this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Day 10, Oirase Stream, Yasumi-Ya, Kunikazai Festival

The walk along the Oirase Stream starts at Nenokuchi closest to Towadako, or starts from Yakeyama at the other end. The most popular walk is an 8.9 km walk (I think) from Ishikedo (Ishigedo)to Nenokuchi. The walk from or to Yakeyama is about 14km.

Looking at the bus timetable, from the Minshuku to the start of the walk was about ten to fifteen minutes. This translates into a conservative hour walk. The bus wasn't going to arrive until about 8, so I set off at about quarter to seven. The beautiful flowers above were wet from last night's rain, and soaking up the morning sun
This sign was on my walk and the road leads to Shingo in Aomori prefecture. Japan's Christians were martyred in the 1700s, I think, possibly earlier, in quite a horrific way. Still, some have always existed since those times, and maybe before. However, the tomb of Christ came about in 1933
when discovery of supposed "ancient Hebrew documents detailing Jesus' life and death in Japan" [5] that was supposedly the testament of Jesus. These documents were allegedly seized by the Japanese authorities and taken to Tokyo shortly before World War II and have not been seen since.
Further from the Wikipedia article:
The town claims to be the last resting-place of Jesus, buried in the "Tomb of Jesus." According to the local lore, Jesus traveled to Japan at the age of 21, where he studied theology for 12 years, after which he returned to Judea at the age of 34.[1] He did not die on the cross at Golgotha. Instead his brother, Isukiri,[2] took his place on the cross, while Jesus fled across Siberia, Alaska, and finally to Aomori, Shingo, Japan, where he became a rice farmer, married, and raised a family.
On reflection, the story is no more bizarre than that of the Mormons, or if we really look back at the more established sects of religion, no stranger than any of their founding stories. There was, as far as I was aware, no bus to this area, or if there was, I just don't think I had the time. I have been fascinated by it for a while, though.
I woke early enough to break the morning's cobwebs, but not early enough to avoid the tour buses, except at this very early stage of walking alongside the road (cars zooming past when they were about) circling the lake. It was before eight, before the first ferries ran, and the minshuku was located in an area where most people would drive, not walk, to the next tourist spot. So, I was able to get pristine shots such as above. The morning was beautiful. It was about a 2 kilometre walk, maybe a little more, to Nenokuchi. My 14 km walk around Lake Onuma told me that the whole walk would take me about 4 hours, maybe a little more, maybe a little less, depending on rests, and inclines, and my own speed, which is generally pretty fast
After taking some pictures from the jetty at Nenokuchi, I started the walk. The stream was very pretty. I have just read that the 'se' of Oirase means rapids. I'm guessing the 'oi' means a lot of, and there were. I really enjoy gentle walks along peaceful, grassy, waterways. I guess most people do. It seems I can just keep going, so long as there are not monster hills, and even then, I usually do okay. I am glad I was early, though, even though I did run into those tour groups. I reached my destination at about 12.30 and caught a 13.18 bus back to Nenokuchi. From the heights of the bus I could see that the path had become crowded, and as I approached Ishigedo, the place where most people start the work, there were more and more people as the day wore on.

I have written about this before, the things that people lose along paths that Japanese put to one side in a fairly obvious and safe place, in case that person comes back to look for it. Small things. I guess that wallets and so on get handed in to the rightful authorities or possibly kept. That make-up bag, though, looks as if it has been tied to the railway tracks. Haaalp! Haaalp! the bark is encroaching!

The paths were a little wet from the rains. It was another reason why I was pleased that I had set out early. They were going to be slush later in the day.
A gorgeous walk with waterfalls all the way along which the tour buses stopped at with predictable regularity. The JR bus had a loop recording, and the driver pulled over at each spot for people to try and grab a glimpse at the very creatively named falls. This one is Kumoi Waterfall, but the guide books just tell me that it is magnificent, not the background of its name.
Kumoi waterfall.

There is a stone slab approaching Ishigedo from the Nenokuchi side which leans over a giant Japanese Judas tree. Ishi means stone, and Kedo, or gedo, means hut. A woman thief, named Omatsu is said to hide in the hut, so, once you've passed that obstacle, the rest of the walk is pretty much without obstacle.
I got to Ishigedo and had a bit of a rest, a soft drink, something to eat (or did I?); avoided or went with the many tourists, including quite a lot of foreigners, thereby proving this site's claim that the area is bustling with foreign visitors. They're the obvious foreign tourists. I am sure that there were a lot who slipped beneath my fellow foreigner radar.

The last third of the walk to Yakeyama is a lot quieter. That's when I started whistling to scare off the bears. There are signs all along the stream indicating flora and fauna and the way the surroundings change in the different seasons. I think the mushrooms above were some form of shiitake, but really, my ability to read Japanese is next to zero.
Walking a lot is tiring, but I think I could cover a kilometre in about twenty minutes. I can swim a kilometre in 25-27, so it seems about right, maybe a little faster, a little slower. Even so, seeing this sign made my heart sing!

It didn't take me long to get to Yakeyama which was an anti-climax after the beauty of Lake Towada and the actual Oirase Stream. There is a youth hostel in town, though, which is good to know if I ever plan any future trips, and my legs were too tired to really explore further. It was pretty warm, pretty humid, still.

I did pass the Oirase Brewery and considered going in, but it was a warm afternoon and would not have been wise. I tried their pilsner later, but it didn't taste any different from the usual Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi lager and so on. I would have liked to have popped into the brewery and seen what else was on tap.

