Introducing Japan: Toyohashi
By Dr. Alena Neviarouskaya
Toyohashi city is located in Aichi Prefecture about 240 kilometers west of Tokyo. The city abounds in nature and beautiful surrounding areas, including majestic mountains clad with trees and bamboo groves. I am especially fond of these mountains, on one hand, and the Enshu coastal beaches with their open access to the Pacific Ocean, on the other. Some of these beaches are perfect for surfing, while others provide comfortable nesting for loggerhead sea turtles. On the way to the ocean, there are farms, rice paddies, green tea plantations, and fields seasonally covered with cabbages or watermelons.
Toyohashi Park in the city’s center is one of my favorite places. Located in an area of the park close to the Toyogawa River, Yoshida Castle is one of the region’s major historical spots. Despite the fact that the castle was reconstructed, its architecture and remnants of the original stonework above the moats immerse the visitor in a 15-16th century atmosphere. It’s believed that local tradition spawned a really fascinating event: tezutsu hanabi or handheld fireworks, originating in early years of the castle’s operation. During the performance, tezutsu (large handheld bamboo tubes filled with black powder) shoot flames several meters upward. Ear-cracking bangs mark the end of each firework eruption.
In the immediate vicinity of Toyohashi Park is located the Toyohashi Haristos Orthodox Church. In 2008, it received the status of an “important cultural property” from the Japanese government. Adorn with lots of impressive icons and murals inside, the church has a lovely wooden structure with a perfectly proportioned Byzantine architectural design.
The Toyohashi Zoo and Botanical Park (Non-Hoi Park) includes a water lily garden patterned after Claude Monet’s famous paintings along with the Toyohashi Museum of Natural History and a roller-coaster amusement park. In the September of 2011, a very happy event occurred: a baby elephant, named Mara, was born in the zoo. It’s interesting that in the Belarusian language “mara” means a dream (in the sense of a wish). This cute little elephant attracts many visitors to the park. People of all ages also enjoy visiting the museum to see its display “evolution of life” and its fossil exhibit, including the full skeleton of an Edmontosaurus dinosaur, along with a variety of skeletal replicas of other dinosaurs. The Toyohashi Zoo and Botanical Park, with all its attractions, makes for a full day of family fun, entertainment, and even education.
I would definitely recommend a visit to friendly Toyohashi to those who enjoy traveling.