Showing posts with label source. Show all posts
Showing posts with label source. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Around Kawado on the Gonokawa River


I begin the second leg of my walk up the Gonokawa River to its source from my home. I live on the other bank to the one I am walking up. My plan is to later walk down the river from the source to the sea on this other bank. Looking across the river you can see a section of the river that has no road on that bank, hence my reason for starting this leg here, rather than Kawahira where I finished the first leg.

Behind me is my village.

Across from my village is where te Yato River enters the Gonokawa. This is a decent-sized tributary with a dam and reservoir and it starts up in the mountains around the ski resorts of Mizuho. The bridge carries the now closed rail line, the Sanko sen that used to follow the river all the way up to Miyoshi in Hiroshima.

On the walk up to the bridge that crosses over to Kawado I pass by the big sacred tree where Tanijyugo has their giant Onusa, purification wand, that pacifies the turbulent water god of the river.

The bridge that crosses the river to Kawado is painted in a very distinctive colour scheme that , I believe, represents the river, the sjy, and cherry blossoms. Not sure when the bridge was built. There was a major flood of Kawado back in the 1960's so it certainly postdates that. I have seen an old photos of a low wooden bridge in the 1920's, but for most of history the on,y wa to cross was by ferry.

Now protected, somewhat, by a high embankment, Kawado used to be the main town of the area. The large building is a traditional soy sauce brewery.

On top of the cliff at the first bend in the river is the Kawado suijin Onusa. This is the biggest one in the area and the main focus of the local Suijin Matsuri.

Looking upstream, that house is the only habitation in the several kilometers between Kawado and Tazu.

Kawabune, a generic term for riverboats. Traditionally made of wood, aluminum, and fibreglass are now more common, as are small outboard motors. I am guessing they are primarily used for fishing for Ayu, sweetfish, similar to trout. Larger, flat-bottomed boats were used for freight.

Looking back downstream to the Kawado Bridge. This next section of the road has no buildings and very little traffic, the main road being on the opposite bank, as it is for most of the river. The rail line is overgrown.

Thursday, July 6, 2023



Walking up the right bank of the Gonokawa, Kawahira is the first main inlet coming into the river. From Kawahira the road heads into the mountains and then forks with the older road heading into Gotsu from behind, and the newer road heading further inland to Atoichi and onto Arifuku.

One section of Kawahira has been completely re-engineered and raised several metres, ostensibly to prevent flooding. Lots of free, new houses for the few residents remaining, and of course lots for the construction and concrete companies. Kawahira no longer has any shops but it does hve a Post Office and a Koban, a rural police box.

It also had the first proper station on the closed Sanko Line. The other two stops between here and Gotsu, Chigane, and Gotsu Honmachi, were just "halts", platforms with a small shelter, whereas Kawahira has a building, toilets, and what used to be a ticket office.

Kawahira has the first bridge across the Gonokawa after those at its mouth in Gotsu. Though my plan is to walk up the right bank I have to cross the river at this point to the left bank. From here up to Kawado, there is no road on the right bank, the only section along the whole river. The rail line is on the right bank, and back when it ran the trains were so infrequent that I have walked along the line several times in this section, but since the line closed down the tracks have become choked with undergrowth and its no longer possible to walk it.

Ive been to the main shrine in Kawahira several times for matsuri to watch kagura, and one time to watch  Omoto Kagura, the shamanic form that only survives in this area of Japan, but the most common reason to visit Kawahira is for the Tauebayashi, the rice-planting festival.

As my plan is to explore the left bank by walking downstream from the source, I hop on a bus and plan the next leg from Kawado on up. The previous post in this series "To The Source" was To Kawahira

Monday, May 1, 2023

To Kawahira


At the far end of Tanomura, the almost-deserted settlement on the right bank of the Gonokawa River, is a small shrine hidden back where the former farmland meets the hillside, the kind of location where people built their homes. According to  Google Maps, it is no longer marked as a shrine. Not sure what criteria they are using, but the shrine still stands but has probably not seen a ceremony in quite a few years.

