Friday, 31 August 2012

Back in Tokyo

Three days in Niigata with Lily and it was back to Tokyo.
Niigata was hot and unlike Odate the nights were hot too.  
Arriving back in Tokyo I dropped into the supermarket.
The incongruity of new season Autumn displays in what was still summer heat was perplexing.
It still feels like summer, but there is no stopping the seasons...
Seishun 18 ticket Niigata-Tokyo

Rice and high voltage power lines.

There was no aircon working in the carriage.  JR was good and
kept making announcements to move to another carriage,
but the almost empty stifling hot carriage was more peaceful than
the crowded airconned carriages.  It was pretty tiring though -
between the heat and 3 days with Lily's genki  boys I slept much of
the way between Nagaoka and Minakami - a pity really since it's
the prime scenery of the route...

Between Niigata and Nagaoka

Autumn beer
Autumn food - chestnuts, curry, mushrooms, sweet potato...

Monday, 27 August 2012

Down the Japan Sea Side

Windmills are popping up along the Japan Sea Coast
It was baking hot in Sakata. The train was late, probably because the wires in the
signal box melted... I decided to take the next train terminating at Tsuruoka and
wander around there for 50 mins rather than spending 75 in Sakata, which I've already
been to several times.

A station in a rice field
Kita Amarume station - in a rice field.

It was baking hot in Sakata. The train was late, probably because the wires in the
signal box melted... I decided to take the next train terminating at Tsuruoka and
wander around there for 50 mins rather than spending 75 in Sakata, which I've already
been to several times.
The windows were filthy from Sakata to Niigata on all three trains.
It wasn't a cleanable dirtiness - I scrubbed at it with water from my waterbottle
& tissues to no effect whatsoever.  It made taking pictures unsatisfactory &
I could only really take them from the ipad pressed against the window.

A Shrine in a ricefield with mountains - very Shonai

Rice and mountains
More rice and more mountains

The Uetsu line also has stations by the sea.

It's a beautiful view.

Much of the train line between Sakata  & Murakami runs by the sea.
I am not sure which island this is - perhaps Sado?

Coming into Niigata - Japan Sea rice country.
Though presumably this is Koshikari rice rather than Akita Komachi

On the way back from Shirakami - Tsugaru dam

On the way to (and from) Anmon falls, on the Hirosaki side we passed a dam, just on the outskirts of the Shirakami Sanchi (sanchi just means mountain area). As far as I understand they are combining and existing dam with an existing lake to create the Tsugaru dam.  Looking at it it seemed a pity to be flooding an area so close to Shirakami, flooding villages that almost certainly have Jomon remains. It's an area that is decreasing in population and likely not to have a dramatic need for the hydro electricity that will be produced.   And then Fukushima looms in the mind - the country is desperate for energy alternatives... 

There used to be a lot of scorn poured on the policy of damming (tempting to spell that with an n) every river for hydro. (See  Dogs and Demons). It seems very silent these days....  I wonder how much overlap there is between anti nuclear protesters and anti dam protesters. Perhaps not much - the dam protest might be more local.  It begs a more imaginative approach to electricity generation - like collecting the energy of commuters as they walk along station platforms.... or  tapping the energy of people handing out contact lens fliers or the school student cheer squad at Koshien...
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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Shirakami Sanchi - Anmon Falls

From Tsugaru Pass we back tracked to Anmon Falls in the deep Shirakami Sanchi. The falls are officially only open in the summer and autumn months as far as I know, but the fact the postcards there have the iced river means there must be some winter access.
  The waterfalls are a few kilometers from the main road and it takes hiking through the beech tree forest to get there.  There were a couple of bus tours there, but rather bizarrely they didn't go to the waterfalls - and were content with doing a 1km loop walk... It seems like such a waste to come all the way to Anmon Falls and not actually see the waterfalls...   
It was a beautiful walk, quite hilly but very easy walking.  Hiro's mother had her pedometre on and the days walking was just over 10kms.
The road back to Anmon Falls from Tsugaru Pass
Local wildlife.
Shirakami Beech Trees
Anmon no Taki 1
Anmon no taki 2
The only fish we saw - an iwana - a kind of trout.
Hiro's father spotted it. It must be hereditary - Hiro who can see nothing
at distance without glasses and avoids night driving where possible can manage
to spot a fish from tens of metres away...
The river
There are walking boards along the river, the old path alongside the river is much to
dangerous in many parts.  It shows consideration to include overtaking / passing lanes!
This is where we walked from the first little pink dot around the two green loops,
to the large pink dot and up to the end of the orange line on the right which has
the waterfall marked on it.  The orange line between the pink dots goes alongside the river
but was shut because the path had become untrafficable.  We returned via the green
line (without the loops) which was quite hilly.
Trees trees and more trees
And more 
And more
Beautiful Rocks
A solar powered camera / counter to monitor the number of people going in and
along the walking path.
Anmon Falls visitor centre is between Hirosaki and the
Tsugaru pass (in the above post).

 Details about getting there logistics with a map:

Shirakami Sanchi World Heritage Beech tree forest - the Tsugaru pass

On Fri we went to Shirakami Sanchi a world heritage beech forest on the border of Akita and Aomori. It's big... and though I've been there several times, I've never really felt like I'd seen more than the most superficial glimpse... This time was much more satisfying, but there still remains so much to be seen...
First stop off the Tsugaru pass which has a lookout with a magnifient view of the Shirakami Sanchi.

Looking out from the Tsugaru pass over Shirakami.

Iwaki san covered by clouds, as it almost always seems to be... The local explantion seems to be it's covered because it's shy - in keeping with the local character.

It is never very easy to tell which mountain is which...

A confusing map -  the Japan Sea is on the west of Japan . Like many maps in Japan it is oriented
to where one is looking at it from.
The buses between Hirosaki and the Tsugaru Pass 
are not very frequent and for a very limited season only - June-Nov.

Mountain Vegetable 1 - The flower of the udo - broken in half the leaf
smells just like the vegetable.  A recipe for udo
Mountain vegetable 2 zenmai - this is translated as something like bracken fern in 
English... Its totally different from my image which was more like a maidenhead fern  This has a recipe for using zenmai
similar to but not as interesting as zenmai can be.
Very jungle like.

UNESCO's information on Shirakami:
JNTO's information on Shirakami