Friday, May 20, 2011

A walk from Muraki to Higashi Aohara

After the ceremonies at Taikodani Inari I decided to take advantage of the warm, dry weather and go for a walk along the backroads in the mountains north of Tsuwano.


I started out in Muraki, a small settlement west of Tsuwano and headed north along route 17. My first surprise was a new tunnel. According to the map I was supposed to snake up and over the mountain, but this new tunnel punched straight through saving me at least a kilometer and some climbing.


On the other side the road dropped down into a valley and then climbed slowly north. As usual I was on the lookout for shrines, and as usual some of them marked on the map didnt exist, and some shrines existed that were not marked on the map. According to the map this little grove of trees contained a shrine, but as the only way to it was through a farm I decided to pass.

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The road passed through small settlements with names like Yamashita (under the mountain) and Nakagawa (middle river), common names that existed all over Japan and also became common family names when commoners were allowed to have names in the Meiji period.


It was a pleasant enough walk, very little traffic, and the sound of farm machinery at work. I kept my eyes open for a drink vending machine as it was warming up and I was starting to get thirsty.


There were not a lot of shrines, and most were common old Hachiman shrines with no distinguishing features. As always there were many roadside altars with fresh flowers.


There were also many abandoned farms. Apparently 1 in 8 houses in Japan are empty.

The road reached a pass and went through a small tunnel and then a new 2 lane road descended rapidly. The old road weaved its way along the bottom of the valley and looked more interesting, but I had gone about 10k without finding a vending machine so I was in a hurry.


Another few K and I took a smaller road off to the right, Route 170, that went down the mountain to Route 9, the Takatsu River, and the train line that would take me home. In about 4k there were only 2 small farms. A very pleasant road that I was unable to enjoy as my thirst was becoming too much. I was sustained only by the thought that once I reached the small train station at Higashiaohara, actually halt would be a more accurate description, there would be a vending machine. But no!!!!!.... so i begged some water from an old man working in his garden. He took me back behind his house and ran the water for a few minutes till it became cold, and it was delicious.... fresh, mountain water!!!!

It had taken me about four and half hours to walk 18 kilometers, a crazy pace fueled by my need to reach a vending machine. I only visited 4 shrines.


  1. Seriously - that's a scary statistics. 1 in 8 houses. I'm guessing most of them are out in the rural areas... but then again, I always am amazed at the number of posts of "haikyo" in Japan. Very weird to see so many places and houses just...abandoned.

    And I have to say, I get quite uncomfortable with the whole haikyo tourists/adventurers out there hungry to capture in digital film the left-over moments of someone's life. I can't imagine it happening in Australia... but the reality is that there are many rural communities exactly like that here too.

  2. Hehehe.... I should have remembered that I'm talking to one of those haikyo adventurers (embarrassing)! When I said I got uncomfortable, I really meant when bloggers go through people's houses - and it just feels like an invasion to me (especially if you don't know why the house was abandoned, and potentially the story of human-tragedy that never gets told). We can only guess at it.

  3. Does the land itself have no value/belong to nobody? Theoretically, could an enterprising young gent like myself move into one of these abandoned houses, fix it up and live happily ever after?

    I lived in Tokyo for over two years, where land is a near priceless commodity. I find it astounding that these lovely old houses in beautiful landscapes are just lying fallow.

  4. Hi Alex
    Theoretically yes, bur practically needs some luck. Its what I did.

  5. HiBen.... in some villages 2 out of 3 houses are empty..... Im not really a haikyo buff.... and anyway most of them visit industrial and commercial buildings not houses....

  6. I meant could a person "squat" in an abandoned house? With everybody migrating to the cities and abandoning traditional farming, it seems nobody has any interest in selling, buying or otherwise using rural land.