My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Route-307. Koka to Kyotanabe.

   Route-307 is classified as a National Highway, but I refer to them as Inter-Prefecture Roads.  Commencing it's journey in Hirakata City, '307 passes through three prefectures, before ending at the city of Hikone, a journey of just over 100-kilometers. My plan however is to cover a small section, beginning at the junction with route-5, at Koka City, and ending at the Yamashiro-ohashi Bridge, in Kyotanabe City, and I will do this by cycling roads and lanes that run parallel to, or, in the vicinity of '307 (in some sections I will have no alternative than to use '307), and, along the way, check-out what lies alongside or nearby. 
Raccoondog Figurines.

   A kilometer into my exploration and my first point-of-interest. The area surrounding Shigaraki is famous for it's pottery & ceramics, and this shop (map location), selling Racoondog figurines, is just one of dozens selling a range of products. This video best shows the selection available, and not just Raccoondogs.
   Just down the road from the gallery, and my first detour off '307, and into the settlement of Kamiasamiya. I spot a lane branching-off the street that begs further investigation, and I am so pleased I did. This video, taken using my INOU device (sorry no sound), best describes the feeling I get, when passing through settlements such as this. Though one does have to be careful, as one doesn't know what/who lies just around the corner.

Map Location. 
   And, it was one such corner that I happened-across this establishment - a Ramen restaurant. This is a popular chain throughout Japan, and can be found in many cities across the land. But here? In this isolated settlement? I couldn't believe it. This begs further investigation, at another time when I'm not wearing my sweaty cycling gear.
Torii, entrance to
Entrance Gate and Purification Trough.

   Next door to the restaurant, and set in amongst tall cedar, is the Sansho-jinja Shrine (sorry no information available). Always on the lookout for these complexes, I found this particular jinja different, in as much as the buildings located throughout the site. As this video will show.
  Leaving the shrine I continue my way through Kamiasamiya, where I re-connect with '307, albeit for about 100-meters, before exiting into the settlement of Shimoasamiya. Nothing here that attracts my attention and, before long, I'm back-onto '307 and my next junction.
Map Location.
   It's at this junction (map location) where route-307 originally came through, before they bored the tunnel and made a bypass. I remember, in 2003, driving to Shigaraki along the old road and feeling quite squirmish  with all the tight bends. This video, I hope, will give you an idea of the conditions (sorry no sound). From here '307 runs in the vicinity and, until I re-join it, at the settlement of Hatatani, I get to see/experience some awesome scenery. Then, after two more junctions, one being route-283, the road to Wazuka Town, I come 
Map Location.
across this place of worship. Judging by the small Kitsune either side of the monument, this is an Inari Okami.
   By now my stomach is sending me massages that it's time to refuel if I am to continue (up to this point I had covered about 55km, and been on the road for just over 4-hours) then, suddenly, out-of-the-blue, my ideal location for a lunch-break.
Torii, entrance to
Yuki/Sachi-jinja Shrine.

Map Location.
   Yuki/Sachi-jinja ( please excuse the dual name. Because of the difficulty in interpreting Kanji, it can be difficult to name a place) was an ideal location to re-charge my batteries, check my map and some of the images taken so far.

   Looking at the materials used in the construction of this complex, I would hazard-a-guess this is  fairly new, or has recently been restored. This video will give you an idea of my surroundings while I took my break. 
   The settlement of Hatatani wouldn't have know what struck it when, about 10-years ago, route-307 was re-routed past the town, instead of passing through it. Some of the houses border right on the edge of the road, and the road itself is very narrow.
Map Location.

   As I exit the settlement of Hatatani, a lane takes me away from '307 and into the hills, and some great rural scenery, as seen in this video (sorry no sound). Oh it is so great to be in my kinda' environment. For the next couple of kilometers I enter the forest and muddy/rutted tracks.
Map Location.

   I reach a junction where I am forced to alight my bike and lug myself up a muddy track. With all the rain of the past week, I was cautious of fallen debris and slipping. Then, when I reach the plateau, this Jizo. As you can see in the image, I was thankful for the respite. I also detected the sound of drizzle above, which lasted all of a few minutes, and the canopy allowed me shelter.
   A short distance on and I exit the forest and emerge at a clearing, and another junction. Here, five tracks  converge coming from the major points of the compass (map location), which also indicated that I was on the outskirts of the settlement of Yuyadani. 
Map Location.