I tried an apple ice cream, or soft serve, which was quite nice. The woman accidentally dropped my first one. I'm so glad that everyone else was being clumsy, rather than me, considering that it's usually my stock in trade (the four falls on Mt. Asahidake aside).

My bus came in forty-five minutes, so I sought out a cafeteria below the gift shop, but I can't remember what I ordered. Something with noodles. It was good value. Again, below ¥1000. The soba in this area is green, flavoured with ocha, or green tea.

The bus took us back through the whole area I had just walked. Nice to travel like this on the way back. Very peopled, now, too, so I felt all smug and self-righteous, or at least thankful and grateful that I'd enjoyed my walk in relative peace and quiet.

The day was hardly over, though. I took a boat from Nenokuchi across to Yasumiya. It was a fifty minute cruise. The pictures were pretty, but similar to the one at the start of this entry, or throughout this one, so I won't post more. They are up on flickr.

Once in Yasumiya, I had an hour and a half before catching the last bus back to my minshuku at 16.30. I could have caught two earlier, ones, but that would have only given me half an hour or so in Yasumiya. The lake, as in Onuma, has paddle boats, both swans and dinosaurs, and statue of two maidens reaching out to one another which is pretty famous. The sculptor is Kotaro Takamura, and the model is said to be his wife who suffered from schizophrenia and died young. It went on display in 1953.

Wandering along this sandy section of Towadako is pleasant. There are couples rowing, grandmothers entertaining grandkids, foreigners with families and pushers (don't I sound like the redneck?), stalls selling konyaku (yam paste jelly kind of thing, one of my favourites) seafood, hot potato (chips), corn and apples. I bought an apple because my fruit intake had been appalling, but Japanese apples, on the whole, apart from being incredibly expensive, are too floury for me. Still, it did the trick.
I hadn't know that this festival was going to happen. The Kunikazai festival is one of the last big festivals of the season. The best of Aomori, Akita and Iwate prefectures (ken) come to Lake Towada. Lake Towada also has its own festivals, including a horse dance (people pretending to be horses) that I really wanted to see, and I did.

It was early hours as these dancers came through, but they were colourful, and skillful. I really like Japanese folk songs accompanied by the very high-pitched shinobue flute.
There was a lot to see, and I was a bit sad to go back to the minshuku, even though I'd be returning to the festival later. Still, I need a bath. The other four people were from Sendai, and they had come over especially for the festival. 2 middle-aged, or leaning towards elderly, couples. They loved their festivals. The Japanese really do. I guess they understand the skills in them more, and that they also have participated in them ever since they were children. With some, such as the awa(o)dori dances, it is relatively easy to participate.
My camera (phone camera) doesn't work well at the night, so I didn't take too many pictures, but this Nebuto float from Aomori is famous. There are hundreds of them when the festival is held in Aomori. There was this big one, and a few of the smaller fan shaped ones here.

The Kanto festival from Akita Ken involves balancing huge top heavy lanterns in ridiculous spots on the dancer's back, chin, palm of their hand and so on. It was exciting to watch.

I really enjoyed a dance involving older men and younger boys, girls too, which was obviously telling some kind of fishing story. It involved taiko drumming, too. Very funny, very skillful. However, the man from the minshuku had said he'd pick us up at 9.20 and I was tired, so I found him at 9.00. I didn't mind, but the grand finale probably kicked on until about 9.45 which was when the others joined us. I should have waited and seen. All of my reading was retrospective, and then it became far more interesting.

Still, I love seeing the people at festival time. As it is a holiday town, many of the men and women are out in the yukata that their minshuku, hotels and ryokan have provided. Little kids play games, eat ice cream, fan themselves with uchiwa fans. It was a really big deal, too, as seen by the big mix of people. The following day the bus passed the campsite and I noticed quickly with fellow foreigner tracking eyes, the large number who were hanging about. They were probably locals, and living in Japan.
Day 11 was the return journey. A trip from the minshuku to town to catch the 8.30 bus down to South Towada Station (Towadaminami eki) where I had to wait until 12.30 for my connection


Mysonabsalom said...

These are great pictures! Make me feel alll nostalgic...

lizardrinking said...

Hey, I didn't realise that you read this. Or maybe you wandered over on the off chance? Nowadays it is usually pretty political, but the travel aspects are on here too. Glad you liked the pictures. They're just taken with a mobile phone. I'm sure you have chances for trips home, right?

K keeps us up to date with what's going on with you guys (via facebook). Congrats, by the way for way back in March or April (May?)

Cecilia said...

I'm thinking of going up to Odate next week or the week after on seijun 18 kippu. Am just looking at times and dates.
Your entries are very interesting.
Where in Japan are you?

lizardrinking said...

There's not much in Odate is there? Though there is that historical town just out, if you're interested. I'm in Niigata, but I will be leaving in about two weeks. I wanted to get to Sakaiminato on the seishun juhachi kippu this time around, but I don't think I will have time.

I don't write so much about Japan on this blog anymore - it can be time-consuming, and this blog is a bit more political now, but if you go to my flickr, or to theheartbeatsoftly , my other blog, there are more pictures, though maybe not information.

You're down in the Kinki district, aren't you. I used to live in Shikoku, many years ago. I've also lived for 3 months in Nagoya, and 9 months in Yokohama. Your blog is great, by the way.

I really wanted to see this: Sakaiminato is the home of Shigeru Mizuki, the creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro, a character seen in many forms throughout Japan. The spirit of Kitaro can be found in Sakaiminato, on Kitaro Road, a street dedicated to all the characters that appear in Mizuki's stories. One hundred bronze statues of the story’s characters line both sides of the road Maybe another time!

this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr