Gunma is the prefecture I have enjoyed exploring the most in recent years. I still haven`t been to it`s most famous sight (Kusatsu Onsen) but have enjoyed looking around lesser attractions in the area. Back in late July I headed up to Takasaki for the second time this year.
The original plan on my arrival at 10:15 am was to take the train to Gumma Yawata to see a Daruma Temple before walking on to see a big white kannon statue. However, I made a mistake with the trains as I thought the station I wanted to go was on the same line I used last time. As it was, I needn`t have exited the gate as it was on another JR Line just a few platforms down from where I had disembarked!
Time for an alternative plan and some quick thinking. I decided to do my planned route in reverse and so took a bus (#8 bus stop) towards the kannon but got off just before that to see the sacred underground palace known as Doukutsu Kannon (2857 Ishiharamachi, Takasaki, Gunma-ken). This underground temple was completed without the help of modern machinery and features nearly 40 statues of Goddess of Mercy in the cave.
The cave ticket also included entrance to Tokumei-en garden next door. This picturesque garden also possess a fair amount of statues which are dotted around the fairly unique sloping terrain. It was built simultaneously alongside Doukutsu Kannon with the earth that was dug out for the cave being used to create the garden`s landscape.
From there I walked along the road towards Byakue Dai-kannon (2710-1 Ishiharamachi, Takasaki, Gunma-ken) and decided to cut through Kannon-yama Park but wandered in slightly wrong directions a couple of times which was very frustrating in such heat. It was 34 degrees with 50% humidity making it feel like 38 degrees!
I could see the giant white goddess of mercy sticking out from above the trees but I had a bit of trouble in getting to the statue due to my inability to follow my maps app accurately!
It ended up taking me double the time it should have but finally I got there. It was worth the effort!
After that I took a slight detour south to check out the red bridge known as Hibikibashi (2120-1 Teraomachi, Takasaki, Gunma-ken).
There were some botanical gardens nearby too but I was unable to locate them. Time constraints and the need to get back to Tokyo were hanging over me so I gave up and headed north on a long walk to my next location. I didn`t get one but it is always something of a novelty to find a beer vending machine.
This abandoned building (below) looked quite interesting but I`m not quite sure what it was. Probably just an old restaurant I guess.
After a 70 minute walk I finally reached my final main destination of the day. Shorinzan Daruma Temple (296 Hanadakamachi, Takasaki, Gunma-ken) can be found at the top of some very steep steps which was quite disheartening after such a long trek! The main hall is full of colourful wooden Japanese tumbling dolls (known as daruma) which are symbols of luck and good fortunes. Gunma Prefecture is the home of such dolls and about 80% of the national production is accounted for in this region of Japan.
That was pretty much it for the trip but there were still a few more noteworthy (?) things. The views as I crossed the Usui River were wonderful with lots of greenery and it was all fringed by mountains.
On the other side of the river I noticed a huge torii gate and even though I was feeling drained of energy I still took the short walk in the opposite direction just to take the photo below.
As I hadn`t eaten since breakfast, I popped into the local 7 eleven convenience store and picked up some snacks as well as this bottle of craft cola which I hadn`t previously seen.
The short walk to the station after that saw me pass this sign (below). I know we`re in Covid_19 times but this message seems a bit too direct and over the top! Presumably the intention was for the noise to be kept down!
Gumma-Yawata Station had a little daruma statue inside it and this was my route out of there as I headed back to Takasaki and then southwards to Tokyo. It was yet another satisfying trip to Gunma and I will return soon as there are some other places I want to check out just north of this area.
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