Thursday 22 October 2015

Mariko-juku - Shizuoka Part 2

This is part 2 of a post about a recent trip to Shizuoka city.  You can read part 1 here.

I woke up the next morning with a slightly fuzzy head and, after meeting an equally fuzzy Tetsuya, we went off and had the best hangover cure that Shizuoka had to offer......ramen!  Now my brain was yet to begin functioning so I forgot to take a photo (damn that beer.....or was it the shochu......or the whiskey......damn whatever it was!).  The place we did go to, however, was called Ichiran, a popular and good tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen chain.  It did the job, and pretty soon I was functioning.

We went back to visit the friendly ladies in the Tourist information office in front of Shizuoka station who pointed us in the right direction of the bus that we needed.  Today we were off to check out Mariko-juku and the nearby Utsunoya.  Both Mariko and Utsunoya were both old towns along the old Tokaido Highway.  

The Tokaido is one of the original 5 great highways that were built in Japan in the early 1600's.  They were built by the Great Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa in order to increase his control over the country.  These highways connected Tokyo (or Edo as it was then know as) to other outlying areas.  The most important of them was the Tokaido as it linked Tokyo with Kyoto.

Now you might remember in July I went to Nagano to walk along the old Nakasendo Highway between Tsumago and Magome (you can find that post here).  That attempt ended in failure, unfortunately.  I had heard that there was a section of the original Tokaido in Utsunoya and my aim was to track it down.  Mariko was one of the old post towns (the 20th of 53 post stations) along the Tokaido that served as a rest stop for travellers providing food, accommodation and stables.

We got onto the correct bus and a matter of 20 minutes we arrived at our stop.

Straight off the bus we were treated to a beautiful garden.  I just can't get enough of Japanese gardens.  So beautiful and tranquil.

On our map we had seen something about a local ice cream "farm" in the area, and with both of us impartial to a little ice cream, we set off in that direction.  Pretty soon we came across a community centre so we went in to have a look.

There were various stalls selling a variety of different crafts

and coffee!

Now this guy was serious about his coffee.  He even had a timer to make sure he filtered the coffee over a specific time period!  It showed though, as the coffee certainly hit the spot!

We wandered inside where we found some people doing pottery.

Now, whenever I visit a place and walk into a pottery or ceramics shop, I rarely walk out without buying a beer cup and this was no exception.  These beer cups are great.  Put them in your fridge or freezer and when drunk out of, they keep your beer nice and chilled!

Leaving the community centre and continuing on our search for ice cream I was amazed by the rustic beauty of Mariko.  Old world buildings combined with lush green vegetation and water bubbling and gurgling along the side of the road made for such a peaceful vibe.

But the ice cream I hear you say.  Well, we found the ice cream shop

But, as this little girl was telling us.....

it was closed.

Just as we were about to leave Mariko and head off in the direction of Utsunoya we walked past an older gentleman who was pruning his hedges.  He said something to us in Japanese which neither of us understood.  Suddenly, and surprisingly, he switched over to very good English and asked us if we were enjoying our day and our walk.  We had a chat with him, and just as we were about to leave he asked us if we had ever seen inside a traditional Japanese house and then proceeded to invite us into his house!  Now this is what I love about Japan.  The friendliness, hospitality and the beautiful innocence that still exists in parts here.  Here we were, 2 strangers, who could be anyone or anything, and this lovely man was inviting us into his home as if we were family.  Beautiful! Not wanting to impose, we said that we had to continue walking as we wanted to get to Utsunoya before it became dark.  He mentioned that it was about a 4 - 5km walk and agreed that we should keep walking.

I'm going to finish this part here.  Thank you for reading part 2 of this series.  Part 3 will follow soon.  Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed reading and see you next time!


  1. Hey Jase, any idea why the statue were wearing the beanies? Are they just preparing for the coming winter months? :)

    1. Hey Matty,

      good question, and this one took some research as a lot of Japanese people don't fully know the answer to that one. Here goes though.
      The statues are of what the Buddhist religion calls Jizo Bosatsu. They represent monks that are a step below Buddha himself. They have resisted moving to the same religious level as Buddha as they believe their work is not yet finished. They represent protection. One theory is that they protect travellers. The more common theory is that they protect children (and it is in this theory that the red caps are explained). They protect the souls of the unborn children and those of the children who did not make it into this world alive. The hats are made by locals to keep the Jizo Bosatsu warm (and to accrue their own merit for when they themselves enter the afterlife). Red is the colour of choice as the generic term for a baby is Aka chan. In Japanese, Aka is also the word used for the colour red.
      I hope that explains it for you, and if any of my Japanese readers would like to add to that explanation, or to correct me if I have made a mistake, please do!

      Take care Matty.