Mr. Mikami's wish to have as many people as possible to see his magnificent collection. Wish there were a bonkei collection for the Nakasendo51 views
Tamura Shrine torii gate. The shrine is in northern Tsuchiyama-juku and dedicated to Shogun Sakaue Tamuramaro (758-811) who was famous for subjugating Ezo/Emishi rebels in the northeast Tohoku region.50 views
Driving on Ozuchi Dam 青土ダム50 views
The miniature bonkei sculptures of each Tokaido Road station is based on the respective ukiyoe print. It's an incredible collection, created by Mikami Shizuo 三上静雄, a mochi confection maker in Otsu. He created them during his retirement years.49 views
Bonkei for Tsuchiyama-juku. Complemented by a few other smaller bonkei showing a traveling procession.49 views
Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin is at the center of Tsuchiyama-juku along the old Tokaido Road which meanders along Route 1. Notice the stone monument on the left of the Honjin. 土山宿本陣48 views
Traveling between their fiefs and Edo was a great expense. It was one way to keep any daimyo from getting rich enough to finance a rebellion. When they traveled to and from the capital, they lodged at post station towns like Tsuchiyama.48 views
Bonkei of Ishibe-juku in Koka's neighboring city of Konan. It shows a teahouse which has been reconstructed in Ishibe.46 views
He skillfully used perspective and made the people on the bridge smaller as they were farther away. Really incredible and meticulous work.46 views
Bonkei of Otsu-juku. This was the first one Mr. Mikami made. He liked the picture because it included a mochi shop using a famous spring water which his shop (taken over by his son) also used.45 views
Inside Tsuchiyama Folk History Museum, mannequins depicting the Kenketo Odori Dance.45 views
Stone monument for the Mountain Goddess in Ozuchi. She is said to be ugly, and can get jealous and angry if a woman comes to worship her. So only men worship her. Fertility rites are also performed here. 山の神45 views
The entrance is decorated with wooden signs (sekifuda 関札) of the VIPs who stayed here. Whenever a VIP stayed here, the wooden sign with his name on it would be displayed on the gate.44 views
Honjin stone marker (reads "Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin ato"). By 1843, Tsuchiyama's population was 1,505. There were two Honjin and 44 inns.43 views
These miniature scenic sculptures are called bonkei (similar to bonsai), created on a plate. He essentially made a 3-D version of each ukiyoe print. It took him 10 years to complete all the 53 Tokaido stations. This one is for Nihonbashi in Tokyo. 盆景43 views
A post town (called shukuba 宿場) was an official rest station for travelers on the Tokaido Road. Inns, teahouses, fresh horses, etc., could be found. This is Koka City Hall's Tsuchiyama Branch on Route 1. There's a lookout deck on the 6th fl.42 views
This lists the dates when members of the Imperial Family lodged here. Emperor Meiji came here three times. The first time was on Nov. 3, 1868 when he lodged overnight and celebrated his birthday. The next two times, he only took a break here.42 views
Model of Tsuchiyama-juku during the 19th century.42 views
The Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin opened in 1634 on the occasion of Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu staying here on his way to Kyoto. The Tsuchiyama family was appointed as the Honjin's caretaker.41 views
The Hosokawa daimyo from Kumamoto stayed here quite a few times. When a daimyo was lodging at the Honjin, passers by were required to get off their horses while walking past the Honjin as a gesture of respect.41 views
Hakone bonkei. The elliptical plates are about 50 cm in diameter.41 views
What Tokaido Road travelers wore. Their clothing were designed to make it easier to walk. It took a man about 13 days to travel between Edo and Kyoto, and women about 16-18 days.41 views
Diorama of daimyo gyoretsu procession. The daimyo procession is reenacted at some festivals in Japan, such as the Kusatsu Shukuba Festival in Shiga.41 views
The dark stone monument is dedicated to a Chinese-style poem written by Buddhist philosopher Inoue Enryo in 1914 about Emperor Meiji's stay in Tsuchiyama. The monument in the rear indicates that Emperor Meiji stayed or rested in the Honjin.40 views
This dirt-floored entryway dates from the Edo Period. It's slightly bumpy and packed hard with a glossy black color. It definitely looks centuries old. Was happy to touch some earth of the Edo Period.40 views
To celebrate his birthday, Emperor Meiji gave sake and dried squid to all the families in Tsuchiyama. The Honjin's Tsuchiyama family went to great lengths to prepare for the Imperial stopover. Besides renovating the house, they dug a new water well.40 views
Old Tokaido Road in Tsuchiyama-juku. The asphalt is dirt-brown and the houses along the road is a mixture of traditional and modern ones. MAP40 views
In the same room, you can wear these traveler's costumes and take a picture.40 views
Tokaido Road at Matsuo-zaka Slope. Travelers from Kyoto might have stood here gazing at the difficult Suzuka Mountains ahead. "It's sunny here, but cloudy at Suzuka. In-between, it's raining in Tsuchiyama." The origin of Suzuka Mago-uta?40 views
Tongu is the site where the Saio princess lodged on her way to worship from Kyoto to Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture.40 views
Matsuo-zaka Slope has this Suzuka Mago (Pack horse) Song Monument. The 10-verse song was sung by pullers of pack horses traveling over Suzuka Pass. It made the phrase "Ai no Tsuchiyama" famous. 鈴鹿馬子唄40 viewsThe first verse reads, "The slope shines, the Suzuka mountains are cloudy. Rain falls on Ai no Tsuchiyama."

