Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Straight Out, 2

I had a little time one afternoon recently, and I decided to take the opportunity for another long walk before the weather turned too cold. The sky was clear and blue for most of the way out, but then got overcast as I came back and the sun began to fall. Sunset comes early in Japan after October. While there's no daylight savings time here, night starts around 4:30PM - 5PM about now. The route this time was Straight Out NW, following the Kotsuki river. However, I'd been thinking that while the sidewalks peter out half a mile past the expressway, that I might have a little better luck finding a walking path if I stayed alongside the river.

Even this close to the newer parts of the city, the side streets look a little rats nesty.

A car barrier at an entrance to the river walking path. This is what I refer to as "the tetsu tori" (iron birds). I first saw this design when I was working at Hitachi in Kudamatsu in 1995.  Hasn't changed at all since then.

One of the more unusual entrance way designs I've seen so far. Looks like the builder took an old sluice gate and bolted it to the wall over the door. The doorway itself looks new.

As I work my way northwest, I encounter more birds in the river. I'm assuming the little one is a duckling. Two of the chicks had been following this crane around. The chick pictured was incredibly energetic, and kept diving underwater for 6-10 feet just as I tried to snap it.

The camera just can not resolve details on white birds more than 50 feet away.
When I get to the expressway, the river bends away from the main street and winds between a bunch of hills. There's a huge waterworks plant a mile or so farther along, but it looks virtually abandoned. At about 3 PM on a Tuesday, there were only 3 cars in the front parking lot. While the lights were on in the offices, the only person I saw was the guard at the front lot shack. At one point, the street on the south side of the river narrows down to one lane with no shoulder, so I took the path down at river level. A few blocks later, the path deadended at the base of a low bridge, and the only staircase up was actually a grass-covered part of the wall designed to only look like steps. The area had gotten marshy and water was starting to soak into my shoes.

Another mile on, there's a huge junior high school in what looks like a rural setting. The parking lot was empty and I didn't see or hear any kids. One teacher or administrator was just closing the gate behind him as he was driving out at the end of his day. The river continues between some more hills, but a side road runs south and west under a tall overpass. I headed to the overpass just to see what was around the next hill - just some houses, construction offices, small farms and more hill. At the base of the overpass, someone had built a croquet golf course on a thin wedge of lawn. (In Japan, croquet is called "ground golf".) Didn't look like it had been used in a while, though. I'm now within 3 kilometers of the Kagoshima Agricultural Center, and maybe 3 km from a large public park slightly SW from me. But it had taken close to 2 hours to get this far and the sun would be going down before I got back home, so I turn around and head back. Next time, I need to leave before 1 in the afternoon.

I follow the street a few blocks, and encounter the statue of Yoshiyuki Tsuruda, Japan's first Olympic gold medal winner for swimming. The interesting thing here is that there's a billboard in the back with news articles tacked up with refrigerator magnets. One sheet of paper has a translation of the memorial marker in pretty good English.

"Yoshiyuki Tsuruda was born to a farming family from Ishiki Village, Iiyama in 1903. He was the 2nd son of 12 children. As a child, one of his favorite hobbies was swimming in the Kotsuki River. He began to swim seriously when he joined the Sasebo marines. He would swim at least 10,000 meters a day. During the 1928 Amsterdam and 1932 Los Angeles Olympics he won gold in the 200m breaststroke, becoming the first ever Japanese national to win a swimming gold medal. He also became a member of the International Swimming Association, based in Florida, USA. "I feel that swimmers are being overcoached. I believe that swimmers should have more control over their own diet and training methods. Who are swimmers training for?" he once said in harsh criticism of the swimming establishment. On the other hand, he coached swimming for 37 years in Ehime, his wife's home prefecture. During those years he fostered and encouraged children's swimming. His particular passion was helping children who could not swim. He died in 1986 at the age of 82."

A matter of perspective.

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