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October 20, 2013 - Central Tono - Iwate
Tono is found in Iwate prefecture and is known as the folklore capital of Japan. To reach Tono, you need to catch a Shinkansen to Shin-Hanamaki from Tokyo (3 hours). Then - you need to catch another trail to Tono (40-60 minutes) which leaves only every hour or so. As such - it's not that east to get to Tono but from what I have seen on the outskirts of the city it seems to be worth the trip.
As mentioned earlier, Tono is the folkfore capital of Japan. It seems as though their official mascot is the Kappa. The Kappa is a mythical creature that loves to live in water and can be compared a little bit to a troll. It's favorite food is the innards of humans which is supposably eats through a human rear end especially when it's swimming in the Kappa's water hole. For humans to protect themselves - there are two methods. The first is to carry cucumbers and throw them into the water. Kappa's are meant to love cucumbers more than the insides of humans. The other is to bow to the Kappa. As the Kappa is distinctly Japanese, it will bow back when you bow to it. When the Kappa bows - you the have a short time in which to escape. To me - it sounds a little bit like Drop bears in Australia but with a more colorful history....
Just like most smaller towns - Tono has it's share of Shrines and Temples. Below are some temples which are within walking distance of the train station (so 30 minutes)....
Tono Folk Village is a small and potentially interesting museum. Almost all writing and stories are in Japanese - but this is kind of expected in the Japanese countryside. It costs 310 Yen to enter and is better to be missed unless you speak Japanese. A better option is the Tono Municipal Museum which is highly interesting and includes a good smattering of English signage - even though it's not needed for most exhibits. Once again - it cost 310 Yen to enter but my favorite part was watch some old Japanese men trying to listen to old folktales on a tape from a Japanese lady. The look on the men's faces were priceless - the local dialect is so strong here that many Japanese find the older residents almost impossible to understand....
Right next to the Tono Municipal Museum is Nambu Shrine. It's nothing spectacular by itself - but allows good views of the surrounding area.
On the left of Nambu Shrine was the Nabekurajo Castle Site. This is easily my favorite place that I visited today as the clouds rolling in kind of reminded me of some of the opening scenes of The Last Samurai. You could easily walk up here for a couple of hours. If it was not raining - I would have.
When most people visit Tono, they hire a bike and ride into the countryside. As it was raining - I did not have that option today. Even though I think Tono looks nice from today's photos - it is nothing compared to the surrounding countryside that I saw on my way to Tono on the train. Hopefully - the weather holds up tomorrow so I can take a bike ride...