On the 1st of March, I had the great pleasure of traveling to the beautiful city of Yanagawa, a city located on Kyushu island, with a group of translators and interpreters. Upon entering the city, I was simply taken back by the pure beauty of everything around me. The lush green grass and trees, complimented by the many deep blue canals, is a sight I recommend to anyone who comes to Japan. After arriving at our first destination, the Ohana Shohtoen, we were greeted by the slight drizzle of rain, along with a nice cool breeze.
Once inside, we were shown to a balcony that overlooks the Tachibana garden, a garden dotted by hundreds of pine trees, rocks, and a spectacular pond. I was told that this garden has remained relatively the same since it was first created, as well as that it was meant to represent a small version of our world, with the rocks representing islands, and the pond representing the ocean. After we were done browsing through the rest of the building we went on to the Tachibana Museum, which was run by the descendants of the Tachibana family. The museum houses relicts and artifacts from the Yanagawa clans past. Some of the pieces I saw included samurai armor, some sake cups with cherry blossom designs, and some of the sets they used for meals.
After the museum we were treated to a Yanagawa speciality lunch, eel steamed in a basket. While I am glad I tried it, I can soundly say I will not be eating any more anytime soon, although everyone else in the group loved it. After lunch we took a lovely 30 minute boat ride in the moat surrounding the Ohana Shohtoen. While the boat master told us the history of the moats that surrounded what used to be the castle, it was left up to the translators to inform me of what he was saying, most of which I was able to understand, although a few things got lost in translation. But nevertheless, I enjoyed learning about every bit of it, and hope to return there someday to show others the good time that I had.
After the boat ride, it was time to shuffle back onto the bus and head towards our next location, Dazaifu Shrine! Once we arrived at Dazaifu I quickly noticed the vast contrast compared to Yanagawa. Whereas Yanagawa was somewhat more peaceful and quiet, the area leading up to Dazaifu was loud and busy. As we made our way up to the shrine, we stopped by a bronze ox statue, which was said to give different blessings depending on where you rubbed it.
After rubbing the ox’s head for a blessing of knowledge, I traveled across the double arched bridge, where different parts of it were supposed to represent the past, present, and future. While walking up to the main shrine entrance, it was explained to me that there is a ritual you must do before entering to purify your hands and mouth while using a water ladle in a stone basin.
After performing the ritual we crossed the Torii gate into the main shrine, where the story of Sugawara Michizane was told to me by one of the translators. After looking around at the many souvenirs and amulets that were purchasable, we walked around to the side of the temple and looked at some of the yatai that were lined up next to it. Once we were finished checking out the shrine, we had a small amount of free time to search around the shops and buy some souvenirs and treats, before loading back up on the bus to head back home.
The whole day was certainly an incredible experience, and one I won’t soon forget. The breathtaking views of the greenery and rivers around me have left an impression on my mind that I one day hope to return to with friends and family, so I may show them the absolute beauty I witnessed that day.