Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kenmin no Mori Walk, Part 2

I should have mentioned that as you're nearing the Mizobe library, you pass one of the few garages, (maybe even globally) that specializes in original VW Beetles.

Past the library, you go down a hill and get into a small clump of shops, including a convenience store and a gas station. There's a sign here pointing to the left for the Kenmin no Mori, 6 km. Since it had taken me an hour to get this far (not including the time spent visiting the torii), which had only been 3 km, I debated just turning back. However, a group of junior high school girls coming out of the store decided to practice their English on me by saying "hi", so, I figured I might as well ask if there were any other tourist spots closer by. The question caught all of them completely unprepared, because this is the countryside, and there's nothing interesting anywhere. I thanked them and headed left. The road snaked along 2 schools and a baseball diamond.

(Past the "downtown" section. Prominent Japanese families will pick almost anywhere to place their burial sites. This one had 3 markers and was set on a wedge of land at the corner of an intersection, about 10 feet wide and 20-30 feet long. At one end was an advertisement for burial supplies.)

The signs for the park are pretty obvious, and they sent me through a "downtown" area that was about 2 blocks long, with a bank and a co-op, before routing me to the right again and the start of some more hills.

Right next to the entrance to the hills, and to the burial site mentioned above, there was this ruined building. This particular kind of structure seems to have been popular at one time, since I've seen several versions of it so far. There's even one such building across from the parking lot of the airport. The primary characteristics of these buildings are that all of the metal is rusted out, and they're generally abandoned.

Then, it was just a matter of walking, walking, walking...

The trees with the white petals are sakura (cherry). Normally, this would be the start of hanami (cherry blossom viewing), but with the power shortages in Tokyo, Tokyo residents are being told to stay inside and remain quiet this year. The rationale being that many hanami parties occur at night and use lots of electricity. The sake brewer's association has taken an exception to this proclamation, since hanami is when they make most of their money for the year. They've countered the government by running an ad campaign saying "drink as much sake as you like!" Down in Kyushu, there's no such restriction, but there aren't as many good cherry blossom viewing sites next to the airport.

The carp streamers are usually displayed for Children's Day, May 5th, but they start appearing in early April. According to the wiki entry, the carp symbolizes long life, and is a way of wishing that the boys in the family grow up strong. By implication, the family has at least one young son.

Finally, after about 2.5 hours of hiking, I've reached the entrance to the Kenmin no Mori (at least 9 km total). This literally translates to "The People of the Prefecture's Forest". This is an open public park, with gardens, camping, hiking, hill sliding (it's called "grass skiing", but uses sleds instead of skis), and offers a view of the local dam. It's a big park - the camping sites are another 6 kilometers away.

(Notice the JR "guri-buu" character. It's everywhere!)

To be continued.

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