The mago horse puller made his living by lending his horse to carry luggage or people. He would sing this song while ringing a bell. The song was very slow and drawn out, with many syllables sung for a few seconds. It was to match the pace of the horse. It has a series of 7 and 5 syllables. The song is one of Japan's most noted pack horse songs and kept alive by a song preservation society and annual song contest in Tsuchiyama.

「坂は照る照る 鈴鹿は曇る あいの土山 雨が降る」
All the dolls have different faces. Some of them are even smiling. They are probably happy to have arrived in Tsuchiyama. They must be tired after climbing the Suzuka mountains.39 views
Stone lantern in Tongu39 views
The Haiden Hall was undergoing repairs to the foundation when I visited in May 2008.39 views
"Ai no Tsuchiyama" is a phrase you will see most often. But no one knows for sure what it means. There are numerous theories. "Ai" could mean "in-between," "love," "koi fish," or "soon"...39 viewsPhoto of a display panel at the Tsuchiyama Tokaido Tenmakan Museum.

Entire lyrics of Suzuka Mago-uta song in Japanese:
○坂は照る照る 鈴鹿は曇る あいの土山 雨が降る

○馬がもの言うた 鈴鹿の坂で お参宮上﨟(おさん女郎)なら 乗しょと言うた

○坂の下では 大竹小竹 宿がとりたや 小竹屋に

○手綱片手の 浮雲ぐらし 馬の鼻唄 通り雨

○与作思えば 照る日も曇る 関の小万の 涙雨

○関の小万が 亀山通い 月に雪駄が 二十五足

○関の小万の 米かす音は 一里聞こえて 二里ひびく

○馬は戻(い)んだに お主は見えぬ 関の小万が とめたやら

○昔恋しい 鈴鹿を越えりゃ 関の小万の 声がする

○お伊勢七度 おたがわ八度 関の地蔵は 月参り
Site of the Waki Honjin, used as a secondary Honjin when the Honjin was already occupied. If two daimyo lords were staying in town at the same time, the higher-ranked lord would stay at the Honjin. 脇本陣38 views
A toiya-ba staff person keeps records. He might have assigned luggage to fresh horses, gave work to pack-horse pullers, and received arriving travelers and luggage.38 views
Yaku-otoshi Taiko Bridge from where you can "drop" your bad luck below. First buy good luck beans (fuku-mame) from the shrine. Make a wish before dropping the number of beans matching your age into the river below the bridge.38 views
A short walk through the long Honjin brought me to the Jodan-no-Ma (Upper Class Room) where the shoguns, daimyo lords, and Emperor Meiji stayed. 上段の間37 views
Model of a Toiya-ba which was like a travel logistics office and lodging reservations agency. Staffed by one or more people, it handled horses, messengers, luggage, helpers, etc.37 views
Stone garden at the Tsuchiyama Tokaido Museum37 views
Tamura Shrine is in lush woods. Shrine office on left. 田村神社37 views
Ai-no-Oka Bunka Hall where the annual Mago-uta song contest is held.37 views
Poster for the annual Suzuka Mago-uta Song Contest held in Tsuchiyama in June. The picture shows a pack-horse puller (mago) going over Suzuka Pass. The song also mentions Seki-juku in Mie Prefecture where they have a song museum.37 viewsOver 100 contestants sing the same pack-horse puller's song all day long at the Ai no Tsuchiyama Bunka Hall.
Tsuchiyama-juku on the old Tokaido Road. On the right is the site of the Waki Honjin which is near the Honjin. If no VIPs were staying at the Waki Honjin, ordinary travelers could also stay here if they had the money. This building is not original.36 views
Model of a pack-horse puller called "mago." He made a living renting his horse to carry luggage and people along the old Tokaido Road. They sang songs like the Suzuka Mago-uta while going over the difficult Suzuka Pass. 馬子36 views
Inside Tokaido Tenmakan Museum. The first floor has a large display case showing a model of Tsuchiyama-juku.36 views
The daimyo himself travels in a palanquin. These processions helped to develop the towns and roads to and from Edo. It also helped to spread Edo culture to the provinces.36 views
Tsuchiyama tea fields in the Tongu area. Koka city produces 80% of the green tea produced in Shiga.36 views
Sacred tree36 views
"Traverse Road" is painted on the fence.36 views
Room next to the Jodan-no-Ma. The Honjin has numerous rooms. This is one of the very few original Honjin remaining in Japan. There's another one in Shiga in Kusatsu.35 views
On the 2nd floor of the Tokaido Tenmakan Museum are two rooms. This one shows kiri-e cut-out pictures of all the Tokaido Road stations.35 views
Together with the kiri-e cut-out pictures are each station's famous edible product.35 views
Traverse Road has cherry trees. Cherries are a major product of Traverse City.35 views
The Tsuchiyama-juku Honjin operated until 1870 when the shukuba system was abolished. For over three centuries, the Tsuchiyamas took care of the Honjin. Their 15th-generation descendants live here now and take care of it as a tourist attraction.34 views
