Road Trip on Daiyūzan Line (Part 2)
We meet a tatami mat craftsman, visit a shop selling scented stuff like aroma oils and incense sticks, and check out a "temple of tengu" which has huge geta sandals believed to bring luck in love.
We continue our two-day journey of enquiry and discovery along Izuhakone Railway’s Daiyuzan Line in Kanagawa Prefecture. On the first day, we have dinner at Miyoshiya, feasting on grilled beef marinated in homemade miso; grilled seasonal local vegetables served with yuzu and pepper paste; pot rice with sakura shrimps and clams; and mixed rice with chicken. The rice is cooked with soup stock made with locally produced dried bonito flakes. We spend the night at Iwashita Ryokan.
The next morning, the inn’s owner drives us to Sagami-Numata Station. We purchase a one-day pass before catching the 10.50am train to our first stop of the day, Iwahara Station. The next train from here will be at 12.35pm. We start exploring the area and drop by a tatami shop. We meet its fourth-generation owner, who is in the midst of making tatami mats. He takes half an hour to make one, aided by machines. Making one by hand would take him between one and a half and two hours.
We ask the owner to suggest a place for lunch and he mentions Grill Toshio. Opened 47 years ago, it is known for its cutlet curry and hamburger steak. We order the pork cutlet set meal and hamburger steak. The popular cutlet curry comes with 400g of rice and is topped with lots of curry, which takes three days to cook.
After our meal, we head back to Iwahara Station and go to Wadagahara Station, a five-minute ride away. We visit a store near the station to enquire about popular spots. We are told about a shop, Kohakudo, which sells aroma oils, incense sticks and souvenirs. It opened about two years ago and boasts about 800 products with different scents such as lily, rose, violet and even coffee. We buy incense sticks with a floral scent, an incense stand, aroma oil with a yuzu scent and some scented cards as souvenirs.
After this, we travel by the 2.05pm train to the last station of this trip, Daiyuzan. This area is closely associated with a folk tale character called Kintaro. He is believed to have come from the Ashigara Mountains - a collective term referring to the area near the Kintoki Mountains, including Hakone Gairinzan and the Ashigara Touge. There are many places related to the legend of Kintaro in this area. We visit a waterfall where the folk tale hero supposedly bathe as a baby. There are also rocks which he had used to do juggling with bears.
We drop by a flower shop in front of the station to ask about more famous places. The owner recommends we visit a temple called Saijoji, which is also known as Doryo. It is located high up in the mountains and is a 20-minute bus ride away. At the temple, we meet Mr Nakazawa from the city hall. He gives us some history about the place, which is as large as 27 Tokyo Domes. The temple is believed to have been built by a monk named Emyo Ryoan during the Muromachi period, around the same year as the famous Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.
We visit the main temple of Saijoji, where there is a canopy which is said to be the biggest in Japan. This temple is also known as a “temple of tengu”. When a Buddhist priest died, one of his disciples named Doryo said he would transform into a tengu – a legendary creature - so that he can watch over this temple. He became a tengu and disappeared into the mountain. It is said that he still watches over the temple. Thus, huge geta sandals worn by the tengu are displayed at Saijoji’s main hall too. Weighing four tonnes, they are the biggest geta sandals in the world. Sandals always come as a pair so the geta sandals here are believed to bring luck in love or to improve one's marriage.
Mr Nakazawa later takes us to a spiritual spot. There are three old trees at the temple, the oldest being about 500 to 600 years old. People say that during spring, when the tree absorbs water, one can hear the water flowing to the top. So one will feel the tree’s spiritual energy when one hugs it.
1) The scented products sold at Kohakudo near Wadagahara Station make ideal souvenirs
2) The giant geta sandals at Saijoji Temple are believed to bring luck in love