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

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

Monday, April 11, 2022

To The Source

Gonokawa River to the source

Due to the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic of recent years I decided to start another walking project locally. My intention is to walk from the mouth of the Gonokawa River to the source, and then back along the opposite bank. The Gonokawa, the longest river in Western Honshu, is 194 kilometers long, yet its source on Mount Oasa is a mere 40 kilometers as the crow flies. It meanders along a great curve passing through Miyoshi, the only inland city in Hiroshima.

The first bridge, carrying Route 9 across the river in Gotsu, was not built until 1950. Earlier they ahd tried a pontoon bridge but it didnt last long. Before that the only way across was ferry. Route 9 is the national highway that starts in Kyoto and roughly follows the old Sanin-do, the ancient imperial highway. The bridge is 488 meters, making it the longest bridge across the Gonokawa.

Sanin Line Railway Bridge

Slightly upstream is the  Sanin Line Railway Bridge. This was opened in 1918 and built of American steel. It is the longest iron bridge on the San-in Line, and the oldest existing bridge on the river.

Heading upriver I will be following the route of the old Sanko Line which follows the river from Gotsu to Miyoshi. This was my local line and was a truly beautiful rail journey but was closed down a few years back.

The third bridge that crosses the river in Gotsu is the New Gonokawa Bridge, a monster double-decker. The lower deck carries a local rad that is very rarely used. The upper deck carries the Gotsu-By-Pass that hooks up with the San0In Expressway, only parts of which have been completed. It is always very busy.

Along my walk I plan to revisit many of the sights that are to be seen, as well as see how things have changed in the last twenty years. The right bank I will be walking is the least inhabited side of the river with mostly very small roads. and I suspect I will find many crumbling, abandoned houses,... and first up is Hoinmachi, the original Gotsu town protected from the sea by hills.

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