Monday, April 25, 2011

Tachibanakami Bus Ride, Part 1

(Ashi yu)

Let me see now. I've visited places I can "easily" (if you figure that 2-3 hours one way is "easy") walk to, and I've taken the bus to the train then rode the train around for a while. I guess that I could actually go inside the airport and fly somewhere, but that's cheating. What's left? Staying ON the bus.

(Houses across from the ashi yu.)

The bus from the airport, as mentioned before, runs 6 times per day, mostly. Actually, 5 of the rides go from the airport to Hayato, and the 6th one stops at Tachibanakami. In the opposite direction, 5 go from Hayato to the airport, while the early morning one stops about half way. After equivocating for a while, I decided to hop on the 12:05 going to Hayato, but at the airport, as I was trying to understand the schedules, discovered that this was the one ride that only went as far as Tachibanakami, 4 stops short of Hayato, for 400 yen. The bus arrives, I get on, and I'm the only passenger. So, as we pulled out of the airport, I tell the driver that I have no fixed plans and ask if there's anything interesting along the way to go visit. He just stares at the road and thinks for a couple of minutes before answering "nope". Then again, I'm assuming that his idea of "interesting" is a pachinko parlor or 10-story amusement park.

(Location map, next to the ashi yu.)

I was thinking that the bus would follow the train line north. However, after stopping at Kareigawa station, it doubled back to the main road and continued east over the tracks and through the tunnel, basically the same route I'd took when I first walked out this way a week earlier. We reached the hairpin turn in the hills where I'd stopped and turned around, and kept on going down the hill and following the Kareigawa (gawa = "river) east then south. At one point we left the main road to go part way up a hill to a bus stop next to a wide spot in the road. The driver pointed down the slope to some old-style thatched roof houses, calling them "retro houses", adding that the historic buildings have been turned into a hotel. After spending a few minutes at the stop, we then went back to the main road and along the river again.

During this time, we'd been passing some banners along the side of the road with "(something) matsuri" written on them. "Matsuri" is "festival", and I was debating asking the driver what kind of festival it was, risking the chance of distracting him from the tight curves of the road, when he suddenly pointed back up the side road saying that there's a "fuji matsuri" going on up there. "Fuji" is "wisteria" and is where the name "Mount Fuji" comes from. After about 30 minutes, the driver stopped the bus in a little lot on the side of the road, saying that this was as far as he was going this time. We'd reached Tachibanakami. It was about 12:35, and the next return bus would be at 3:12 PM. That gave me 2.5 hours to kill. As I was getting out, he pointed a little farther down the road, saying that there's an "ashi yu" there.

"Ashi yu" is "foot hot spring" (see photo above). There's an ashi yu in front of the airport. Not needing a foot soak right away, I continued walking down the hill along the river in the general direction of Hayato. There are little clumps of houses hugging the hills, at least one of which was identified as a "resort" (think "second home" for people that want a getaway from the big cities). Some little farms as well. Plus some vending machines around the bus stops. As I walked along, I realized that some of these bus stops aren't that far apart, maybe every 4-6 blocks. There were no other passengers, though, so the driver had just blown by the stops without slowing down and the only reason I was aware of them at all was that the automated voice would announce them as we approached.

I found this power utility pole interesting. It's the only one I've seen with color-coded wires running down the side, ending in the ceramic markers. The markers are stamped with "red" and "white". You may have noticed that some of the photos have strong blue tints. Apparently the camera had gotten jostled as I was taking it out of my backpack and putting it back in, and at some point the setting dial got rotated to "manual", completely messing up the shots. I didn't catch it right away.

The honor system stands along the side of the road don't just sell fruits and vegetables. Here, we've got some plants...

And wicker work. As I was looking at the stand, I felt something on the back of my neck. Reaching back I encountered something fairly large. Instinctively, I yanked it away and onto the ground.

2" grasshopper. I didn't see any other grasshoppers, so apparently I just got in the way of its flight path. Still, it was something of a shock when I first touched it.

I considered this to be an interesting runoff spout.

A tribute to the unknown lumberjack.

After about 20 minutes I reached another hairpin turn where I could look down the road far enough to say that there wasn't anything immediately eyecatching, other than the small dam on the left. After taking some pictures I turned around and headed back up to the Tachibanakami bus stop.

(Downriver side of the dam. Might have been used for hydro-power at one time.)

(Dam leaks.)

Across the street from the dam is an abandoned building which may have housed the workers at the power plant.

You know the old cliche of someone walking up to an abandoned building and finding a discarded company sign lying in the grass? Actually does happen occasionally.

A little farther north of Tachibanakami is an intersecting valley and creek which comes together at a point where quite a few onsen resorts sprung up. The sign points to ryokan (Japanese-style hotels) and other housing sites.

(House a little ways up the valley.)

To be continued.

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