Visit to Maki Villiage in Otari Mura
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!