My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Off the Beaten Track.

   It was 1993, during the month of June if I remember correctly, and I was sitting at the bar in "Kytelers Inn", a popular watering hole in Kilkenny. It was the eve of my departure of a month-long cycle-tour of Ireland and I was sharing my plans with a local who, during the course of our conversation (and a few pints of Guinness) offered me the following piece-of-advice - "The best way to see Ireland my friend, is keep off the main road". I took the mans advice and, as a result, I saw, experienced and met parts of Ireland that not many others would. 18-years later, and I am still adhering to that advice. Whether it be back home in Aoteraoa, or here in Japan.
   This post is some of my "off the beaten track" experiences since living in Japan.
Kamocho Ohata.
I will commence with the village of Kamocho Ohata (Map), nestled amongst the hills of Kamo Town, which is part of Kizugawa City. I passed-through here as part of my research for my "Everytrail Trip" - "Kamocho (Kamo Town)" - but, what I was soon to discover, is that this town, and many-others that I have experienced on my travels, have a lot in common - serenity, beauty, scenic, plus a feeling you don't experience when you are wandering through the city. Access to this village is via a narrow lane, that branches-off a narrow road that itself branches-off another road.  
   Then there are the people you meet on your travels. I remember one particular occasion, during my cycle-tour of Ireland, when I arrived in a village - the village consisted of a pub, store & petrol-pumps and a few houses - about 9am. I remember I was a bit low-in-mood and so I stopped to take-in the surrounding scenery - rolling hills, trees, sheep grazing - just as an old man walked-by. As he passed he greeted me - "Good-morning my son, may the good lord be with you on your travels". That one comment perked me up 100% and I was able to continue on my way. 
So, let me introduce you to Motokazu-san. I was out on one of my hiking trips, by myself, when we came-across each other in a clearing ( as seen in the photo), I was exiting the bush, he was about to enter. I was delighted that he was able to speak English, (my Nihongo leaves a lot to be desired) so we were able to chat for some time. Three years, and several hiking-trips later, we still regularly meet and chat. He has a mind of information regarding all things Japanese, and I am always keen to "pick his brain" about this great country.
   Now let me not forget to tell you about those "little surprises". The ones you stumble-upon off-the-beaten-track (check-out this link - "Off the Beaten Track in Japan"). And, believe me when I say, they will pop-up anywhere.
from the road.
up close.
These next two images are a testament to what one can stumble-upon. The path I was on was narrow and in fairly-dense forest. Although it was early (about 9:30am), it was also the middle-of-summer and I was in dire need of a refreshment break. The signpost, in the image on the left, attracted my attention and was my cue to stop. Then I saw it. This huge rock with a carving on it. This is a Magaibutsu, and is known as "Daimonnohotokendani", and there are many dotted-about this area (check-out my "Everytrail Guide" - Touno Sekibutsu no Sato - Pilgrimage to Sekibutsu). From the road it looks small but, when up close, as in the image on the right, it is quite huge (I am about 176cm tall). 
   Before I sign-off, I want to share something with you that is well-off the beaten-track. I was told about this place by a friend who said I should check-it-out. When I came-across this, it was about 8am, I was almost thrown-off my bike at the suddenness of it's appearance. After cycling along a forest track, here was this;
"Togenochaya" is a classical example of a "Traditional Japanese Teahouse" and this one has
Refreshment Break
been here for over 180-years. The owner, seen in the image on the left, is the 6th generation of his family to have operated this establishment. That's me in the image on the right (not the 4-legged one). The really-interesting thing about the isolated location of this "Ochaya", is that Nara City is just over the hill from here (about an hours cycle-ride). Check-out this link from Diddlefinger Maps (clicking-on the "Hybrid" icon will give you a better idea of the location and isolation).
   I have many other "off-the-beaten-track" experiences I could share with you, but I think you get the idea of where I am coming from (no pun intended). But, in saying that, if I happen to have an experience I feel is worthy to be shared, I won't hesitate to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post and Great Witing!Please share more.... Very interesting and I agree with the idea of staying off the beaten path, that's where real life happens.