One Woman Gives Us A Clear & Unwitting Clue
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Recognize this castle?

If so, then you (a) live in Japan, (b) have been to Japan, or (c) have some knowledge of Japan.

Or (d) you read Jean Folger's 'The Best Cities To Retire To In Japan', a pile of presumptive rubbish that I recently deconstructed on Jeopardy!

This castle has nothing to do with that article. Rather, this is the exact image that appears after the article, next to the title of another recent Jean Folger fart, 'A Foreigner's Guide to Retiring In Japan'.

In that piece, the Far-East-facing retiree is fed the following inspired morsels:

"While Japan is an easy country to visit..."
-- Easy how? Easy to get to? Easy to get into? This is about as helpful as saying 'The Pacific is an easy ocean to swim in.'


 
 
My sons, ages 7 and 5, have absolutely no sense of priority. You guys want to check out the cherry blossoms first then go eat lunch, or go eat lunch first and then check out the blossoms?

Actually, I was kind of hungry too.

We could see Kobo-yama from our table in the restaurant. That might have lent some consolation to my wife.
Kobo-yama (弘法山) has two claims to fame. First, it is the home of a tumulus that dates from the late 3rd or early 4th Century. This grave-marking mound of dirt sits near the top Kobo-yama, and bears a resemblance in shape to Kobo-yama itself - at least from this angle. The path to the peak of mighty Kobo runs directly over the top of this tumulus, with no signs screaming out to me in English what I'm actually walking and spitting on.

I didn't realize until after the fact that I was walking on top of a pile of dirt someone made 1,000 years before Columbus set sail. Therefore I have no pictures of it.

That it was eminently unstriking may be of some consolation to you.

Kobo-yama's other point of interest is slightly more apparent, as seen above and below.

 
 
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These guys look cold to you?

Of course not, you say. They're made of flipping stone, idiot.

That may be true, but they've been sitting out there for a while.

Since 1331 to be exact.

These guys reside a couple miles up the road from my home in Matsumoto, Japan. They sit on a terraced, 8-foot-high stone thing.  They have this peaceful, Zen thing going on.
I ain't buying it.

Still, living in a place that was established at the same time the Bubonic Plague was running rampant across much of the civilized world is pretty damn cool. I'll take a wild guess and say that these guys haven't been here quite that long but I bet they were here a long time before I ever showed up - and will be around long after I am gone, and possibly almost until the time I am forgotten.

Toku-un-ji sits in a quiet place, along a road that runs up into the mountains of eastern Nagano. Only one other person appeared while I wandered the modest grounds. He didn't seem as taken with the place - or the age of the place - as I was.

I can't adequately relate how it feels to walk in an ancient place. But I can show you a few pictures.