In Aichi prefecture you can find some nice rows of black pines along the Old Tokaido Road. Goyu Pine Avenue is by far the most well-known Tokaido Pine avenue. These pine trees has been duly taken care of by local residents despite some Typhoon damages and series of pine-eating pest outbreaks they managed to preserve beautiful pine trees as it is today. You can learn about Goyu pines in a small local museum.
Sakuragaoka Park located about one kilometer west of Toyokawa Inari serves as a cultural space for Toyokawa residents. It has a local museum called Sakuragaoka Museum, tea house called Shinshin-tei, and huge lawn area and playground for children. It seems that when the tea house is occupied you cannot enter the garden as well. Tea house is open to public when there is an event usually held every second Saturday of the month.
Buddhist temple originally founded by Jisho(Ooe-no-Sadamoto) about 1,000 years ago, is best known by the monument of Erwin Baelz a German internist who wrote the essay on his life in Japan during late 19th century. The temple also has a nice landscape garden said to have been designed by Enshu Kobori, a late 16th to early 17th century tea master known for his expertise in garden designing. Its landscape garden is about 4,000 square meters in area but it looks larger than it actually is. The secret is the way the garden was constructed. The lanterns and bridges at the far end of the garden was built in smaller sizes than those in the entrance side. That technique brings the garden the depth.
Sanagawa river runs about one kilometer west of Toyokawa Inari. Its river embarkment is best known as one of the best cherry-viewing sites in Toyokawa. Even off-season the riverside trail is really nice to walk on. Riverbank areas are constantly mown so that you can enjoy the seasonal flowers. Kanaya (Pedestrian's Bridge) area, in particular, is popular among photographers to take the photos of cherry blossoms and Mount Hongu.
Walking along Old Tokaido post stops of Akasaka(#36) and Goyu(#35) is one of the top five most popular Old Tokaido segments. I took the route written in my 30-year-old hiking guidebook(in Japanese). I also stopped by some of the places not mentioned in that guidebook.
From Meiden Nagasawa Station to Kou station.
Length: 13.3 kilometers(According to my GPS file)
Duration: About three and half hours(not including the resting, visiting and lunch time)
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Major Places to Visit: Ohashiya Inn, Josenji Temple, rows of pine trees at Goyu, Higashi-mikawa Furusato Park, Saimyoji Temple.
Before the current Tokaido Route was established, people crossed the Mount Miyaji to go westward. Ancient Tokaido highway is now one of the popular hiking trails for both Toyokawa and Okazaki residents. Mount Miyaji is a twin-peaked mountain and its southern peak has the innermost shrine and its northern peak is the summit of the mountain, 362 meters in elevation. It takes about one hour from Akasaka to the mountain top so many climbers go further to Mount Goi, 451 meters in elevation. During Autumn Leaves season the mountain area will be full of people. You can also climb the mountain right close to the summit by your bicycle, motorcycle and even by automobile. When you climb the mountain using road beware of cars particularly during late November peak season. The mountain area is a part of Mikawa Bay Quasi National Park.
The park opened in 2006 is located about 15 minutes walk south from Goyu-shuku street. Yet it is a popular park to stop by for Old Tokaido Walkers. The park is designed with Old Tokaido setting and even playsets in the park reminds me of old Japanese buildings. I didn't have so much time to explore but I enjoyed the pathways around Japanese Garden called Shukkeien. Its highest point is about 194 meters above sea level and some of the waling trails join that of climbing routes for Mount Miyaji, 362 meters above sea level. It is also home to pet owners, joggers and walkers and it is one of the most favorite picnic sites in Aichi Prefecture.
Sanmyoji Temple was founded around the reign of Emperor Shomu around 694 to 702 A.D. by the decree of the Emperor as a Shingon(Esoteric school of Buddhism) temple. During late 14th to early 15th century ruined old temple was reconstructed by a zen priest Mumon Gensen, also the son of Emperor Godaigo. During the rule of Imagawa Clan from late 14th to mid 16th century the temple was converted to Soto school of Zen Buddhism just as other ruined Shingon temples in Aichi and Shizuoka did around that time. The conversion of the temple to Soto sect also coincides with the foundation of Myogonji Temple(a.k.a. Toyokawa Inari) 500 meters west of the temple.
