Whilst in the vicinity of Miyagi prefecture I thought we’d make a quick stop in Funaoka en-route to Sendai. Having left the awesome Zao Fox Village just after 1pm we managed to get a shared taxi without waiting and this time went to Shiroishi station (as opposed to Shiroishizao which is a stop on the shinkansen) and from there we took the Tohoku Line a couple of stops to Funaoka.
It wasn’t exactly a top priority but with no real urgency to get to Sendai, and having been recommended it by a student, I thought we might as well drop by Funaoka Castle Park to see a pretty tall statue (24 metres including the four metre stand) standing atop the hill. Well I say we, but in the end it was just me as my wife decided against it preferring to just relax in the station instead!
The 300 metre long slope car was not in operation but it only took me about 10-15 minutes to hike on up to the top where a splendid looking white statue stood tall and emerged from between the trees as I approached it. Known as the Funaoka Goddess of Peace, part of it’s body was actually damaged during the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011.
There’s a plaque of sorts on the front naming all those who donated to get the statue built for it was privately financed to the tune of 75 million yen back in 1975. The doorway was locked and there wasn’t anything in the way of information to be seen anywhere.
The panoramic views from this small hilltop of the mountains in the distance and the cherry tree-lined Shiroishi River beneath (below) were a fine reward for my efforts.
The lady in the convenience store at the station (who I asked for directions) told me the place was very beautiful in the midst of the cherry blossom season and it was easy to believe this. There was a hint of early blooming (below) but that really is no sign of what it’ll be like in the next month or so when its in full bloom and the annual Shibata Sakura Festival takes place.
On the edge of the park there’s an observation deck called ‘The Fir Trees Remain‘ which was named after a novel by Shugoro Yamamoto and the subsequent NHK period drama that was first broadcast in 1970 featuring a protagonist who was once the lord of Funaoka Castle.
How to get there: Funaoka is 16 minutes away from Shiroishi on the Tohoku line (320 yen). Exit the station and walk straight for two blocks and turn right. From there, go straight until you hit Funaokajoshi park. It’s about a 15-20 minute walk.