Sunday, November 29, 2015

Koma at Hidaka City, Saitama, with deep ancient Korean roots

Hidaka City 日高市 is around an hour's train ride from Tokyo's Ikebukuro station. There you can find a small village called Koma, that has deep roots with Korea dated as far back as 1,300 years ago. I was lucky that the annual Korean traditional mounted archery contest was held when I visited on 23 Nov (Mon) public holiday.

Kinchakuda 巾着田
The first place I dropped by was Kinchakuda and if you visit in the morning, you will notice a group of wildlife photographers with their super long lens camera focusing on one single spot.

Not sure what they were looking for, maybe wild birds that might fly in any moment!? HMMM....

Kinchakuda was formed by the river flowing down from Mt. Hiwada into a shape of a cloth pouch, so the name "kinchakuda" was formed, literally meaning pouch field.

During mid-September to mid-October, millions of bright red spider lilies will bloom in this big field leaving you stunned at their beauty. Unfortunately I was too late, but you can see the photos here taken by another blogger on JapanTravel.

You will also pass by this iconic water wheel that never stops. I was told that icicles will form on the wheel gradually but never stopping even during the cold winter, so cool!

Much of the land was owned by farmers living nearby and they grow anything from rice to blueberries and even garlic. The irrigation channels also seem to be built from centuries ago and maintained until now.

When winter comes, some gardens will grow these ornamental cabbages as decoration because they can last for the entire season without much care.

Official website (Japanese only): http://www.kinchakuda.com
You can also hike at Mt Hiwada later if you have time.

Masahi Kishakyougi Taikai 馬射戯(マサヒ)騎射競技大会 (Mounted Archery Contest)
As I mentioned, I was lucky that to attend Koma's annual traditional Korean mounted archery contest held for the 4th time this year. There were a total of 6 contestants, of which 3 were from Korea and 3 were from Japan.

They were to complete a 200m race track within a certain time (maybe 20 sec?) and shoot down 5 targets along the way. They will repeat for another 2 times, each time the targets will decrease in size. You can read about it in Japanese here from official website or a very detailed English explanation from a German website here.

There were stalls and performances throughout the day.

One stall was giving away free Japchae!

Oops... an addition to my overweight luggage...

Alishan Organic and Vegetarian Cafe
By afternoon you should be hungry and can drop by Alishan cafe for a healthy and delicious vegetarian meal.

This was their signature vegan burger and it was really flavorful and delicious! There was so much ingredients that I took a long time to finish it ^^;;

They also have a shop selling local-grown organic vegetables and other imported organic food.
They are only open from Thur-Monday (11:30~18:00, Sat till 21:00) and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They are also pet friendly and many locals bring their dogs over as well.

Official website: http://alishan-organics.com

Komajinja (Koma Shrine) 高麗神社
Koma Shrine was setup 1,300 years ago to enshrine a Koguryo (ancient Northern Korea) imperial family member Jakko, who came to Japan with other refugees to escape from their homeland after it was conquered by Silla-Tang alliance (ancient China and Korea). He led 1,799 new immigrants to develop this land assigned by the Japanese imperial family by building infrastructure and agriculture out of nothing with their advanced technology at that time. When he passed away, locals decided to erect a shrine to elevate him to god status and offer him prayers.


The shrine just finished renovation for its 1,300th anniversary next year! But I was hoping to find something that looks more than a thousand years old...

Because there are many Koreans and foreigners who come, they offer Omikuji (fortune telling) with translated readings.

There was a 300 years old Sakura tree at the centre of the garden, it will look stunning in Spring!

The shrine was not big so you can finish in 30min time. There were a few vendors selling street food but no crowd at all.

Entering the shrine is free.
Official website (in Japanese): http://www.komajinja.or.jp

Shodenin (Shoden-in Temple) 聖天院
Shodenin is actually a mass cemetery for the Korean victims of WWII and houses the grave of Jakko. Like Koma Shrine, this temple has 1,300 years of history and  they retained part of the ancient structure. This temple is located just 20min walk from Alishan Cafe and 1km from Koma Shrine.


It is less visited than Koma Shrine but much bigger and more things to see (maybe because it is a temple for cemetery).

There was nobody at the entrance so I left my 300yen admission fee on the tray and took my ticket.

You will see a Japanese garden, I think it will look beautiful in Spring with flowers and a more lively green.

As you go up to the cemetery and temple's main hall, you can see 2 statues of ancient gods to guard the place.


If you climb even higher, you can see the memorial tower that appeases the dead.

This is the top of the main temple building taken at around 4.30pm. Skies were already turning dark because it is the fall/winter season.

This is the main hall.

This is the grave of Jakko.

Like many shrines and temples that are less visited, they close at 5pm. The temple do not have any official homepage.

Soy Sauce Kingdom 醤油王国
My last stop was Soy Sauce Kingdom, a very interesting museum/factory tour to learning everything about soy sauce!

First floor is the shop where you can buy any soy sauce imaginable as well as products made from soy sauce!

You can taste different soy sauce to match your favorite food!

Upstairs is a big wooden barrel to put people inside! (nah, you must be smart to know this is the barrel where they make soy sauce)

You can press some buttons to light up a particular barrel to see its colour as the unrefined soy sauce ages and fermented for a year.

Light up!

You can also open some lids to smell the difference between soy sauce fermented recently and.. up to a year. Frankly speaking, it stinks.

This is where you can try pressing the unrefined soy beans that has been fermented for a year to extract the unrefined soy sauce. Soy sauce found in the market has been heated up to adjust the aroma, colour and taste.

The second floor has a cafe where you can buy food that uses soy sauce and that includes a lot of Japanese food!

You can enjoy a great view while eating!

The soy sauce soft cream is a must try for 300yen. It has a slight tint of soy sauce flavour and mildly sweet like salted caramel.

To get here from Tokyo: Take Tobu line from Ikebukuro, around 1.5 hr to Nishioya station. Alternatively another station nearby is Komagawa station. But both will need you to walk for 25-30min, so the best is if you rented a car.
They are open 9-5pm everyday (including weekends and public holidays) except during new year holiday.

Official Webpage: http://yugeta.com/english/kingdom.htm

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