An afternoon of joy

This past February we traveled to Sapporo for the Snow Festival, and perhaps one of our best destinations during our time there was the Historical Village of Hokkaido, which includes in one place a variety of styles of architecture in Hokkaido, encapsulated in historical buildings that have been moved to the site to be preserved and put on display for the general public.

While we were there, we visited the old sake brewery building, where they were serving hot amazake and daikon pickles around an irori. Wikipedia describes amazake as:

a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol (depending on recipes) Japanese drink made from fermented rice.

Wikipedia describes an irori as:

a traditional Japanese sunken hearth

The gentleman hosting the amazake and pickle tasting was older, in his 80s, and when he found out we were from Toyama, he shared that his family was originally from Takaoka, our neighboring city. He went on to explain that his family was a family of carpenters, and that his great-grandfather, several times removed, had helped to build a temple near Takaoka. When I asked him for the name, he told me it was Gokokuhachimangu. I pulled out my phone, found it on Google Maps, and added a ‘want to go’ label to the location, thinking that in warmer weather I could cycle there and remember my cold February Sapporo experience.

Well, I submitted my PhD thesis for a final check to my supervisors last Friday, and this weekend found I didn’t feel an overwhelming pressure to write anything. The weather was also nice, cool but not too windy and not rainy, and so the seeds of a cycle ride started to be planted in my mind.

Yuki convinced me to go to church Sunday morning, but after church she stayed there and I came home. Without intervening adult supervision, after finishing my lunch I found myself on my bicycle and without a particular destination in mind. My original thought was to head up into the mountains, but I misread a sign that I thought would take me on a new road to where I wanted to go, and eventually found myself off track for my original destination.

As this was my first ride of consequence for the year, I decided that pedaling back up a big hill was probably asking too much of my legs, and so found myself inputting ‘great-grandfather’s temple’ into my navigation. The roads weren’t perhaps as pleasant as they could have been — there was a 14km run along a pretty busy national road — but in the end I made it.

What I had thought would be a tiny little structure in an obscure corner of an equally tiny town ended up being an important historical and cultural building; originally built in the 1600s (so add a few more greats onto grandfather’s title), it remains part of a walking pilgrimage tradition to this day, and has an important annual harvest festival associated with it.

Here’s the summary board from the temple itself:

And here’s the Google Timeline Map of my ride:

Unfortunately, I didn’t save anything for the return ride home, so once I started to cough, I called Yuki to rescue me, but in total I made it 51.6 km (32 miles) on the bike, which isn’t bad for a first ride of the year, especially considering that my main physical activity for the last six months has been pecking away at my PhD thesis.

I thought of my sister Angela on my ride, and how it would have been nice to share it with her. She of course went on a 77 mile (124 km) ride on her side of the world; she definitely can’t be outdone by her bigger brother.