Oboke Valley 大歩危
Our plan for the morning is to climb Mt. Tsurugi but, the forecast is cloud and we can see the mist hanging over the peaks in the distance. So, we postpone the climb for a day. As an alternative, we decide to drive the Oboke valley. This is a disappointment, as the valley is difficult to appreciate from the road and the only access points appear to be boat tour stations. Boat tours are popular, perhaps, the only way to view this valley.
Iya no Kazurabashi
We continue on to visit the famous vine bridge at Iya no Kazurabashi. On arrival, we decide we don’t like the place – too many buses. So we push on again, along R. 439, to a second vine bridge ‘Oku-Iya double Bridge’ deeper in the mountains, It is not our day as, here again, we are out of luck. We were hoping to go for a short hike at this spot but, discover that the hiking trail is the other side of the vine bridge for which there is a toll (550 yen). To cross a suspension bridge made of vines is out of the question for D.
Consequently, we do a big loop, following R. 439 through the Oku-Iya mountain area along steep river valleys. The road is challenging. It is narrow, two vehicles cannot pass on most stretches, with many, many blind hairpin bends. Concentration is a must, so little chance to enjoy the scenery. I stop from time to time to take in the grandeur.
This leads us, finally, back to Mt. Tsurugi and we drop down to R. 192 and visit Honraku-ji Temple. This temple is a little hard to access as it stands, off the main road, on a narrow lane.
Honraku-ji has ‘Karesansui’, or stone garden, reminiscent of its much more famous cousin in Kyoto but with the bonus of the Yoshino River as background rather than a tile capped, plaster wall.
On the other side of the temple building is another garden consisting of an enormous slab of natural stone with an assortment of shrubs and small maples growing on it. I have never seen anything quite like it in any other temple.
Some parts of this section of garden were closed, due to a small rockfall.
Inside an impressive flower arrangement was on display.
A minor temple but more interesting than many more famous. Worth a visit.
Udatsu Street, Mima Wakimachi 美馬脇町
From the temple, we move on to Udatsu street in Mima Wakimachi. This is a preserved street of traditional buildings noted for their “udatsu”. Ok, what is an udatsu? It is a protruding wall with a roof tile decoration noticeable on the first-floor exterior. Originally supposed to be a deterrent to a fire spreading but became a bit of flash to show off your wealth.
Here, we were enticed into a traditional Japanese umbrella workshop on the clear understanding that we would not buy an umbrella. Consequently, we learnt something about these beautiful umbrellas.
This town is working hard to develop this street as a tourist attraction.
With the end of the daylight, we return to Mima no Sato michi-no-eki for a second night, kicking ourselves for not climbing Mt. Tsurugi as it has been a glorious, sunny day which we have spent, mostly, driving.
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.