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Visit to Maki Villiage in Otari Mura


Those Joneses just wont give up!

Yesterday Tomoe and I met them near their home to take a hike together up to an amazing little shuraku (village) in the mountains of Otari Mura. This village is accessible only by foot - a two hour hike from the nearest road. There are only a few people living there (only one woman), making a close-to-self-sufficient life.

When we arrived at the meeting point - feeling confident that we were "winning", they pulled out their next ace in the hole and proceeded to rub our noses in it.

Baru - the pup with a lame leg to compliment their cat with only one eye.

BaruTill & Baru

Anyway, we sucked it up and relied on the satisfaction we felt upon receiving The Pug for free, while they had to pay for their truck - despite the fact that their truck was able to climb the steeproad to the trail-head much easier The Pug.

Hiking to Maki VilliageHiking to Maki VilliageTraditional Japanese House

The hike took about two hours, with a stop for a macrobiotic lunchbox prepared by the Joneses (both macrobiotic masters). The path is rather wide compared to most hiking paths, and I thought it would be a great mountain bike trail for a full-day mountain bike tour. In the winter it would make a great snow-shoe trail - although the time needed doubles.

Traditional Japanese houseTraditional Japanese houses

When we arrived we found most of the residents out in their fields, or working on repairing a traditional kayabuki (a type of straw) roof. While this is the traditional style of most old Japanese houses, keeping the roof in good condition require frequent repairs, and lots of money. Most old Japanese houses now have a tin covering over the original straw roof. Even if one is lucky enough to find a roof-maker who hasexperience with such a roof, finding the materials is another problem all together. Most houses that keep their straw roof these days only repair a small patch of roof each year because it is impossible (or way to expensive) to find enough materials to redo the entire roof in the same year. The blue tarps in the photo above are where the roof is being repaird

Traditional Japanese houseKayabuki CutterOld House in Maki Villiage, Otari

Being the competitive bastishes that the Joneses are, they told us how they plan to take the tin covering off their roof and repair the original kayabuki straw roof. They know full well that out house has a very modern roof and we cant have the straw roof even if we had the money!

GoatTomoe in MakiTomoe in Maki

After an hour or so of exploring the village and scratching the goats heads, we started to head off only to be invited to join everyone for tea. We learned that the people here only haveelectricity in one building, and the rest are still lit by candles. I felt like I was in a scene from the Last Samurai. The only thing missing was the samurai warriors.

FarmersFarmersSayaka & Till

After hiking back to the Pug, we stopped by an antique shop in Otari Mura where Tomoe had ordered a traditional wooden bowl for kneading bread and soba. We were also tempted by some of the other goodies thay had such as a tageta - a type of shoe, much like a snow shoe, that people used to wear when they picked weeds in the rice field to prevent them from sinking into the mud. It reminded me of just a week before when we were telling our newneighbor about our experience pulling weeds in the rice field of our friends in the South of Nagano. The new neighbor looked at us puzzled, saying "We don't pull weeds in the rice field - there is a chemical that kills them all for us".

So what was so bad about just using tageta and picking the weeds by hand?

* * *

In other news, I may be the new face of Haukuba. A co-worker and I spent several hours taking photos of me pretending to fly fish for a promotional pamphlet the Hakuba city tourist council has contracted us to make. If I had known that I would be posing, I would have shaved my neck.

In even better other news, we have our first confirmed customer lined up for a fall colors bike trip in Japan's Sakae Mura!




man, you take one heck of a goat picture...


Not a scene from The Last Samurai (boo Hollywood!), but Narayama Bushiko ("The Ballad of Narayama"), one of the late Shohei Imamura's films which was filmed there. Its the one about the "Obasuteyama" legend, i.e., people in ye olde times taking grandma to the mountain when her time comes to save on potatoes. In some of the shots, you can see the ski fields in the background, a bit like British WWII films where you see planes flying over fields of rape (canola), a post war crop funded by EU subsidies. The main house in the film has since burned down, by the way. Like some of Imamura's other films (Vengeance is Mine etc), be warned that it is very earthy and not for the squeamish.

When I went to Maki a couple of years ago, the people staying there then were renting it and doing some kind of taiken farming thing for disadvantaged kids. They were using cultivators and getting the fuel in by quad bike. I think that big building they stayed in is actually the old school.

There is a Kurosawa-scripted film that was partially shot in Goryu, but I've never got round to watching it. Its called "Ginrei no Hate" and came out in the late 40s. His own films took off with Rashomon in 1950. Kurosawa's main star Mifune was in late 1960s blockbuster about the building of Kurobe Dam, but its never come out on video or DVD. The director of that one doesn't want people watching it on little screens apparently.

Fantastic shots as always, and an interesting read to. Keep up the good work!

What does Otari mean in Japanese? I know, it's a village, I'm just wondering if the name Otari has a special signifigance and history-thanks, LJ

What does Otari mean in Japanese? I know, it's a village, I'm just wondering if the name Otari has a special signifigance and history-thanks, LJ

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