Autumn In Toyota City's Stunning Korankei Gorge and the Twice-a-Year Blooming Cherry Trees of Obara
While Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture is famous for its cars, the regions' other driving force is its history, culture and nature, much of it untainted by tourists or the modern world. Toyota is world famous, yet remains mostly undiscovered, and therefore provides a pleasant escape, offering a range of exciting things to see, try and experience.
Discover the impressive Korankei Gorge, said to be among Japan's top three autumn leaf viewing spots, with its annual offering of breathtaking natural colors, or the exciting history of authentically rebuilt Asuke Castle, its ancient town and the enjoyable experiences available at the traditional Sanshu Asuke Yashiki village. See Obara's special cherry trees that blossom twice a year, and experience for yourself a 600-year-old traditional washi paper art form that survives to this day.
The Magnificent Korankei Gorge, Enjoyable Day or Night
Ringed by ragged cliff edges over the crystal clear waters of the shallow Tomoegawa River, the magnificent Korankei Gorge is one of Japan's premier autumn leaf viewing spots. Cool and relaxing in Aichi's hot summers, the gorge puts on a spectacular show of colors in the autumn. Eleven varieties of over 4,000 trees provide one of the nation's most spectacular natural color displays, which are illuminated for night time viewing enjoyment too. One of the best day and night views of the entire gorge can be seen from the Tomoebashi Bridge, just beside the Korankei Bus Stop and the Toyota City Asuke Branch office. From there, a picturesque tunnel of tall maple trees leads you deep into the Korankei Gorge, and to another of the valley's highlights, the area's symbolic Taigetsukyo Bridge, and the nearby Goshiki-Momiji, a particular maple tree which exhibits five different colored leaves at once.
Within the gorge is the ancient Kojakuji, a Zen Temple, founded in 1427. The story goes that many of the maple trees within the Korankei Gorge were planted in 1634 by the 11th abbot of the Kojakuji, who later encouraged visitors to add to the many trees within the valley.
Nestled within the pristine Gorge, under the watchful eye of the rugged Asuke Castle, lies the rustic Sanshu Asuke Yashiki Mura, a collection of well-preserved traditional Edo period houses in a village-like setting, where traditional crafts, including bamboo basket weaving, paper making, indigo dying, traditional waraji straw sandal making and many more continue to be practiced. These locally produced, traditional handcrafts not only make great souvenirs for family or friends, but can be used in the home even today. Visitors too can enjoy experiencing the various traditional craft workshops year round, and local delicacies, such as open-hearth salt-grilled ayu sweetfish, and the popular Gohei-mochi, sweet, grilled rice cakes served on a stick with soy sauce and miso. Its hard not to enjoy this taste of old Toyota!
Just outside of the Gorge is one of the very few authentically reconstructed mountaintop fortresses across Japan. Asuke offers the experience of a real 15th century Sengoku (Warring States) Period castle. Asuke's simple watchtowers, rudimentary living quarters, basic kitchens, stables and defenses have all been authentically reproduced atop 307m high Mt. Mayumi. Despite its small size, Asuke has seen a lot of action, having been attacked time and again because of its strategic importance. Discover that history, and see first-hand the defensive features and structures of a small but sturdy medieval samurai castle.
Below the castle, the town of Asuke flourished as a post-station along an important salt transportation route. Even today, the area retains its samurai period atmosphere, with Asuke's townscape filled with houses made of black boarded walls and ancient white walled warehouses. Small, narrow streets attest to its defensive past. The taste, and feel of old Japan can still be found in Asuke. The town's festivals take place at various times throughout the year, allowing visitors to see the heart of Asuke.
The Magical Shikizakura Cherry Trees and Washi Paper of Obara
Cherry blossom is one of the iconic images of Japan, however it can only be seen fleetingly during the spring. Unless you visit Toyota's Obara region. Then you have the chance to see it twice a year! Obara's rare Shikizakura cherry trees bloom once in the springtime, and again in the fall, along with the stunning show of colors of Toyota's autumn leaves. At Obara's Mt. Satoyama area, there are over 10,000 trees, while at popular Senmi Shikizakura-no-Sato, over 1,200 Shikizakura cherry trees form waves of light pink blossom interspersed islands of vivid red, orange and yellow of the maples and other seasonal trees. Witnessing this rare phenomena will leave a lasting impression.
Besides the magical attraction of the Shikizakura cherry trees, since the 14th century, Toyota's Obara has been famous for its traditional washi paper manufacturing. Used for umbrellas, folding fans, sliding doors and panels in traditional homes, Obara's Washi-no-Furusato (Paper Art Museum) still makes a range of much sought after, high quality papers in the traditional way. Learn the special techniques from the masters of paper crafting in the hands-on workshop area, as you make your own original sheets of prized Obara washi paper, or simply purchase professionally made paper of your choice. The museum gallery displays a range of works made using Obara Washi.
Nearby Obara's traditional paper making facilities are the ruins of Obara Ichiba Castle, built around 1502. In the mid 1580's Ichiba was upgraded using the latest castle technology of the time, and offers a fine example of the early stone wall castle construction method known as Nozura Zumi. Although it looks shoddy and rough, this sort of wall was among the most stable and easily constructed fortification walls. Early forms of the effective masugata gate systems, (also known as Death Boxes) were developed, further strengthening the castle. This created a fascinating juxtaposition of elements of both the old style mountain castle, and the first signs of early modern 16th century castle features.
World Famous, Yet Still Unknown
The name Toyota is world famous, yet very few know of the many captivating charms Toyota City's wide area has to offer. Besides Korankei Gorge and the Obara Shikizakura cherry trees and paper making, other attractions in and around Aichi Prefecture's Toyota City include the ancient Matsudaira-Go, birthplace of the Matsudaira clan, ancestors of the mighty Tokugawa Shoguns, with clan related shrines, temples, castle ruins and museums. There's the 600-year-old Sasado Onsen hot springs, known for their therapeutic and relaxing properties. In the spring, the 3,000 weeping peach blossoms of Kaminaka make for an amazing and colorful sight. For a more modern approach, the Toyota Kuragaike Commemorative Hall and the Toyota Kaikan Museum celebrate Toyota Motor Company's world famous achievements.
Look behind the modern technological advances, the motoring traditions and the rightfully proud and successful story of Toyota City, and discover the area's other stories, Toyota's fascinating history, profound culture and stunning pristine nature on your next travels. Toyota City is in the center of Aichi Prefecture, in the center of Japan. Before too many discover its wonders, make it your center of attention.
Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.
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