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.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Daibutsu Railway.

    The Daibutsu Railway has been nicknamed 'The Lost Daibutsu Railway'. With a short lifetime and little documentation, much remains a mystery. However, today, more than a century later, tunnels, abutments and other remnants still stand and provide us with clues of how the ephemeral railway looked.

   In April 1898, the Kansai Railway Co. opened an 8km branch connecting the town of Kamo to a station beside the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Todai-ji Temple, in Nara Park (aptly named Daibutsu Station). The area flourished as a popular sightseeing spot. Then, a year later, in May 1899, the line was extended a further 2km to Nara Station.

   In August 1907, a new and level route going from Kamo to Nara, via Kizu, opened. Troubled by steep slopes , the Daibutsu Railway services halted and, in November of that year, the line was closed after just 9-years in service.

   The new line, which was incorporated into the already existing 'Kansai Main Line', is nicknamed the 'Yamatoji Line', and still operates to this day, more than 100-years after opening.
                                                                                                                                                                An artists impression of  'The Inazuma SL' (Cardinal Train) as it passes over one of several abutments between Kamo and Nara Stations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The thoughtful people down at the J.R. Promotions Department, have created this map of the course that, supposedly, follows the route the Daibutsu Railway took.

    I have hiked/cycled parts of this course over the years, and am familiar with some of the sites. So, all decked-out with what I need for this trip - cameras, food, drink, appropriate clothing e.t.c. - I shall head-out from Kamo Station to walk to Nara in search of the Daibutsu Railway. 
J.R. Kamo Station.
   I decided to commence my journey at Kamo Station so as to follow the numerical instructions on the map. The original station was opened in November 1897 as the terminus of the Daibutsu Line. When the line closed in 1907 it became the termini of the Yamatoji and Kansai Lines.
Lamp House.
   A few meters down from the station is the first relic of the old railway. This is a Lamp House, constructed of brick with a gable roof, and has been standing here since the foundations of the station were laid. Today, from what I saw, the building serves no purpose, but to remind us of a bygone era.

C 57 Steam Locomotive.
    My next stop was this static display. Nicknamed 'Kifujin' (The Dame), this steam locomotive was built in 1937 and once ran on the 'Kansai Main Line'. In the above image, an A 221 Electric Multiple Unit has just left Kamo bound for Osaka. Steam locomotives have a special place in my heart. There is something about these beasts that impress me.
   It wasn't long before I was bidding farewell to the town of Kamo, and entering the lush green rice-fields that make Japan so picturesque at this time of year. This is my kinda' environment and I am in my element whenever I enter, either on foot or on two-wheels, areas such as this.
   Not far from where I am standing,  camouflaged by the out-of-control vines in the distance, is the first of six abutment relics.
Kanonji Abutments.
   The Kanonji Abutment was constructed of graphite ashlar and features two foundation stones on top. From the Kamo Station, to this point, the Kansai and Daibutsu Lines ran parallel, a distance of 2km and, from this point they part company.
   If you are here at the right moment, like I was, you should be able to experience the A 221 E.M.U. passing by. Looking in the distance, under the bridge, is where I took the previous photo. 
                                                                                                                 My next abutment is just over a kilometer away but, before I reach it, I have to traverse through bush that suddenly becomes more dense as I progress through it. But that is not my only concern. I am suddenly engulfed by swarms of insects that take great delight in exploring every nook-and-cranny of my body. The infestation doesn't last for long, thank god. Midway through I happen-across this small Shinto Shrine. Always a source of pleasure for me - one experiences these in some of the most isolated of places, along with Buddhist icons - and an opportunity to stop and offer a prayer (on this occasion I didn't thanks to my insect friends).
Kaseyama Abutments.
   Emerging from the bush I soon rejoin a sealed lane and the Kaseyama Abutments. Again, constructed of graphite, the blocks appear dark and dirty. This is caused by the moisture being emitted from the waterway that runs through the tunnel. At night the stones glisten elegantly. If you take note of the notice-board in the right of the image,every point-of-interest stop along the way has a board giving details of the site in Japanese, English and Korean. Plus a map of your location and course. I give the organizers 10-out-of-10 for this.

Kajigatani Tunnel.
      To access  the next site requires some navigational skills. But the task is made easy thanks to great signage. But, in saying that, you still have to have a keen eye, thanks to our friend, the overgrown vines.                                                                                                                 

   With no copestones, or other decorative features, the Kajigatani Tunnel is simpler than the other structures. The front bricks are in English Bond, and the arch are in Stretchers Bond. The tunnel was used as a passageway and an aqueduct.

