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.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tiki Touring from Nara to Kizu.

Tiki Tour (New-Zealand Slang)
   1. a sightseeing journey with no particular destination in mind.
   2. to take the scenic route to a destination.
   3. to wander aimlessly.

Map Location.
   Nara Park, famous for it's Temples & Shrines, and the tame Deer that roam freely about the precincts of the park, is the starting point of what was to be one of the best bike-rides I have done in many years. I did have a plan, of sorts, and that was to keep-off any main thoroughfare, and travel via the narrow lanes & paths through the rural outback of Nara Prefecture. I didn't have a destination in mind (my final destination of the day would be home of course), that decision would come when I reached a certain junction and, after a bite-to-eat and an energy check, I would proceed.
   Exiting the park, and taking a narrow lane lined with quaint typical Japanese restaurants, I stop to admire (and photograph) some young deer grazing before heading-into a forest and my first hill-climb of the day. Although it wasn't a hot day, being amongst the trees provides a cool shelter from the sun as I wound my way up the hill to the junction with the Nara Okuyama Driveway (Map Location.)
Map Location.
   A few hundred meters before the summit though, I paused for a few minutes at the junction of four tracks, which I was soon to connect with. The track has three different names - the "Tokaido Road", which was created during the Edo Period (1603-to-1867) to enable people to migrate between Osaka and Tokyo. In the late 16th-century, when the settlement of Yagyu became the home of a sword-fighting school, the road also became known as "The Old Yagyu Road". Then, in the late 1960's, construction began to create a long distance hiking trail, and was given the name of "The Tokai Nature Walk".
Map Location.
   After reaching the summit, I now connect with the aforementioned road, albeit for about 2km, and these interesting collection of buildings. This is the Tagenochyuo Tea-House, and has been on this site for over 180-years. The present proprietor is the 6th generation of his family to run this establishment. The place is like a museum with a couple of flintlock rifles hanging on display, along with other weapons and assorted memorabilia dating-back many centuries.     
Map Location.

   I now exit the forest and emerge into the open rural outback of Nara, and enter the settlement of Setarin-cho. This is my kind of cycling environment and I am becoming excited as to what lies ahead. It has been a couple of weeks since the rice was harvested, but the ground is still a sea of green where the grass has taken over.
   Tucked-into an alcove, by the side of the road, 
is this "Hokora", or miniature Shinto Shrine. This, I am hoping, will be the first of many religious icons and sites I will experience on today's trip.
Map Location.

   As I leave the settlement of Setarin-cho, my narrow lane becomes a narrower lane and I enter another forested area. I emerge soon after into another settlement and from here my track takes me through some very dense and overgrown bush. I emerge onto a road where my immediate task is to remove the many spiders and their webs that have entangled themselves into my cycle-helmet. 
Map Location.
   Oyagyu-cho (not to be confused with the town of Yagyu mentioned earlier) is situated on the Tokaido/Old-Yagyu Road. I have passed-through here on a few occasions on one of my many hikes through this region. 
   As I pass through the town I arrive at a bridge (Map Location) and, as I cross it, my attention is drawn to a path that runs alongside the stream. Staying with my plan to keep off as many roads as possible, I take the lane and soon find myself entering another wooded area. Stopping to record more scenes for my video of this trip, I spot a small Sekibutsu (Stone Carving of Buddha) carved into a rock in the hill behind me. 
Map Location.
   I have a strong fascination with these carvings, especially their isolated locations. As you can see on the attached map link, this one is no different from the many others I have stumbled-across on my travels. Some years ago I wrote an article for a travel website covering a pilgrimage, with many such carvings located throughout an area of Nara Prefecture - "Touno Sekibutsu no Sato"
Map Location.
   A short while later I emerge into the settlement of Sakahara-cho and, as I wind my way through the narrow lanes, some only wide enough for one vehicle, I come-across the Nagao-jinja Shrine.
Nagao-jinja Shrine.

   I was able to recognize the name of the shrine by the Kanji characters embossed on this lantern. The complex was a hive of activity ( as seen on this video) with, what I presume, to be preparations for an upcoming festival.

   Nestled on the Kagura-den (a special stage) was this Mikoshi palanquin, used in a festival known as Matsuri , which is held throughout Japan to celebrate the shrine's deity.
   Time to move on, and down another narrow lane, past some more quaint houses and over another narrow bridge from Nagao-jinja, I reach another road that disappears into another forest.
Map Location.
   Route-173, as I later discovered it's name, was narrow, windy, pot-holed, wet and down-hill. Keeping any attempt to get carried-away and go-for-it, I changed into cruise mode, relaxed and enjoyed the experience. I emerged at a junction that I immediately recognized - route-33, a road that connects the town of Kasagi with Nara City - and a sheltered lunch-spot. By now I was in dire need of an energy top-up (in this instance bread-rolls, chocolate and banana) before deciding where to from here.
   A few meters away from where I was dining was a rocky outcrop with several Buddhist carvings engraved into the surface. In this instance they all appear to be Jizo, of one form or another. The full video of this trip will allow you a better view.

   Having topped-up my fuel tanks, I decided to continue with my tour. Unlike the first segment, from here I will be in familiar surroundings but still keeping to the back lanes & tracks, and isolated settlements.
Map Location.
   Another forest, another narrow rural lane, another settlement and, before I know it, I have arrived at the settlement of Kamocho Takasari. There is a dirt track that branches-off the lane that will eventually take me around the town of Kamo (the video will give you a better idea of the terrain) and onto my final destination.
Map Location.
   I arrive at a cut through the hill and, as I pass through it, carved into the clay earth, is this Jizo (again the video will give you a better view).
Map Location.

   After a few hairy moments during my descent, I arrive back on a sealed road and the opportunity to top-up my water bottles. There is nothing nicer than fresh spring water to satisfy your thirst and, if the need be, to take a rinse-off to cool your body on a hot day.
   From here I bypass Kamo Town and follow the Kizugawa River to Kizu, where I connect-up with the Kizugawa cycle/walk-way. A kilometer along and I arrive at a shelter/rest-stop (Map Location), popular with users of the path, and decide to bring this trip to a conclusion. While having the last of my bananas, I reflect on the past 7-hours and the 44km I covered over that time, and come to the conclusion that this has been one of my best rides since arriving in Japan. I will place this in my "must do again" folder.

   Thank-you for taking the time to view this post. I hope you have enjoyed it, as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. And, until next time, happy travels and Sayonnara.

   Full Video of this trip.

   The Course (distance,elevation,time &images) as recorded on my "Cateye     INOU" device.



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