The Beauty of Takasago City
Whenever asked what prefecture is beside Osaka, most people will say Kyoto to the right and Kobe to the left. That's what most travelers refer to Hyogo prefecture, they call it Kobe because that's what most if not all travel books teach them. I am not saying that they call the prefecture Kobe but a huge prefecture like Kobe and you only talk about Hyogo, it will definitely cause a misunderstanding that the whole prefecture's name is Kobe. Outside of Kobe, there are many other great places to visit in Hyogo prefecture like Himeji, Awajishima, the castle in the sky Takeda Castle to name a few. However today I am going to be talking about a hidden secret of Hyogo prefecture that even most Japanese people don't know about. Today I will be talking about a small city called Takasago city which is located near the shore of the Harima-nada sea facing Shikoku Island. I had the luxury of visiting this wonderful city and learning about things I have never knew about thanks to Hankyu Travel International for this wonderful one day complimentary tour!
Takasago city is the smallest city in Hyogo prefecture with only around 90,000 people living in it (according to our tour guide Ms. Tomomi). Although being the smallest city in the prefecture, it has many old historical buildings to see and one of the three hidden mysteries of Japan. Our trip first started off at Osaka station then to Sannomiya station (in Hyogo prefecture) and then last to Kakogawa station (in Hyogo prefecture) to pick up fellow travelers like myself before we made our way to Takasago city.
Once in Takasago city, we made our way towards the Oushiko Shrine. This shrine is a very famous local Shinto shrine in Takasago city and is mostly known for its mysterious rock called the "ishi no houden" or simply known as the "rock ship of Masuda" in English. This giant monolith rock is known to have been there way before the shrine was build in the Nara period (710-794 BCE). According to our tour guide, the story behind this rock was a god and goddess who wanted to build their castle in that specific spot in one day. The structure was left unfinished due to the to the god and goddess being too tired after helping fellow deities around the area. After looking at the mysterious megalith, we hiked up a little hill to have a look at the top of the rock as well as the beautiful view of Takasago city. While we were making our way back to the bus, we were greeted by a local festival at the bottom of the shrine. They were carrying a "mikoshi" or a palanquin to transport diety while shouting and playing music on flutes and taiko drums along the way. It was a fun and exciting experience to see a local festival (that wasn't one of those big ones) up front.
The next stop after Oushiko Shrine was having lunch at a local restaurant in Takasago city. We dropped by this restaurant called "Akashi Kaikyo sushi" for a complimentary lunch provided by Hankyu Travel International. It was like a little "kaiseki" set meal where there were little portions of sashimi, tempura and pickled vegetables. Rice and miso soup were also provided, but the main course was this sukiyaki hotpot where you have to mix the egg along with a few pieces of fried fish and dump it in the pot to cook. Although the portion was small (Japanese size), it was overall satisfying. The flavour was there and everything seemed fresh and well prepared.
After lunch we strolled around the old part of Takasago city looking at historical houses. Although they are supposed to be taken care of by the city, most of them were falling apart. You could really feel that you were back in time looking at these houses and the materials that were used and the style. Along the way back to the bus we were offered into a local Buddhist temple to be shown around and observe the reading of the sutras. It was definitely a great experience having that most Buddhist temples I went to had an entry fee.
Our last stop was a little flower field a little bit outside of Takasago city, right in front of a farmers' market to see Cosmos. There were 3 large farm fields of Cosmos flower along side a few farming fields of probably farmers living nearby. Aside from the Cosmos we saw vegetables and frogs jumping around. I have never seen frogs in the wild before so it was pretty exciting for me and wanted to go catch some. Before heading back to the bus we went into the farmers market to look around. Many of my fellow travelers bought fruits and ice cream but for me I bought something called the "Uzushio Purin". In Japanese, the word "purin" usually means the French dessert we call Flan. However in Japan it seems that anything very custard like they call it purin (pudding). This purin which I bought was a local specialty of a nearby area called Awajishima. I was lucky to have found it at the farmers' market there or else I would have needed to go all the way to Awajishima (although it's not like Awajishima is not on my to go list before I head back to Canada). The one day complimentary tour started from 8:30 and was supposed to finish at 6 but it went an hour over so when I got back to Osaka station it was already 7:00pm. I am not complaining about the trip going over time because it gave me an extra hour to feel that I was still traveling!
Once again special thanks to Mr. Kubo and Hankyu Travel International, our tour guide Ms. Tomomi and Mr. Ono from the Hyogo Tourism Bureau for making this trip happen!