Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Journeys in rural Japan

This weekend past I went on a little country trip with the Delightful Miss E and her two friends, His Edenic Majesty and Prince R. We hired a car and journeyed about the Northern coast of Shimane, visiting the tiny towns of Usagi Cho (Rabbit Town!), Inome Cho (Boar's Eye Town!) and Mihonoseki.

These tiny towns are all fishing villages, varying in size from maybe 100 inhabitants to surely no more than 30 in the case of Inome Cho. Usagi Cho fishes for Sazae, a type of water snail, and probably also Shijimi; while Mihonoseki seems to have a more diverse range of catches, including cuttlefish and the fish you can see drying in the pictures above. These villages are picturesque and the weather was very fine, so we made sure to stop our little car and go wandering through their winding, narrow streets. In the case of Usagi cho and Mihonoseki we found quiet fishing villages waiting peacefully for their fishermen to return from their latest trip; in these towns we were able to take photos of quaint winding streets, functioning shrines, and an array of seafood products drying on hooks. Inome cho, however, was almost deserted and appeared to have little employment of any moment. The streets were deserted and many of the homes were slowly crumbling into ruin, or were already boardd up or collapsed. In the pictures above you can see houses overgrown with ivy, and a street of empty homes. We saw a family playing on the beach, and a single man walking from one house to another; but outside of the plots of vegetables thriving in the new spring sun, there was no evidence that this village had much life left in it. Nestled between the sea and the mountains which reared suddenly behind it, it straddled a narrow road that we did not follow, which led further into those mountains towards villages possibly more remote and abandoned.

We chose not to take this road, but instead stayed on the coast road, to continue our journey through the peaceful fishing towns and orchards of Northern Shimane. Stuck here between the cliffs and the sea, passing occasional tiny shrines and slumbering villages, one could almost feel one had stepped out of time to an era before the war. Here there was little of modern Japan to be seen - no foreigners, no English, no vending machines even. Just the rhythmic pounding of the waves, the quiet speech of hidden locals, and the occasional fishing boat to break the peace. A pleasant retirement indeed for our visiting friends, who after two days in this idyll were to return to the hustle and bustle of modern life, and the neon wilderness of Tokyo.


Blogger Monster Mom said...

This is truely a place beyond compare! How nice if I could spend some time there... just let nature take it's course!

12:52 PM  
Blogger Cracklypork said...

It was impossibly picturesque. I don't know where most of the locals were - probably still working in nearby larger towns, or coming in from the sea after a long day of fishing. Parts of the place were in genteel decline. I think we were joking that it was probably a town of zombies after dark.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Olga said...

Dear mr. Kyuuki,
Could you tell me please how to cook Sazae? How long at least?
Best Regards, Olga

10:52 PM  
Blogger Sir S said...

My dear Miss Olga,

I would cook Sazae for as long as possible if I were you ... eaten raw it is truly disturbing.

Alternatively, a recipe book might be of assistance - but beware, if it is Japanese it might recommend taking them raw, which is really an ill-advised move!

8:29 PM  

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