Andrew’s world in Japan 2019/June

Artist & researcher based in KL since 2009, passionately exploring the creative process & connecting with other creative people.

Refresh Your Mind, Body and Soul ④ – Visit Futarayama Shrine and Hachimanyama Koen

A visit to a park alters my mind frame and soothes my soul. The respite from the commercial urban environment is always a welcome opportunity. Some cities, like Utsunomiya, manage to begin and maintain nature as a key element in their city center. When taking a break from your office or factory work, what isn’t better than taking a refreshing stroll around fresh open air? Nature is at the core of it all, isn’t it? Tokyo has pockets peppered all about, but a short train ride to Utsunomiya can spark a little adventure.

It takes only a handful of minutes to walk from Utsunomiya station to arrive at the foot of this urban forest housing Futarayama Shrine. Pass through this torii and walk up the temple stairway. Step through this powerful gateway that received the undying patronage of the first shogun of Edo. Pause here and spend a half hour sitting and clearing your mind. No easy task but a beneficial one. Imagine this quote from Bruce Lee.

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”

After your cleansing pause, stroll around to take in the variety of other shrines here. Each has its own meaning. Some are Hatsumi-inari, Sugawara and Tsuruginomiya. I must admit that my familiarity beyond basic etiquette at shrines and temples is lacking. Some may feel uncomfortable visiting what may be considered religious locations. Never let lack of knowledge hold you back while traveling. The best way to learn is through experience. If you don’t have a knowledgeable friend to accompany you, just be respectful. A general rule of thumb is to observe how others behave and if you choose, follow their model. Alternatively, you could take advantage of the internet and run a quick search.

Ready to move on? Walk along Hachimanyamakoen-dori to the park this road is named for. This 11.8-hectare park boasts some 800 cherry trees, a small children’s zoo, walking bridges and even a special tower with a view of Tokyo. There is also a go-cart course. But to use that you need to have a small child with you. Monday’s the tower and go-carts are closed, so keep that in mind.

One of the highlights of Utsunomiya that I’ve mentioned is the food and jazz scene. Now that you’re all refreshed and charged with nature’s energy, let’s enjoy a favorite dish, gyoza.