Three-storied pagoda built in 1531 is designated as Important Cultural Asset by the government mainly because of its unique structure. The first and second story of the pagoda was built with Japanese style while the third style is Zen-style(Chinese style).
Main object of worship is Sahasrabhuja Avalokiteswara(Senju Guanyin). Its original deity Benzaiten(originally a hindu god Saraswati) is currently housed inside the Main Hall.
The temple is free of charge to enter.
Fox mound(Reikozuka) of Toyokawa Inari is what draws so many visitors from all over the world to this zen temple. More than 800 sets of fox statues are erected mostly because the visitors would like to thank the fox deity to have made their wishes come true. It reminds me of the way people show gratitude by donating Manekineko figuries to Gotokuji temple in Setagaya, Tokyo. You can donate your own fox statue if you wish something to the fox deity and it is granted. The smallest statue costs about 80,000 yen. If you would like to make bigger statue maybe a lot more. The place is a bit dark and spooky, even a male adult might feel scared if he walks around there alone at night or late in the evening. If you are with children make up some stories so that children are not scared. Some statues are really terrifying while some are cute.
Toyokawa Inari was originally built as a Zen temple. One of the temple priests Kangan carved a deity seated on a white fox which came to him in a vision on his way back to Japan from China. This deity is still worshipped here today. The worship of Inari is a Shinto practice however, the temple also still remains a Soto Zen sect temple. The combination of Shintoism and Buddhism was common in the past, but most temples and shrines have since separated and become either Buddhist or Shinto. Toyokawa Inari is one of those that never made the change, so they continue to worship Inari and practice Buddhism here.
The complex has many buildings with a variety of different architectural features and dating from the 17th century to the 20th century. The most famous part is at the end of the Okunoin where there are hundreds of fox statues all around. It's definitely an interesting and unique place.
Toyokawa Inari has a Treasure Hall featuring carvings, paintings, and other artifacts accumulated by the priests over the centuries.
The Treasure Hall costs 400 yen to enter, but the rest of the complex is free.
Toyokawa Inari Tip: The building made of conifer wood and with copper roof-tiles was built in 1824 as a prayer hall (Hannyaden) of former main hall (currently Okunoin). It was moved to current place when the newer Honden(Main Hall) was being built. The building has the area of 50 tsubo(165.29 sq. meters) and currently used for festival entertainment.
Toyokawa Inari tip: Chozuya(also temizuya) is a purification place for visitors to wash their hands and mouth with ladles of water. Chozuya of Toyokawa Inari is also called Sousuiya. Chozuyas are often the staple of Shinto shrines but temples often have similar purification places like this temple. The only difference is followers do not follow Shinto practices such as clappings of their hands. Ordinary visitors use this place to wash their hands before entering the main hall. It is often said to be bad manner to drink water of Chozuya.
Toyokawa Inari Tip:
Portable Shrine shed of Toyokawa Inari houses a huge portable shrine(mikoshi) weighing 1.5 tons. The huge portable shrine had not been used since 1970 replaced by lighter 1.0 ton mikoshi. During spring festival of this year(2012) the huge portable shrine was carried by 100 bearers for the first time in 42 years.
Toyokawa Inari Tip:
Castle-like building on the west side of the zen temple is called Jihoukan, a treasure museum. It is the only building in Toyokawa Inari that you need to pay admission fee(400 yen for adult). It has some paintings of Kazan Watanabe, and donated art objects and buddha statues, Japanese swords, and objects used by Echizen Ohka, best known court judge in early 18th century.
Toyokawa Inari Tip:
As you look closely to the fox statues scattered around every corner of the zen temple, you will find some patterns in statue styles.
1 Standard Fox Statues: Simple, plain fox statues.
2 Family of Foxes: A set of statues with mother and her children
3 Fox Holding a Scripture Scroll with His Mouth
4 Fox Holding Chintamani with His Mouth
5 Fox Holding Chintamani with His Paws