Hiking in Hannou-shi, Saitama

Hannou-shi in Saitama Prefecture is located along the Seibu Ikebukuro line outside Tokyo. Closer to outlying Chichibu than urban Tokyo, the town’s look and feel are like a scene out of the recent Oscar-winning film Departures (which I highly recommend!). Mrs. Adamu and I decided to hike there after finding the town randomly on a web search. It was an extremely convenient trip – after an hour and a half train ride it was just a 10 minute walk to reach the trail. We followed this route on the Hiking Map website.

Anyway, here is what we saw!

This is a monument to local deaths from industrial accidents. Not sure why they died or when.

Going up Tenranzan mountain we came across these oddly shaped Buddhas. The fifth Tokugawa shogun apparently called a monk from a temple near this mountain to heal him with chanting, and it worked. The statues are somehow related to this.

Awesome spider. Probably poisonous.

Lady Tokiwa, a concubine of Heian-era shogun Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo, was walking along this mountain after her former lover had already died in the Heiji Rebellion. Thinking back to her now-faded youth and beauty, she struck her bamboo walking stick in the ground and wished that her stick could take root and grow if Minamoto could prosper again. He never returned from the dead, but according to the sign a bamboo forest survives on the mountain in patches to this day.

This is the Rain Pond. In times of scarce rain, local villagers used to climb the mountain and hold a festival at this pond to make it rain because rain gods were enshrined nearby. Apparently “something strange happens in the pond” if you hold your breath and complete seven full laps around the pond.

The water was pretty stagnant and dirty.

Ontake-Hachiman Shrine. This shrine has a convoluted history. While the shrine has been around for a while, it wasn’t until the late Edo Period that access to the shrine was expanded thanks to stone steps. The local lord subcontracted administration of this area to a samurai named Ogawara, who in turned hired a peasant named Yohei to pull roots and do general upkeep on the mountain. Yohei apparently fell asleep on the job and fell down a cliff. This sparked a religious fervor in Yohei that inspired him to build the stone steps leading to the shrine.

The shrine was roped into Ontake-kyo, a Shinto sect that emphasizes mountain worship, that gained fervent followers in the Meiji Era. It was later co-dedicated to Hachiman, the “Shinto god of war.”

The steps that Yohei built.

Concrete Torii leading to Yohei’s shrine, built in the 80s.

A lumber yard. There were a lot of these in town as the area has been a logging center since the Heian era.

The course called on us to walk through some private farms on the way to the next attraction, a large, fast-flowing river.

A tiny, decrepit shrine apparently kept by the neighborhood.

The purifying water had dried up.

Despite the Shinto torii, apparently this shrine is dedicated to Acala aka Fudo, a Buddhist wisdom king revered for being unmoved by carnal temptations.

Much of the path was lined by concrete fences shaped like wooden logs. This part of the fence had apparently broken at some point, so the caretakers replaced the “logs” with unmolded concrete. It’s a sign of Japan’s modern era that even a well-known logging town uses concrete to fence its hiking paths.

The river. In case you were wondering, yes the riverbank is paved over in some parts.

A farmer put some fruit out for sale using the honor system for payment. Sadly, there was no money in the jar, meaning either no one bought anything or some dishonorable cad stole the money.

There were a lot of overgrown trees and weeds.

The basketball court had obviously not been kept up in years. It stood behind a community center next to a beautifully kept shrine/temple combination. Not sure why no one took care of the basketball court.

This shrine was originally built in the 1150s dedicated to Prince Shotoku, the regent of the 6th and 7th centuries credited with being Japan’s first lawgiver who may have been a myth invented by the Fujiwara clan to justify the political status quo during the Heian period. The accompanying Shinto shrine was probably built by an Ogawara, a samurai family whose name can still be seen all over Hannou-shi.

Is it me, or is the rising sun on this flag a little too big?

More lumber.

This was Ogawara’s house, right next to Ogawara lumber. These guys are like the Tannens in Back to the Future 2!

Several groups were having barbecues on the riverbank. I was tempted to join them.

Closer to the station, there were a lot of modern apartment buildings, but some of them looked kind of abandoned.

8 thoughts on “Hiking in Hannou-shi, Saitama”

  1. “This is a monument to local deaths from industrial accidents. Not sure why they died or when.”

    Monument Erected in Memory of Those Who Perished Erecting the Monument….

  2. Aren’t highly poisonous spiders usually smaller? Anyway, some cool pictures. You should get a better camera someday though.

  3. Yes this camera is something like 3 years old. It’s served me well but it might be time to move on. Also I think next time I’ll resize the photos myself instead of copying from Picasa.

    My favorite picture is probably the tiny-headed Buddha.

  4. I wasn’t aware that the Japan (outside Okinawa) even had any poisonous spiders, other than that panic back in the ’90s that Australian Redbacks were taking up residence here.

  5. And disregard my ‘the Japan’. Changed what I was going to say and then didn’t proofread.

  6. I don’t actually know whether that spider is poisonous. I just saw the bright colors and assumed it must be filled with venom.

  7. >Going up Tenranzan mountain we came across these oddly shaped Buddhas. The fifth Tokugawa shogun apparently called a monk from a temple near this mountain to heal him with chanting, and it worked. The statues are somehow related to this.

    Dude in the middle of the group with the red cap looks like Binzuru, an arahat/rakan, the others apart from Jizo on the left are also probably arahats. Small headed-dude might have been a victim of early Meiji imperial desecration followed by an amateur attempt at restoration.

  8. The spider is probably a joroguma and is common in the autumn. It was hard to tell from the picture but if it was yellow with a bright red spot on the abdomen it was a joroguma. The big ones are the females but you can usually see a couple really small spiders in the webs as well; those are the males waiting for their big chance to risk life and limb to mate.

    The other common autumn spider is the koganegumo. These spiders are also primarily yellow but their webs have a white zig zag line in the middle.

    Neither is poisonous, unless you are the size of a grasshopper or butterfly.

Comments are closed.