   I enter another forest and, as I exit and descend the lane, my attention is drawn to this interesting house. This was the homestead of Nagatani Soen, a man famous in this area for developing a technique for processing tea. Today his house is a museum dedicated to his work. Surrounding the house is a beautiful garden with picnic area. The day I visited, the hydrangeas were in full bloom, which added a touch of color to the surroundings.
Torii, entrance to
Chasomyo-jinja Shrine,
 Across the road from the homestead, is the Chasomyo-jinja, which is also dedicated to Nagatani Soen. Some months ago, while hiking through the area (Pilgrimage of Prayer), I recorded this video.
Map Location.

   Time to move on and, as I pass through Yuyadani, my first view of '307 for over an hour (but I don't re-join it). I then take another lane that takes me through tea plantations and a forest-pass (above image) before emerging into the suburbs (for want of a better description) of Ujitawara.
   I am now to be reacquainted with '307, but just for a few hundred meters, before I veer-off again into the back-blocks and narrow lanes of Ujitawara. My next junction is with route-62, the Ujitawara-to-Wazuka road. This part of '62 was once where the Tokaido Road passed through on it's way to Kontai-ji Temple, Wazuka, Mikuni-goe Rindo and beyond. Then, before I know it, there is '307 again. The next 2km is the most dangerous section of the entire length of this road. It's very narrow and allows no room for error. Come-off your bike, and pray that there isn't a vehicle on your tail. Emerging from this stretch, and into the town of Ide, I discover a lane branching-off to my left. Eager for an alternative I take it and discover it follows a stream and, after crossing several junctions, I emerge at the Yamashiro-ohashi Bridge (map location). But I'm not home yet. The junction of routes '307 and '24 is one hell of a busy intersection and, to get onto the bridge cycle-path, I take advantage of the pedestrian crossing, before my final segment. 
Map Location
    31-kilometers x 3.5-hours after leaving Koka City, and passing-through several settlements and experiencing some great scenery along the way, I have arrived at my goal - the Kizugawa River cycle-way, Kyotanabe City.
   Now, where shall I go for my next excursion? 

   Full video of trip.

   Trip, through Riding with G.P.S. page.

   Trip recorded using my INOU device.     

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Route-5 - Kamo Town to Koka City.

Yours Truly.
   Route-5 is another of those roads I have either commuted along, or crossed over, while on one of my outings. Like the Mikuni-goe Rindo (Mikuni Forest Road), I have treated route-5 in much the same way, by not paying much attention to what lies along-side or in the vicinity. So I decided it was time to change that.
   Commencing at the junction with route-163, in the town of Kamo (map location), route-5 passes through the town of Wazuka (famous for it's Tea), as-well-as the settlements of Harayama, Yubune, Nakayama and Shigaraki, before completing it's journey at the junction of route-307 at Koka City (map location). For the main part the road is joined by the Wazuka River, albeit in a less direct course, and, as we progress,  gradually decreases from a river to a stream before disappearing into the hills to it's source.
Sekibutsu Miroku.
     After spending the past hour cycling along '307, with it's heavy traffic, noise and dust, it was great to finally get onto a country road and into cruise mode. Four kilometers in and my first point-of-interest, the Sekibutsu Miroku (map location). The carving depicts the image of Maitreya Buddha and, according to the plaque, was created in April of 1300. As it was on the opposite side of the river, I wasn't prepared to go the extra few kilometers to get there, so I shall share this video, taken during a hike into the area.
Sekibutsu Pagoda.
   A few hundred meters on, and my next POI. The Sekubutsu Pagoda (map location) is a monument in remembrance to the "Great Yamashiro Flood" of 1953. During the course of the clean-up, the many stone carvings that make up this creation, were gathered and used to make this monument.
Wazuka Town.

