Welcome 2010 - Hatsumoude in the mountains

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In Japan it is a popular custom to visit a shrine in the fist few days of the new year to pray for a good year. This first visit to a shrine is reffered to as Hatsumoude. 

So to welcome the New year we orgainised a trip to Mitake, a small town about 1.5 hours by train west of Nakano on the 2nd of January.

Mitake is a small town in the Tokyo vicinity which is surrounded by mountains, of which Mt. Mitake is one of the tallest(929m). From the summit you are able to see a nice view of Tokyo city, if the weather is nice.

A view of Tokyo city form the Summit of Mt Mitake.

Mt. Mitake is also home to the Musashi-Mitake Shrine, a shrine which has been the center of mountain worship for around 2000 years. 

Musashi-Mitake Shrine

First we went to the shrine on the summit of the mountain for hatsumoude, prayed for a good year and bought some charms. There were a lot of different types of charms on sale for almost any kind of situation. There were even some for pets!!

From there, we went  to one of the local shops on the mountain for some lunch.

The curry udon was amazing!

The shop is owned by a little sweet old lady, Kazue san and she is famous for her delicious Oshiruko, a sweet red bean porridge with mochi.

The Oshiruko was so sweet and delicious.

After we thank Kazue san for her delicious Oshiruku, we took a picture together.

From there we decided to go and soak our tired bodies in a bath nearby.

The Entrance to the rest and bath house.

A long time ago this house was used by shinto priests in training who came from many parts of Japan to practice in the Musashi-Mitake Shrine.
But nowdays the house is open for any guests needing a couple of days rest and relax in their public bath.
These bath were quite interesiting as they put many herbs with medicinal properties in the bath water, making for a nice and relaxing bath.

After relaxing ourselves in the bath for a few hours, we came down the mountain and went to visit our friend Mr. Yoshimura who lives close to the station in a wonderful traditional Japanese house, said to be around 150years old.
Once there, he taught us how to make soba and we all took turns to help make the noodles. It was hard work but we leart a lot.

Once the soba was made we had dinner!
Yoshimura san also had a few of the neighbours and their children over his house, but there was plenty of food for everyone.

We also prepared suiton nabe, a type of hotpot with flour dumplings.
Once the broth was hot enough the children helped us put in the dumplings in the hot pot.

The children even prepared 'special' dumplings with a lot of pepper or other things and made their poor unknowing mother eat them! It was quite funny.

Once the children left we continued the festivities and Yoshimura san brought his home made Umeshu(plum liquor) and umeboshi(sour pickled plums)

A home made Umeboshi.

Being away from the heat of a big city,  the morning was really cold, however the sun was out and bright, so it was much warmer outside than inside.

Enjoying the wamth of the sunlight from the entrace of Yoshimura san's

Yoshimura san is a very talented person from making soba to making umeshu and umeboshi and of course being a proffessional photographer.
Recently he started to repair broken ceramics using a traditional method which uses powdered gold so making them more valuable than before. And he gave us a short demonstration of how he works

Yoshimura san repairing a tea pot.

And a vase using powdered gold.

Later on, we helped Yoshimura san pick Yuzu from his backyard plantation. Yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus

A Yuzu tree.

And the yuzu fruit.

We took them down with a long bamboo stick tool.

The Fruits of our labor!

We made Yuzu tea and later Mari made some delicious yuzu jam.

It was a wonderful trip and we felt so relaxed once we returned to Nakano. It actually felt we had been away for more than one day.

If you have a chance, please visit Mitake. It is a peaceful country town which is still in Tokyo surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers.


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