Kannonyama, Gunma (Part 2)

After I had visited the goddess at Kannonyama, I walked off through the woods in the direction of a huge red suspension bridge. I didn't find the bridge this time, but eventually the path opened out at another of the park's attractions: a set of underground tunnels excavated by hand and filled with beautiful statues and shrines. Being underground, the tunnel system remains at a wonderful 17°C all year round, which provided a welcome relief from the heat of the midday sun (32°C on the day I visited Kannonyama). It was not very easy to take photographs in the tunnels due to the darkness, but there were some very impressive statues, and the idea that the whole place was excavated using picks and shovels made it quite amazing.

I emerged from the caves into the bright sunshine and into the ornamental gardens of the man who originally bought this land and commissioned the building of the tunnels. I believe, although I cannot remember entirely, that this man was a Japanese architect. Whatever the case, he certainly had an eye for designing beautiful houses and gardens.
A lot of Japanese gardenening seems to focus on beauty in Spring and Autumn; in spring blossoms abound and in Autumn all of the gorgeous green maple trees which provide such a beautiful delicate quality of sunlight in summer turn bright red, orange and yellow. I hope I will get to see both at some point over the next few years, however, this is not to say that in summer there is nothing to see. In the absence of blossom, Japanese gardeners appear to have embraced hydrangeas in every colour of the rainbow. Their heavy, oversized blooms pop up everywhere that I have been so far, and were a big feature of this garden. There was also a small but pretty pond, containining the ornamental koi carp which I have seen almost as often as the hydrangea in parks all around Japan, and there was a little path leading to a small stone pagoda.

I was fortunate to meet one of the groundskeepers while I was admiring the park, and as I had recently learned to say "this is beautiful" in Japanese, we had a very pleasant "conversation" (if you could call it that) and he gave me a free bottle of cold water and a tour of the small on-site museum dedicated to the works of a local Japanese comic artist. These are the little things that I find make touring "tourist attractions" just that little bit more memorable. And it certainly did nothing to diminish my impression that Japanese people are the friendliest I have ever met!
I completed my tour of the Kannonyama area by walking the rather long round-about route by road back to the statue, where I found a little cafe with, unfortunately for illiterate me, no English menu. Happily, I was able to communicate just enough in mixed Japanese and English, along with a lot of hand gestures what it was that I was hoping for, and the food and drink that arrived was delicious. I did eventually manage to find the big red suspension bridge too, but sadly it was getting later in the day and the sun was simply too hot for me to consider walking across a long exposed bridge as remotely enjoyable. Perhaps if I get another chance, I'll go there first and let you know what, if anything, is on the other side.
Until next time...


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