   Next stop, Wazuka Town. It's here one gets the first glimpse of what this area is famous for - Tea. Tea, as far as the eye can see, and in some very isolated of places. Standing on the bridge (map location), at the junction of routes-5 & 62, and looking about the hills that surround this town, one can see hillside plantations with some great cycling & hiking tracks, tracks used by farmers as access to their crops. In front of you is Mount Taiko, which is in fact the Kofun, or Burial Mound of Prince Asaka (video), the 5th son of Emperor Shomu.
Route-5/Tokaido Road Junction.
    Before long I am leaving Wazuka Town behind and arrive at the Harayama Junction (map location). It is at this location the Tokaido Road, after it's descent from Jubu-san (Mt Jubu) & Kontai-ji Temple, makes it's way through the village & rice-fields before it's ascent on the opposite side of the valley, to connect with the Mikuni-goe Rindo. It's hard to imagine what this intersection, if there was an intersection, looked like some 400-years ago, when people were migrating through here. I doubt if the bus-stop was here then.
   From this point the valley closes-in and the road and river follow each other more closely then opens again, a few kilometers on, and a couple of tunnels, at the settlement of Yubune (map location). As I pass through the settlement the road becomes very narrow with the houses bordering right on the edge of the thoroughfare (as seen in the image on the left). With the occasional truck passing through, life must be hell inside these dwellings. One wrong move and someone may have a Mack Truck parked in their front room.
entrance to
Hongan-jinja Shrine.
   As I begin to exit Yubune I find a sheltered area to stop for a break and check-out a small roadside stall selling fruit and veges. I get my video camera out to record the scenery and, as I am recording, I discover a concrete Torii set amongst the tea plantation. Of the four times I have passed through this area, I never noticed this. So, with cameras in hand, I ascend the steps to discover what lies amongst the trees. Hongan-jinja (video) is made up of three small Hokora, or miniature Shinto Shrines, quite common in small areas such as Yubune. 
   Just around the corner is the settlement of Nakayama and, like it's neighbour, the houses are very close to the road edge. Earlier this year, while waiting for a bus to take me to Kamo (this is the terminus), I had an hour to spare. So I decided to check-out and wander through the settlement. While doing so, I discovered this awesome temple overlooking the houses below. Taiti-Tera Temple is well worth the time to visit.
Map Location.

   As I exit the valley confines of Yubune and Nakayama, the area opens up and more tea plantations. On this occasion right down to the very edge of the road, as seen in the image on the left. Also take note of how narrow the road is. A couple of kilometers back, two trucks had a hell of a job passing each other and one, towing a vehicle trailer, had to back-up to allow the other to pass.
Map Location.
   I have reached a junction, and the time to farewell the Wazuka River. At this point the river heads into a surrounding valley and it's source. I have hiked and cycled the trail that accompanies the river (now a stream) on two occasions, and there is some terrific scenery to be experienced.
Map Location.

   A few hundred meters on and my next point-of-interest - this extensive picnic/recreation area. The site covered the best part of a kilometer, with play areas, sheltered dining sheds, walking trails and, through the middle of it, a stream. I have placed this in my "must return" list, with my family.
   A short distance along and I reach the border separating Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures (map location). After the gradual incline of the past 19-kilometers, I feel a distinctive change and freewheel into the city of Koka ( the stream accompanying the road is now flowing in the same direction). The area is made famous because of it's pottery making and, if pottery and ceramics is for you, this is heaven.
Map Location.
   I soon discover a pottery maker that is open and, with the permission of the potter, I take a look through his gallery. If I was in a car, and had plenty of money, I would have gone on a shopping-spree. This site has also been placed on my "must return" list. 
Map Location.
   As I come around a sweeping bend, I notice a large volume of traffic in the distance, and this sign informing me that the junction of route-307 and route-5 are just up ahead. My journey-of-discovery is about to come to an end. It's been an awesome outing but, there again, all my outings are awesome. That's the way it is with me. And that's why I am an "Outdoorholic" . I hope you have enjoyed this journey, as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you.
   If you do plan to experience Route-5, regardless of your mode, don't be in a hurry. Especially when you arrive at the many settlements. Find a place to park, then take a leisurely stroll. You won't be disappointed with what you find. 

                So, in signing-off, I shall bid you farewell until the next time. 

   Full video of Route-5.

   Map of the course -