Nakajimadai, beech wood and Kisakata 中島台、象潟
Day 49, October 2016,
Yes the rain eased, but returned with a vengeance several times during the night judging by the drumming on the van roof. The morning is damp but bright and very warm; we hang about so D. can check Higashiyuri road station’s local produce.
Nakajimadai, Shishigahana Wetland
We set off finally and drive to a beech tree and wetland area (Nakajimadai Shishigahana wetland) on Mt.Chohkai. Beware of bears signs abound as we set off for a walk through the beech woods, our anti-bear bell tinkling. The path is, as usual, along a wooden walkway and is very slippery due to the autumn leaves. I slip a couple of times and actually fall flat on my back at one point but luckily sustain no obvious damage.
The woods are beautiful and mysterious; all the trees are gnarled and misshapen. We suspect this is due to the severe winter conditions on these Nihonkai (Japan Sea) facing mountain slopes but later learn that the trees were constantly cut and regrown, due to charcoal production in the Edo era. We pass an old, stone charcoal burning kiln, as if by way of confirmation, on our way to view a 300 year old beech tree.
This path takes us along the banks of a very pretty, crystal, clear stream that we cross and re-cross. The 300 year old tree ‘Agariko Daioh’ duly photographed, we return the way we had come; irrationally feeling, we agree, much more relaxed bear wise. On the way back, we meet a handful of other walkers but no bus tours.
Down from Mt.Chohkai, we do necessary laundry and check michi no eki ‘Kisakata’. This one is huge and very busy. So many cars that it is not easy to find a parking space. There are a number of shops and restaurants an onsen hotel and a viewing platform on the 4th. floor.
From this platform, there is a view of the sea on one side and the “islands” in the rice fields the other. These islands impressed Basho (famous Haiku poet) when he passed this way.
In Edo era, in his time, they really were islands and the rice fields, sea. Since then, due to a massive earthquake in 1804, which raised the land by 2 meters, the “islands” float in a sea of rice stubble. We sit on the viewing platform, gazing out, trying to visualize the landscape as Basho saw it.
This road station is so busy, and as is still early, we decide to check the next one. But not before I take a picture of 30 to 40 people hanging around outside the public toilets. They are all staring intently at their electronic devices. At last, we realize they are playing Pokémon Go; the first time we have encountered this craze.
Unfortunately, the next road station is not inspiring at all so we return to our original choice. There are still some daylight hours, so we drive past the road station and pull into a temple (Kanmanji) car park on the landward side of the road. We want to take a look at the islands, that are no longer islands; in total 60 apparently. Wandering into the temple, we are chased by a lady who inquires if we are grave visiting. As we are not, there is a charge of 300\ to enter the temple grounds but, she explains, that the temple is not a good spot to view the “islands”. We retreat and wander along a path to see the nearest islands. After a few hundred meters, the path peters out and, as it is getting dark, we return to our road station.
It is still busy and, even after we finish dinner, there are 15 or 20 lost souls playing Pokémon Go, in the dark, outside the toilets. Others are in their cars with the engines running.
Windy night with a strong breeze off the Nihonkai but not in the least cold. We dispense with sleeping bags.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.