Monday, March 6, 2023

Around the Next Bend

Around the Next Bend

This is the 5th post in my new series that explores the Gonokawa River, the longest in West Japan, as I walk up the right bank to the source almost 200 kilometers away.

On the opposite bank on the inside of the first big bend in the river is a still operating quarry that produces aggregate for concrete. This bank is far less inhabited but had a rail line that closed down a few years ago. I am interested to see how the depopulation of the countryside is affecting things....

For a while, the road clings to the narrow strip of land between the mountain slope and the water, made just wide enough for the road plus the rusting rails of the defunct railway.

And then we come to Chigane a tiny settlement in a small valley with maybe half a dozen houses. This used to be the next station on the rail line after Gotsu Honmachi, though in all my journeys on the train I never once saw anyone get on or off here. 20 years ago when I first moved to the area I joined a free Japanese language class run by the city. All of the other students were young Indonesian women who had married local men, one of them the oldest son of a farm family here in Chigane.

Though there were no fresh flowers, the roadside altars had been swept and kept clean.

At the next big horseshoe bend in the river, a sign points to a spot on the bank. On the other bank is a similar sign. They mark a spot on the river that is said to have been memorialized by the greatest of Japan's ancient poets, Hitomaro Kakinomoto. In the Manyoshu, the oldest book of Japanese poetry dating back to the 8th century, Hitomaro has the most poems. One of his wives was a woman from this area, and there are several spots around the area that commemorate places mentioned in their poems.

As I understand it, from this point on the river ceases to be tidal.

The next settlement is Tanomura, has large swathes of what was once rice paddies and fields that have now become swallowed up by Kudzu In the trees in the middle of the above photo are several quite large farmhouses, now abandoned.

The previous post in the series is Zenkakuji Temple.


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