When the photograph is clicked, it moves to the article.
Our afternoon was filled with history and good food. We toured a few temples and ever saw a few special things along the way. We were also treated to delicious food at two small, family-owned restaurants.
After arriving at the Taga station, we bought service map for tours around Taga.
Dan writes a wish for the gods to answer.
In front of Taga station, Anna ties her wish to the ropes and hopes that the Shinto gods will answer.
Dan passes under Taga's famous gates "Kanau-Taga-Mon", which symbolize the strong bonds of marriage. They also promise good luck; he's definitely lucky to be doing a homestay there!
At a tiny shop called Hishiya, we learned about "Itokiri-mochi" - a Taga specialty - which this couple had been making their entire lives. The mochi is cut with the string of a musical instrument called a "shamisen".
The shop owner told us about all the famous Japanese people who had visited and eaten their delicious mochi.
The mochi was delicious! Dan thought it was the best mochi he had ever had.
She made enough for everyone to have seconds, and we got to take some home, too.
On the walk, we passed an inn (called "Kagirou") that was over 300 years old, still in business.
We arrived at Taga Taisha, one of Shiga's famous shinto shrines.
The bridge just past the gate separates the heavenly from the mundane. It's very steep, but we all climbed it and took pictures.
Before entering the shrine, we purified our hands and mouths in traditional Shinto fashion.
These paddles have wishes and prayers written on them that are offered up to the gods. They are common at most temples and can be found in many shapes and sizes.
When you pray at a Shinto shrine, you first toss a donation into the box (typically 5-10 yen), then you bow twice, clap twice, pray, then bow again. The claps alert the gods to your presence, and the money shows your respect.
While we were there, we were lucky enough to see a wedding procession passing by. Christian-style weddings are very popular in Japan, but some still opt for traditional Shinto and Buddhist ceremonies...
We all bought fortunes, or "omikuji." Some of us were luckier than others…
In addition to paddles, you can also write your prayers on a stone and leave it at the shrine.
Han Offers her prayer stone with high hopes!
For lunch, we had an assortment of noodle dishes. This is "Nabeyaki-Udon" (udon served in a hot pot).
Taga is famous for its soba noodles. We had to do "rock, paper, scissors" to decide who got to eat which. It was delicious!
After, we stopped into a small shop for some ice cream. Nope, those aren't oranges… it is in fact puree'd carrots. Don't knock it till ya try it!
This was a buddhist temple called Shinyoji, just down the street from Taga Taisha. It has been here for over 500 years.
The monk in residence taught us about the history of the temple.
These paintings depictes scenes of Hell and judgment.
They were very graphic, but very interesting.
The Buddha in this temple was itself over 1000 years old. It was taken from Taga Taisha during the Meiji restoration, when Buddhism and Shinto were separated, and brought here.
Carrie pays her respects.
Our last stop was at a small shrine that was not for the faint of heart, as it mainly depicted the gods of hell. People come here to pray for long life and protection from hell's judgment.
Outside the shrine, Dan crosses the bamboo bridge to see if he is worthy to make it to the afterlife.
"Taga" literally translates to "much joy," and now we all know why. We had a great time on this trip and hope to return someday!