Monday, August 15, 2011

Midsummer Trip to Yamagata Prefecture


EMU JR East E3-2000 series "Mini-shinkansen" at Yamagata Station

It’s “obon” week in Japan. Obon is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral spirits. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival. It’s an occasion for people to visit their relatives' graves to pray and make offerings of food and flowers. So, many people take holidays, and go back to their hometowns. My hometown is Tokyo, but I also took a short holiday, and went to the north. The destination was Yamagata Prefecture.

To visit Yamagata, the Yamagata Shinkansen train is convenient. The newest model EMU JR East E3-2000 series is very comfortable with a maximum speed of 275km/h. Yamagata Shinkansen is a kind of “Mini-shinkansen”, which is not built the same as the standard full-sized shinkansen. It’s originally constructed as a conventional line with narrow gauge (1067mm); however, the gauge was changed to the shinkansen size (1435mm) later. So, the shinkansen train can enter the mini-shinkansen directly from standard shinkansen lines. The only difference between full and mini shinkansens is the size of train bodies. For example, the length of a full-sized shinkansen body is 25m. In contrast, the length of the mini-shinkansen is only 20m.

After arriving at Yamagata, I visited Risshakuji Temple near Yamadera Station. Risshakuji is a famous Buddhist temple built on a steep mountain. The highest hall stands at the summit. It takes nearly one hour to climb the total about 1000 stone steps. This hard process is considered to be ascetic training to purify people’s spirit of evil thought.

I also cleaned up my spirit today … probably.

"Noukyoudou" (a storage of the Buddhist scriptures) in Risshakuji Temple near Yamadera Station

More information about Yamagata Shinkansen: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/routemaps/yamagatashinkansen.html