Monday, April 16, 2012 we set off from Utsunomiya Station to Ashikaga transferring at Oyama. One of the prime attractions was to see the Ashikaga School (Gakko) which is the oldest university in Japan. We could see from a distance that it was a fascinating place with thatched roofs. As we approach the front entrance we suspect something amiss by the reactions of others that arrived before us. Sure enough on the third Monday of each month the place is closed. Anyway probably just as well, as the Internet indicates that the entrance ticket is admission to the school and one of the venues is a Kanji test, which would have resulted in my immediate expulsion from the school. Anyway we did get some interesting views of the grounds from outside.
We continued on to Bannaji Temple which had Sakura in bloom and a beautiful garden in one corner. The temple is surrounded with a moat and was the site of the Ashikaga Shogun during the fourteenth century. So many temple tourist locations have an over abundance of food stalls, but here there was merely one so after making the rounds we walked up the street and found a small restaurant named Amakara (Arakama) which means sweet and spicy hot. We had very good lunches with katsudon, Indian curry and a nice dessert of anmitsu with azuki beans.
After we continued walking and went up a long meandering stairway to see Orihime Shrine. The top of the hill provided a nice view of the city of Ashikaga.
When we got onto the train platform we were surprised to see close to one hundred students waiting to take the train back home. Apparently Ashikaga has a good reputation with respect to education. We got seats as most of the students preferred to stand and chat. They were well behaved and got off within a few stops.
As the train travelled past Iwafune we again observed the beautiful pastel multi-hued hillsides and took a couple of photographs through the window. Regardless a photograph can never do justice to the subtle beauty of spring in the mountains.
Photographs can be seen on Picasa at Ashikaga.