Shinshiro – The Newcastle of Japan
Hailing from the small town of Newcastle under Lyme in the UK I was delighted to learn that we are twinned with an area in Japan which shares the same name: Shinshiro (literally ‘Newcastle’ in the Japanese language). In fact Shinshiro, my tiny Newcastle and the UK's more famous Newcastle upon Tyne are all members of 'Newcastles of the World'–comprising members from Germany, South Africa and all over. So I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the Japanese sister-Newcastle this summer!
Shinshiro is in the eastern part of Aichi prefecture, bordering on Shizuoka. The capital city of Aichi is Nagoya and very easily accessible from Tokyo (1 hr 40 – 2hr by Shinkansen, approx. 5 hr 30 by bus) or Osaka (under an hour by Shinkansen, approx. 3 hours by bus). However, if traveling from Tokyo I would recommend getting the Shinkansen to Toyohashi, and then the local train (JR Iida line) to the town of Shinshiro. In this article, I want to highlight to two main spots of natural beauty we visited in the Shinshiro area: Chiiwakyou (乳岩) and Atera no Nanataki (阿寺の七滝).
Chiiwakyou (乳岩), which I'm pretty sure translates as 'boob rock'(!), offered stunning vistas and a thorough workout; a more challenging hike than we had imagined! The route begins by following the river which cuts through the mountain. The river itself attracts many visitors with families paddling and swimming in the gentle current and picnicking on the bank. The hiking path peels off from the river and continues upwards through the dense wood. The dirt and stone path turns into metal steps (beware, a few were loose) in the steeper parts of the route, and eventually into ladders near the very top.
After a couple of ladders and a squeeze between 2 boulders, we reached the summit of the path and were greeted with a stunning view over the forest area and the arch-like rock formation at the top of the mountain (perhaps the curved form is where the name of the mountain comes from?). Before descending, the path leads into a cave at the top of the mountain where there are a dozen or so jizo figures set into the rock. After climbing the steep steps to the cave you can't help but be in awe of those who first scaled the mountain and carved the jizo here.
Of course it depends on the person and the weather, but the route top-to-bottom took us about 2 hours. And then of course there is the much needed and deserved cool off time in the river afterwards!
NEXT STOP: Atera no Nanataki (阿寺の七滝). A peaceful walk through some beautiful woodland along a perfect-for-paddling stream leads to the waterfall, Atera no Nanataki. As you can see from the photos, this is a waterfall you can get properly up-close to and visitors are free to jump in and swim in the waterfall's pool. There is a stairway built to the side of the waterfall and an observation hut opposite the fall too allowing closer views from above. They are both very tastefully done - it doesn't feel over-developed or detracting from the natural beauty. Another good spot for a picnic!
These were the two spots we visited in Shinshiro and I must say, I'm very happy my home town is twinned with such a beautiful area! Other things of interest in Shinshiro I’d certainly like to check out include the Autumn Leaves Festival coming up at Horai-ji Temple and Shitagahara Battle re-enactment in July, which looks really exciting! More info about these events can be found on the Aichi prefecture tourism website, Aichi Now.