A Journey Back in Time – Tateyama Museum of Toyama
What was life like in Ashikuraji, and around the foothills of Tateyama in the past? During those bustling pilgrimage times? Who lived there? What were they doing? … Why don’t you stop by and find out in Ashikuraji! The Tateyama Museum of Toyama complex here offers a number of interesting facilities revealing Ashikuraji’s centuries as a religious centre. A day can be pleasantly spent strolling through time in this tranquil mountain village.
There are six actual sites to visit in all, some of which have an entrance fee, and an all-in-one ticket is worth buying for those that do. I don’t think it is necessary to go to the structures in any order, but you will see on the map attached that places stretch out across the town so starting around Oyama Shrine is a good choice – and this is the direction in which the pilgrims travelled! (Discover more about Oyama Shrine in my article about The Tateyama Range).
Beside Oyama Shrine, back from the road between a temple and another historic building, Kyosan-bō, you will find the museum, also known as Tenji-kan.
Notice its very interesting and beautiful architecture. And this very unique and attractive building houses an impression of the natural and cultural history of Tateyama. It is very well planned and laid out over three floors (and just a note, in Japan, the ground floor is called F1). The display follows a set path, and your journey begins on the third floor. This level shows you different aspects of the beech forests around here; enjoy a stroll through the woods in mid-autumn, and encounter some of the animals and plants; look at relics from ancient human civilizations that predate Ashikuraji!
As you follow through the lovely displays showing forests, you come to a section describing the geology and geography in a number of interactive and 3-D models, also videos. You can learn how not only Tateyama, but today’s Toyama has been shaped by the Joganji River and other mighty forces of nature. Find out of the great natural disasters that occurred in 1858 and 1891, leading to the major erosion control research and works in the Tateyama Caldera (see my Sabo Museum story).
The second level houses a fantastic display of the region’s religious history. I have spoken of the Shugendō Mountain Religion that was prevalent in this area in other articles, and here in this museum you can see many actual artifacts from that time. It includes various Tateyama Mandalas (large scrolls that were carried around the country in ancient times by missionaries), talismans, maps and many other interesting items (see Reaching for Heaven and Path to Salvation). A section of this level represents the way missionaries presented their teachings to people in other locations. There is a lovely model of the Nunobashi Kanjou, and representation of how Amida Buddha appeared to Saeki Ariyori in the bear’s cave. There are wonderful models of life in Ashikuraji of Edo times too (1603 – 1868).
On the first floor you can watch a number of short videos relating to the legends and landscapes of the Tateyama caldera region. There are a number of different versions of the Saeki story which I mentioned in Reaching for Heaven, and one is included here for you to view as an animation. Also on the first floor you may see different exhibitions of historic art works and other relics throughout the year.
From the museum, you can continue your own pilgrimage. If you haven’t already entered Oyama Shrine, do it now! If so, next stop is Kyosan-bō. Beside the museum this beautiful traditional Japanese house is a must! It also accommodates art work, old and new, regarding the Tateyama tales. It is surrounded by stunning Japanese gardens. Sit and rest on the house on tatami floors and enjoy the garden view, while drinking tea–complimentary tea is available! Wander around the gardens too. This lovely venue also sometimes holds events such as tea ceremonies and artworks. Entry is free. Beside Kyosan-bō is Sangaku-shukomiraikan, housing some modern cultural exhibits (free entry).
As I mentioned above you can continue on from here to see other historic sites of interest - the Enmado or Enma Temple and walk over the Nunobashi. At the site of the Ubado or Ubagami (the original special meditation and ritual hall, which is sadly no longer there), is a dome-shaped cinema where you can recline on comfortable Tatami and watch beautiful filming and time-lapse photography of the natural wonders of the area over a year. This film takes one hour to watch. When it is finished, the screen opens – facing Tateyama – on a clear day your view is the sacred mountain; just as happened in olden times at the end of the Nunobashi Ceremony.
After watching this, continue along to the Mandara Yuen.
I think this museum complex is very well-worth seeing. All displays are well laid out and neither over–or under–done, just giving a nice, brief but concise insight into the area – and you can go find out more if you want to, as I have done since I first started visiting this area! There are a number of places for light eating, but be aware that many eateries are closed later in the afternoon – so either take more food with you or head up to Tateyama Village and railway station, or back to the Alpen Mura at Yokoe, both about a 10 km drive.
This area is very special to me and has been nearly since I arrived here! Please enjoy!
Here is the official brochure, which has specific details of costs, and a map of the area.
Around the museum now you can tune into Bluetooth and other AU applications to get the information in English on the displays. The people of the village are very friendly and kind. A tip I learned when traveling, if you write down a question, people will find that easier to understand. And as one of my first Japanese teachers said, gestures, drawings and signs go a long way! Not to mention today our incredible technology!
HOW TO GET THERE
The Ubado is just past Ashikuraji Oyama Shrine. Just follow the major road route 43 from Toyama JR station nearly all the way to the shrine. The road roughly follows the Dentetsu local train line. At Daisenji, the train stop before Iwakuraji, route 43 takes a turn to the left, over a level train crossing. Continue on straight ahead (don’t turn) over the Joganji River, past Iwakuraji Oyama Shrine, and follow the signs to Tateyama, turning onto road 67. It is another 15km further on from Iwakuraji, and is on your left as you go through the village of Ashikuraji.
Catch the train to Chigaki on the Dentetsu line. The Dentetsu private train lines all go from Dentetsu Toyama station, adjacent JR Toyama Station. There are four lines, and to get to Chigaki you take the line for Tateyama, via Terada. The trip takes about 48 minutes and costs ¥990, and there is roughly one train every hour – check the Hyperdia Timetable and Route Search website for trips ANYWHERE in Japan! It will tell you a myriad of details including costs, transfers, distances…
From Chigaki there are two options. A local bus runs along the valley from right outside Chigaki station and there is a stop right across the road from Oyama Shrine.
Buses are only about one an hour. It is actually only about 2km and it is a very pleasant walk along the road number 67. It is slightly uphill but the gradient is low.
There are a number of hotels, guesthouses and BnB in the area, as well as throughout Toyama.