Site of a Toiya-taku which was the residence of a town official staffing the toiya-ba. This building is not original, not open to the public.34 views
Toiya-ba stone marker, near the Tokaido Tenmakan Museum. The site is a parking lot now.34 views
Monument commemorating famed novelist Mori Ogai's visit to Tsuchiyama in 1900 to visit his grandfather's grave in Jomyoji temple. The grave was later moved to Tsuwano, Shimane Prefecture.34 views
The Tokaido Tenmakan Museum was the former residence of a farming family who donated the property to Tsuchiyama town. It has a few traditional-style buildings.34 views
Tsuchiyama-juku town officials greet the daimyo procession as they arrive. They will lodge at Tsuchiyama.34 views
Soliciting donations for renovating shrine buildings. Total cost: 200 million yen. To mark the shrine's 1200th anniversary in 2012, they hope to complete large-scale renovations by then.34 views
Traverse Road, named after Traverse City in Michigan, USA, Tsuchiyama's sister city.34 views
According to one legend, Shogun Sakanoue Tamuramaro was requested to eliminate mountain bandits robbing travelers on Suzuka Pass. After doing so, he shot an arrow from the top of the Suzuka mountain. The arrow landed here, where bamboo then sprouted.34 views
Tsuchiyama Folk History Museum (Rekishi Minzoku Shiryokan) 甲賀市土山歴史民俗資料館34 views
The Jodan-no-Ma has elevated tatami mats on which the VIP sat and slept. This is called the Gyokuza. The room size is 8 tatami mats. Tsuchiyama Honjin address: 滋賀県甲賀市土山町北土山1628 玉座33 views
The Tokaido Tenmakan Museum is a local history museum centering on Tsuchiyama and the Tokaido Road. It is near the center of Tsuchiyama, near the Omi-Tsuchiyama bus stop (20 min. from Kibukawa Station via Aikuru bus).33 views
Tokaido Tenmakan Museum. "Tenma" is Japan's old transportation system using horses to transport people and goods. The museum is a complex of four Japanese-style buildings. 東海道伝馬館33 views
Inside Tokaido Tenmakan Museum33 views
Main building of Tokaido Tenmakan Museum. The former farming family's house has been renovated into a museum.33 views
A few videos about Tsuchiyama and the Tokaido can be viewed.33 views
In the other room on the 2nd floor is a large space, like an attic. It displays ukiyoe prints and miniature scenic sculptures (bonkei) of all the 53 Tokaido post town stations.33 views
Next to the Tokaido Tenmakan Museum's main building is the Daimyo Procession Hall which used to be a storehouse.33 views
Inside the Daimyo Procession Hall are about 100 dolls depicting a daimyo procession called the Daimyo Gyoretsu. 大名行列33 views
Tea leaves33 views
They are replacing the foundation and foot of the columns.33 views
Painting on bridge wall33 views
Way to Tamura Shrine's Honden Main Hall. Stone lanterns are donated by parishioners.33 views
The dolls were special ordered from Kyoto.32 views
Tamura Shrine Honden Main Hall. It is now known as the shrine to ward off bad luck and for transportation safety. You can often see a car being blessed by a shrine priest.32 views
Ukiyoe print of Tsuchiyama-juku by Hiroshige. People at the head of a daimyo procession are crossing a bridge over a river near Tamura Shrine during spring rains. Now see the bonkei in the next photo.32 views
Entrance to Tokaido Tenmakan Museum. Open 9 am - 5 pm, closed Mon. and Tue. and year end and New Year's period. Phone: 0748-66-2770, Web site31 views
Kiri-e and souvenirs of Tsuchiyama-juku31 views
Tsuchiyama is also famous for tea production which started here way back in 1356 by a temple priest at Jomyoji temple. Tsuchiyama boasts Shiga's largest tea cultivation area (300 hectares) and production volume.31 views
The entire Haiden Hall is hoisted up. The foundation pillars were being replaced.31 views
Statue of travelers at Tsuchiyama Folk History Museum31 views
Stalls where they sell souvenirs during festivals.31 views
Toiya-taku stone marker. The building next to it is not original and not open to the public.30 views
Tamuramaro told the people to worship the spot where the arrow landed, and that's how Tamura Shrine was established, according one local legend. There's no sign explaining this bamboo though.30 views
Deck below the bridge. During the Tamura Matsuri Festival (Bad Luck Expulsion Festival), the shrine's biggest festival during Feb. 17-19, this deck is piled with dropped offerings.29 views
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