For nine years we have only seen the town of Ninomiya from the windows of our frequent train trips to Odawara and Hakone.
So, on an early June morning, Miwa and I decided to check out the iris garden at Seseragi Park and to climb the 136.2 meter (447 foot) hill at Azumayama Park. Both were a pleasant surprise. They do no use any pesticides for these natural Japanese Water Irises, which means the night views are covered with fireflies. The flowers were very nice and the walk along the wooden platform gave me an elevated view, great for taking photos.
From the garden we headed over to Azumayama Park and climbed the many stairways to the top. I stopped counting at 500 steps. We walked to both viewpoints, the first facing the Pacific Ocean and the second, Mt. Fuji. During the climb we visited Sengen-jinja Shrine, one of many shrines and temples that can be found throughout Ninomiya.
At the second viewpoint we met an older gentleman photographer named Yutaka-san who comes here every day and takes pictures. He has them printed into postcards and hands them out to visitors at the viewpoint. Since it was cloudy, we could not see Mt. Fuji, but his postcards saved the day. Plus, he shared with us that the spot we were standing on was where the famous painter Hokusai created one of his beautiful paintings of Mt. Fuji.
We also walked to the bird watching forest and immediately spotted a pygmy woodpecker. On the way back to the station, Miwa pointed out some unique vending machines, one offerring locally grown rice and the other local cookies. We had to try the cookies, which were very good.
There are several other things you can do in this small town of 27,334 residents. Check out seine fishing, Ninomiya Orchard Park, Azuma Shrine, and in the fall, Radiant Flower Hill Park with over 20,000 colorful spider lilies. At the south exit of Ninomiya Station is a Glass Rabbit statute, which is a reminder of the tragedies of war.
The town is very friendly, many people stopped to talk with us during our walk. It is an excellent day trip from Tokyo via the Tokaido line. Since it is close to home, I will be visiting Ninomiya more often.