If you are a Tochigi native and hear the words “Moka city” (真岡市), though it's also spelled Mooka and Mohka in romaji, then maybe you kinda sorta perhaps know that it’s located somewhere in the southeastern part of Tochigi Prefecture.
You probably also can come up with something along the lines of the SL train, cotton (Moka cotton used to be very well-known during the Edo period), and industrial parks.
Approximately 82,000 people live on Moka’s 167 km2, which means that the population density is about 494 per square kilometer. Just a quick comparison, the capital city of Tochigi, Utsunomiya has approx. 500,000 inhabitants in 417 km2 and that’s more or less 1,212 people per square kilometer. So, Moka is just one of 100 thousands of ordinary Japanese towns. Nothing special at all.
Let’s continue… here’s another “if”. If you have kids of elementary school age, I am sure that at least once during their summer vacation they beg you to take them to Igashira Park (井頭公園). Within 933,000 km2 of Igashira Park there is a huge swimming pool called Ichimannin pool (= ten thousand people’s pool). It is called so since this pool is big enough to accommodate 10,000 people! I remember that I went there with my friends by bicycle all the way from Utsunomiya (approx. 25km) when I was in junior high. Yes, it’s kinda fun and exciting place for kids. Of all ages. As Mrs T can attest.
The most famous Mokan is certainly Monk Sho-do (勝道上人), a pioneer of Buddhism in Japan, and the guy who made Nikko Mountains the religious center they are now. Since he appears quite often in our blog, I’m not going to explain to you about his achievements. Instead, bother Mrs T to finally post the long-overdue Monk Sho-do entry that I prepared sometime in the last millennium (if not in the Jomon era), and on which she’s been sitting all this time. The wench put it in her book, but not here on the blog. Evil woman!
Another popular Mokan, one who is still alive, is Akane ODA (小田茜). I knew that she was from Tochigi, but did not know that she was from Moka. She looks a little like Martina Hingins (the Swiss tennis player).Though Akane is two years older than Hingis and prettier. Her career started when she was 12 years old, according to Wiki in Japanese.
Why we love Rei Taisai at Nakamura Hachimangu
Personally I prefer visiting matsuri festivals that are relatively in small size and less-known. If the matsuri is popular enough to attracts thousands of people, everything is under strict control and you will end up being there 3 to 4 hours prior to the events just to be able to claim a tiny space for yourself, with barely enough room to press the release button, while you’re squashed by crowds (= riots?) from all sides, with 12 other people per square meter. I am not saying that we will be in the front row of a Formula One race. These are priority seats assigned for aged but wealthy and ruthless Nikon and/or Canon users, who have no quips whatsoever about beating you to death a tripod, if you so much as allow your big toe to cross over into their territory.
So we are quite happy living in a dasai prefecture in a rural area, and as Mrs. T said in her previous post, Rei Taisai (例大祭) - the biggest and most prestigious annual event at Nakamura Hachimangu (中村八幡宮) is one of our favorite destinations to shoot. It’s cozy and pleasant in size and popularity and, above all, Mokans always show their hospitality. Though they do tend to be a little shy when sober, you know.
You need to visit Moka yourself, otherwise you’ll never know how nice this city and its people are.
To be continued...