It was an Omoto shrine I believe, and the doors were unlocked, something normal for shrines in the countryside I think. The structure hanging from the ceiling is a tengai, under which kagura was performed. About 6 to 8 years ago I stopped in and everything was just about as it is now. Probably there were a few more inhabitants back then. Not sure what the Japanese equivalent of deconsecration is, but the shrine may not have been used, but is still technically a shrine, so I find google maps to be less and less accurate and truthful

It's about halfway between what used to be the previous and next stations and I doubt anyone from Tanomura ever used the train in the past twenty years.

From here there are no settlements until Kawahira. No solitary farmhouses or isolated rice paddies. The narrow road and former train line cling to the edge of the steep slopes.

On the opposite bank, there is a main road and a lot more settlements. Also, lots of construction work building up embankments and raising the level of the road to counter the increasing floods Quite a lot of brand new houses are built to replace those demolished for the "improvements".

About twenty years ago I floated down the river on a Dragon Boat and from down at the waters level you could barely ever see the roads or any man-made structures...... I think the new construction is changing that.

Before coming into Kawahira a small roadside Buddhist shrine......... It has seen better days, but someone comes from some distance away sometimes to give it a sweep and to add green offerings..... i suspect a very elderly person, and in all likelihood when they pass away there will be no one left to remember the story and history behind this little altar

The previous post in this series following my walk up the Gonokawa River to its source was Around the Next Bend.

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.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Zenkakuji Temple


Tucked up a narrow opening in the steep side of the Gonokawa River valley just downstream from its mouth, Zenkakuji does not look like a temple, which explains why I passed it many times before ever venturing in to look.

It was founded in the 1950's by a man in one of the many Buddhist sects that sprang uin the postwar period as a reaction to the decadence of the mainstream sects.

The spot was chosen because of a small waterfall, a perfect spot for shugyo, ascetic training.

Water is often associated with dragons and serpents in Japan, and many times I have heard stories of the red rocks such as those found here being linked to dragons blood

There are, of course, several statues of Fudo Myo around the spot where adherents stand under the falling water.

I think the founder had passed away before I moved to the area, but his wife carried on living at the temple. However I am sure she has passsed away since then.

When I stopped in on this walk there was a friendly, young man sweeping the paths the main building was open and I was able to go inside for the first time. As I would have expected it was quite low-key. The place is obviously still being used, but I just noticed that googlemaps has stopped labelling it as a temple.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

To the First Bend in the River

First Bend in the River

After leaving Gotsu Honmachi I pass by the remains of the former Honmachi train station on the now defunct rail line that followed the river upstream to Hiroshima. It was just a narrow concrete platform with a crude shelter, and now the vegetation has almost completely enveloped it.

A little further and I come to the first of several concreted slopes, the consequence of landslides. Twice in the past decade the train line was closed down because of a landslide in roughly this spot. Each time it took more than a year to get it open again. Obviously, no-one of importance uses the train line otherwise it would have been fixed sharpish methinks.

This side of the river is the least inhabited, with the main road running along the opposite bank for most of the way upriver.

It is my intention to stay on this bank all the way to the source of the river and then come back downstream on the other bank.

I have walked much of the river before, and I am hoping to see what, if any, difference the closing of the railway has had, and also what changes the rapid depopulation of the area has caused.

All About Japan

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Gotsu Honmachi

Gotsu Honmachi

Gotsu Honmachi is the original town of Gotsu. In the latter half of the 20th century, embankments on the banks of the river mouth were constructed and seawalls erected, so the town spread to where it is now located.

Sheltered in a narrow valley and protected by a hill, the original town was on the Sanindo, the imperial highway that ran from Kyoto. At the top of the valley, a section of stone paving marks the original Sanindo route.

With its sheltered location, Gotsu became a Kitamaebune port, the next one west of Yunotsu, and some evidence of this merchant history still remains in what could be called the historical district.

The old clinic and doctors' house is one of the most well-known buildings in the old town, mainly because of its ochre-colored roof tiles rather than the traditional black or red.

I've seen a photo from 1917 that shows a bridge across the river at this point, probably the first Gotsu bridge, that must have replaced a ferry. The port was so important that it was incorporated into Iwami Ginzan, and controlled directly by the shogunate, whereas the rest of the land on this side of the river was Hamada domain.

Built in the Meiji period, the original Gotsu post office was a pseudo-western structure.

Built in 1926, the original Gotsu Town Hall..... used as such until 1962

Green Tea