So, Mito City will wait, meanwhile there are blossoms to be found to our South. (Click on any of the pictures for a much larger image.)
For some time, I've been wanting to return to Katori Jingu, a major Shinto Shrine about 14 km from Kashima Jingu. It is across the Tone river from Kashima City in Chiba Prefecture. The last time we visited there was four years ago. Katori Jingu is on a hill and the path from the entrance to the main buildings curves as it rises up a gentle slope. Unlike the path to Kashima Jingu, which is lined with ancient cedars, this one is lined with Japanese maple (momiji) and cherry trees (sakura). In Spring, one is treated to the cherry blossoms and in fall, the autumn colors of the maple leaves. So, Saturday, we headed for Katori Jingu.
In front of the entrance is a street of souvenir shops and restaurants. We availed ourselves of both, having lunch at a restaurant before entering the shrine, and a snack after. The latter place is called "Uno Cafe" and was quite a treat. In addition to warm decor with lots of wood, old LP record album covers line the wall above the entrance - a few Japanese artists, but others too, such as Perry Como, the Carpenters, Beatles, and Ray Charles. One booth is next to a record turn table (those are making a comeback I hear) and 50s and 60s vintage music plays in the background. The menu offers a lot choices for coffee, as well as macha - the frothy, slightly bitter green tea brewed from powder with a whisk as is done in tea ceremony - and various flavors of dango (pounded mochi rice treats).
We were glad we visited when we did. The website was reporting half in bloom. Some trees were in fact in half-bloom, but others were in full bloom and some were past full and starting to grow leaves, so perhaps there is one more week of really good viewing there. There are some 700 cherry trees of 15 varities on the grounds.
Katori Shrine is an ancient one, like Kashima Jingu, and the two are closely connected in tradition and celebrations. Katori is dedicated to one of the two most important gods of marshal arts - Futsunushi no Kami, and Kahima is dedicated to the other - Takamikazuchi no Mikoto. The present main buildings of Katori Jingu were constructed about 1700.
I have written and posted photos of Kashima Jinju's kanameishi stone - the stone which holds down a catfish said to cause earthquakes. Well, Katori Jingu has one also, and we followed the winding path and climbed the many steps leading to it. Perhaps the two stones are connected beneath the earth?
There is a lovely koi pond there (some of the carps are huge). Water turtles can be seen swimming about or sunning themselves on stones.
The weather was delightful - about 18 degrees C (65 F), though a light overcast made for high contrast pictures and difficult lighting. In addition to the cherry blossoms, there were lots of yellow nanohana (rapeseed) in bloom and other flowers. The shrine was busy, but not crowded.
All in all a wonderful day for Ohanami. Some (lots) more pics. Enjoy.
We arrived soon after the annual Otaue Shinji, rice planting ceremony. I'd like to go earlier next year and see it.
Parasols used in the ceremonial procession are decorated with leaves and flower petals.
Some ikebana flower arrangements were on display as well.
Rice seedlings for the planting ceremony.
Violets growing in a cherry tree.
The kanameishi stone of Katori Jingu.
Nanohana blossoms. Oh, and K