Center of Japan: Ikushima-Tarushima Jinja

Located in the geographical center of Japan, Ikushima-Tarushima Jinja worships the Shinto Deities Ikushima-no-okami, the God of Fertility and Vitality and Tarushima-no-okami, the God of Fulfilment. The architectural style of the main shrine is one of the oldest in Japan, located on a small island surrounded by a pond.

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Meigetsu-in, the Ajisai-dera during the Hydrangea Season

A second trip to Meigetsu-in, the Ajisai-dera famous for its 2,500 over hydrangeas. Managed to avoid the crowds, going there on a weekday early in the morning. Now I understand why it is called the Meigetsuin Blue, for the mainly blue hues of the hydrangeas here.

Odawara Castle: The Last Resistance Against Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Unified Japan

Odawara Castle, once stronghold of Odawara-Hojo clan, one of the most powerful clans in the Kanto region during the Sengoku period, was subjected to multiple damages due to earthquakes and demolition during the Meiji Restoration. The structures here today were reconstructed over the years, with the 3 levels, 5 stories donjon being recently renovated in 2016. Located in close proximity to Hakone, Odawara Castle makes a good day trip from Tokyo or a combined visit with Hakone.