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Takada Park: Niigata

No festival in Japan would be complete without a procession of men and women carrying this beautiful edifice down  a road.   It is called a mikoshi and it is used to transport a god between shrines.     No better example of the purest essence of Japanese culture than the  Mikoshi,  the truest symbols of Japan's spiritual legacy and a testament to  the continuity of tradition passed down generation after generation.   

During the festive time of year you can see fundoshi( underwear) clad men and women carrying the mikoshi down a street with throngs of people all around.    The mikoshi is carried on the shoulders  around neighborhoods to another shrine where people can get up close and see the god inside the mikoshi, and in some instances touch it.     
Gods come in flesh form too

Cherry blossom viewing can be enjoyed anywhere in Japan, but some places are a must-see-must-go destination.    I have chronicled many places on this blog of famous garden parks that look as if they  had been hewned and carved by the gods of Japan.   One such place is Takada Park, an enormous recreational area with bridges, rivers, playgrounds, a baseball field, and a Track & Field venue.     Every area is lined with dazzling pink cherry blossom trees all collaged with majestic mountain views and scenic snowscapes.     This is Niigata at it's finest, at the very height of its beauty.

Getting there will take about 4 hours if you are coming from Tokyo by train.    You do not have to use Niigata Station to transfer, you can do that at Echigo Yuzawa Station then take the Hakuta Express to Noetsu Station where you'll transfer again to a local line which will take you to Takada Station.  

From the Hakuta Express, you need to sit on the right so that you can witness the beautiful mountain ranges of Echizen on the train ride and relish in the splendor of snowcapped peaks while sipping on cold Japanese sake over a local lunch box replete with salmon and rice.  

You have until the 21st of April to enjoy this beauty.   I took about 600 pictures, so I will post up some of the ones that I feel reflect the beauty of this park.   First, let's have a look at this photo:  Mountains, trees,  and river all  imbue a sense of charm to this region.   Niigata is a mountainous, cavernous, landscape of farm lands, natural hot spas, and rice fields.   Blessed with great water, the  sake flows pure from the vats where they are brewed in, and into the cups where they are poured in, then served to you freshly brewed.  

I had first attempted to come to this park last year, but the park was washed out from the rains.   My image of Takada was so different, I thought it would be more like Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture.  Instead, I discover a vibrant mix of young and old people together with friends, significant others, and family.

Oddly enough, there was a Track & Field event being held during the festival.   Track meets and cherry blossoms provided an interesting contrast with plenty of entertainment for everyone.  

Clear Crisp Skies and Mountain
Mochi - This is local specialty.  Sticky rice ball delicacy that's slightly burned - heaven on a stick.

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki with a Niigata twist.   A layered pancake stuffed with pork noodles and etc.
In the offing there's  Takada Castle.   If you pay a small fee you can climb to the top and enjoy even more gorgeous views of pink trees.  The old mood was festive.  Truly an unforgettable experience.
Takada Castle

Perhaps the most iconic symbol of this whole park area is Takada Castle.   It is not as ominous as this castle I visited next door.    Please flock here to freshen up, and take pictures around the moat.
Merriment was definitely there.  The whole park was so clean and litter free.   It was really nice just drinking and hanging around this area.   The weather was balmy.
Another thing that surprised me was at how many people spoke English.   Kids on bicycles, mothers, and young ladies all spoke English to me and greeted me!   I was received with smiles and merriment.

The pictures can speak for themselves.   Enjoy

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