While Mama was visiting, we tried to visit Ashikaga Gakkou, Japan's oldest school. In one of my more spectacular failures as a tour guide, we completely missed it. So it's been my guilty goal ever since to complete that journey and provide pictures so she can see what we missed. When I reached the station, I couldn't believe I hadn't been able to lead us to the school in the first place - there are signs for it everywhere! Of course, they're only in kanji - apparently it's not a big enough foreign tourist draw to have English signs the way places in Tokyo, etc. have. But at that point I'd been in Japan a few months, working in a school. Had I seriously not memorized the kanji for "school" yet? I'm rather ashamed to think it. For the reference of anyone reading this who would like to visit Ashikaga School, the kanji is 足利学校.
Check out the thickness of these thatched roofs!
I would definitely recommend to future travelers that they turn right out of the Gakkou, and following the signs along a flagstone road to Bannaji temple. (a) There is a wonderful little gelato shop and (b) there are several interesting fabric goods shops. I got green tea ice cream, and one of those blue-and-white dyed cloths.
Two things I like here: (a) Check out the huge roof (b) Check out the tiny car:
Then I tried walking to Ashikaga Park, because I'd heard there would be a sakura event. Though I kept passing maps that said, "It's just a couple more blocks!" I didn't come across it. I did, however, come to Orihime Shrine, which has a wonderful view of the city and river:
I kept walking in the hopes of finding the park. After an hour, I came to the next train station so I decided to give up and go back. While looking out the window, the train seemed to go right through the middle of a park thick with cherry blossoms, picnicking families, playing children - it was a rather surreal vision. I'd somehow walked right past it. Considering my previous experience re. the school, however, I bet that if I go back to Ashikaga a third time I will have no problem finding the park I missed this time. Somehow I am not so inclined.
Despite my bad luck, I was determined to find one more place. Ashikaga Flower Park is not, as the name would have you believe, accessible from Ashikaga station. Instead you have to get off at Tomita station the stop before. Then you have to follow a particularly bizarre route that involves walking along the train tracks, crossing over, walking along the other side, crossing under again. "Flower Park four minutes this way," a sign read, and I walked for fifteen minutes without finding a place to cross. "Flower Park eight minutes this way," a sign read, with an arrow in the other direction, and I decided someone was picking up every park I wanted to go to, waiting until I walked by, and putting them down again.
I gave up, started back to the station. At which point I came across 迫間自然観察公園 which as far as I can tell translates to Hasami Nature Observation Park. It's sprawling and woodsy and has wooden walkways over swampy ground - though it was fairly dry because of the season. There's ever so many birds, though I hadn't come prepared being without both glasses and binoculars - I might have to go back for one of my adventures. I would have stayed for hours but the sun was going down.
On my way back the station I walked past Ashikaga Flower Park and walked past it. I'd had enough of parks.
Classes start again tomorrow.