the road trip up to the mountains of gifu prefecture was beautiful on every twist of the road. the world heritage site (as of 1995) consists of around 4 traditional villages with the only examples of gashho-style houses left in japan. some have been moved to the villages, due to the extensive damming in the valley over the last half century. the main highways that now connect the area to the outside world mean that there is certainly a flood of tourists if not water. the roads, highways that they are, are still with incredible inclines which are a reminder of the remoteness and height to which you travel.
As with shikoku the rivers running through the valley are emerald green which are almost a contrast to the deciduous trees which go from river bed to mountain top. because of the height here though, many mountains are stone topped with some remaining snow in may.
the houses are all function. the steep roofs, likened to praying hands and with a heavy thatch, help repel the snow which falls heavily in winter. I believe another reason for unesco stepping in was to help with grants for re-roofing. it really isn't cheap and is required about every 30 years. living below, the upper level at the apex of the building, was used to rear silkworms. the open fire would also help conserve the wood and thatch with open floor boards alowing the smoke to permiate the floors.
Ogimachi-go is the main village which sees streams of tiour buses, but is big enough to allow you escape the main drag and find some of the abundant serenity which this place has in plenty. the back drop is just relaxing and it's nice to see it all working as a real community.
We also travelled to Ainokura-go which is in an even more remote setting and sitting on a plateau high above the river. again the views are stunning and to live there even now would seem like paradise. the hard labour of the land though, reminds you of the tough everyday life - slightly changed now by the tourist economy. Its size though, in comparison to the amount of tourists is a bit scary. perhaps this example of the japanese having their convenience can be put into question. i just felt a bit bad or uncomfortable being there - wondering what the locals made of it all. most were smiley but living beside a building site in central Osaka and only really getting peace at night, I wondered if it was a bit the same for them. our neighbouring building will finish by the end of the year though, but when the snow thaws next march, the community in ainokura will have to open their doors to another load of strangers.
At least though - all eyes are focussed on an endagered area and at least it won't fall into disrepair.....
Posted by stupot at 01:00 PM Friday 20 May
Posted by stupot at 11:23 PM Thursday 19 May
certainly on driving through the mountains of central shikoku it was obvious to see the havoc that last years unusually high amount of typhoons had caused, but the quiet roads made for great bike climbing and the onsens (iya in particular) were a perfect tonic for tired limbs and a busy mind. having to take a funicular railway down the 45 degree gorge at snails pace with equally relaxing music to the riverside hotspring made the experience all the more worthwhile. a mid-week visit nearby the oboke gorge post-goldenweek also meant the amount of fellow travellers was relatively small. the food was really extra-ordinary and allergies were generally catered for (despite the usual russian roulette of unidentifiable soup stock). magic.
Posted by stupot at 11:21 PM Thursday 19 May
Posted by stupot at 10:56 PM Thursday 19 May
bless thy kuruma
after a wander around our local shrine (sumiyoshi taisha) in all its serenity of gardens, terapin pools, humpback bridge and general beauty I questioned why I could see a car being driven through the edge of the garden area. on a closer glance some time later it transpired the car was being driven to a kind of 'drive- thru' vehicle blessing area. actually I give the impression there was a queue and it was an ugly scene but in actual fact it was all pretty low-key aside some foreigners making a song and dance and taking pictures. still rather surprised I later read that sumiyoshi taisha, an important historical landmark, was once situated on the coast (reclaimed land now means it's several miles inland) and the kami (shinto gods) here are believed to protect travellers. thus, a good place to start my parents trip and equally for locals to bring their new toyota corolla.
Posted by stupot at 10:54 PM Thursday 19 May
Posted by stupot at 11:43 PM Sunday 15 May
reclaim the roads
we headed over to fukai today for the 1st stage of the tour of japan. before things get scenic, the riders experience the smooth tarmac of a new town area near kansai ariport. the speed was high and the temperature too - not helped by all the concrete.
it was a circuit course so the anticipation of seeing the race car preceeding the pack, and sometimes breakaways, made it enough of a spectator sport for others. it was a semi-cosmopolitan peleton with the aussie national team and 3 pro teams: this tour is certainly developing into a slightly more recognised event.
todays 140 clicks was won by matt goss (was he not in bros?) a young whipper snapper from the australian team. we headed off for ramen eventually as there is only so many times you can watch a blur of bodies whizz by you at 30 miles an hour. good fun though.
Posted by stupot at 10:40 PM Sunday 15 May