                                                                        Akabashi literally translates to  'The Red Bridge' - Aka = Red,    Bashi = Bridge. Again, this structure is constructed with English Bond,  embellished with capstones and paved with granite. Granite quoins have been stacked on alternating sides so as to reinforce the structure.

   The time has just turned 12pm, and I have already been on the track 2-hours in sweltering heat and am looking for a place, in the shade, where I can stop for a break.
                                                                               And, just like 'that', my prayers have been answered. And with a toilet too. I never thought an ice-coffee and current buns could be so appreciated. It had been just over 5-hours since I last took-in fluid and food.
   Sitting at my bench I look-around at my surroundings and admire the view. In just over a kilometer from where I am, my surroundings will change dramatically as I am about to be engulfed in the residential surroundings of Nara City.
The Vestige of Isekigawa Bridge.
   Before this became an ordinary road and vehicular intersection, the Daibutsu Line ran through here (I emerged down the road in the center of the image) and, because of the height difference, the railway had to construct an embankment, bridge abutments and iron bridge.
Map Location.
   No evidence of the bridge, or it's abutments, are here to remind us of that era so long ago destroyed. I was able to track-down the above images of the construction of the Isakigawa Bridge.
   The narrow lanes and dirt tracks of the past 3-hours have now been replaced by the asphalt sealed footpaths, pedestrian crossings and controlled intersections. What a shock. If it hadn't been for my map, I would have missed the next site.
Matsutanigawa Tunnel.
   Descending a flight of steps, I arrive at someones vegetable garden and spy a concrete path heading in the direction of another noticeboard. The granite voussoir, in the arch of this tunnel, are stacked on alternating sides, a building technique known as - 'Sangizumi'. The dark bricks were made with high heat and, along with bricks made of alternating shades, are a distinctive feature of the Matsutanigawa Tunnel.
Sikagawa Tunnel.
 The Sikagawa Tunnel, and the last of the abutments and, unfortunately, inaccessible to the public - I think it being on private land may be the reason why. The tunnel still retains it's original features. It is a narrow tunnel and was constructed for agricultural purposes, so a stream could pass under to allow irrigation of the fields on the other side of the tracks.
The Vestige of Kurogamiyama Tunnel.

   You wouldn't believe it, looking at this image, that, until 1966, there was a tunnel here. This was the site of the only tunnel on the Daibutsu Railway. Today it's route-44. Difficult to imagine what this scene looked like back when the service was still in operation. 

   From here I make my way down route-44, past the Nara Television studios, the Nara Youth Hostel, many other shops and eateries, to an indistinct intersection, and my next stop . . . .
The Commemorative Park of the Daibutsu Railway.
   . . . .  the site of the Daibutsu Station. Thanks to the collaboration between the Nara Municipal Office and Local Residents, in 1992 this park was created to commemorate what was once a great era in travel. And sadly missed.
   Thanks to the efforts, and talented computer skills, someone has kindly created this image of what the Daibutsu Station looked like. Doesn't the Inazuma SL look resplendent? It brings a tear to my eye. 
The Sahogawa River Bridge.
                                                                                Directly in front of the park is the Sahogawa Bridge, and the entrance to an area of Nara known as 'Funahashi'. This section of the line wasn't opened until a year after the first section was commissioned - May 1899.
    As I cross the bridge I look upstream of the Saho River, and espy these three deer grazing on the lush green grass on the banks of the river. The deer, which are domesticated, are a popular feature of Nara, especially in the area engulfing the Park. Which is why I am surprised to see them so far from home.
    As I make my way down Funahashi I pass this well restored and preserved establishment. It is becoming common here in Japan, especially in the famous old cities like Nara and Kyoto, to restore these houses so as to save them from demolition to be replaced by modern structures. At this point I am getting a gut-feeling that my journey is about to reach it's climax. And, after another couple of intersections . . . .
J.R. Nara Station.
. . . . I arrive at my goal, or the end-of-the-line (excuse the pun) - the J.R. Nara Station. Over the past 4.5-hours, I have walked 12-kilometers and have seen and experienced some great scenery. It's a sad moment but full of memories of an era long passed. For me, it reminded me of my childhood and growing-up in a rural town and witnessing the  steam locomotives as they passed-through where I lived. And of travelling on them and the sound they made, and the power. I so wish railways like this weren't closed but were kept open for all to experience and appreciate.

                                                 So, until next time, Sayonara. 

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