Thursday, November 22, 2018

Takatsu River Boat and Rural Travel

My contacts in Masuda told me they knew of one more historic boat, located in a small museum far up the Takatsu River. I was headed back across the mountains to Hiroshima so I decided to see if I could find the place and check out the boat. I took a different road in the interests of exploration, following the Takatsugawa towards its source.

I stopped often to take photos of the river and as I walked around a rock outcrop to take this shot what should I find but a completely fiberglass boat, an exact copy of the traditional, local design, no doubt made be either laying glass over an old boat or using an old boat to make a mold. I have met many builders in Japan who were forced to switch to fiberglass constructions (called FRP in Japan) and most simply built the same designs they had built in wood.

 I took one short side trip up a mountainside to see a village of terraced rice fields. By and large driving in rural Japan is easy. Signage is generally great and there are plenty of wonderful roadside facilities, most of which feature local produce and products for sale. The terraced rice fields were marked with one tiny sign that I almost missed driving past at 80 kph.

The view from the very top. The village actually followed the valley around to the left. You see here only about one-third of the total elevation of the terraces.

A woman tending her vegetables. Note her electric cart to the right. Rural Japanese farmers simply do not quit. The idea of not farming is unfathomable to them.

You have to marvel at the amount of labor required to terrace this mountainside, all hand-laid stone. I asked a local how old the village was and he said, "Heike jidai" which would indicated back to the 1300s.

Above the last cultivated terraces I found more, taken over by the cedar forest.

In an abandoned barn I found an old wooden hand-crank rice separator. Made of wood and tin these were common. 

Back down to earth, a roadside rest stop.

Finally, the Suigen Kaikan. The museum is part of a water park.

Beautiful timber frame architecture.

An exhibit of farming equipment.

A huge dragon made of rice straw, used in a local ceremony.

The boat! Twenty-three feet overall and lovely lines. The man at the ticket window said it is about fifty years old. This type was called locally kurikomibune.

An exhibit photo. I sent an image of the label copy to my friend Reiko in Masuda and she kindly translated it:
“For the people who lived in Muikaichi or towns along the Takatsu River, the river’s bountiful fish was precious food. In Tsuwano-han( Tsuwano domain in Edo period), fishermen had to pay tax which was calculated on the basis of the catch. This tax system was called ‘Kawa-yaku-gin.’
Those people’s fishing style was called as ‘Kurikomi’ and their boat was also called as ‘Kurikomi-bune.’ In Muikaichi, there was a traditional iron factory, a foot operated bellows called ‘Tatara.’ People carried iron sand, which was dug in Ino in Misumi town, to the iron factory by the Kurikomi-bune sailing on the Takatsu River. The Takatsu River running among mountains and having a lot of volume of water was an important river for folk’s life."

The curve in the beams a beautiful touch.

As is the sheave built into the stem, and the copper cladding.

Soon after I left my road suddenly became one lane perched on the edge of a gorge.

As I got closer to Hiroshima, suddenly a scene of devastation from last summer's mudslides.

The entire first floor of this building was scoured out.

Within feet of the mudslide was this large abandoned farmhouse.

Unlocked, I decided to explore. Original rammed earth douma, or workspace.

The huge beams overhead blackened by the cooking fires.

A family photo hanging on the wall.

Timber framing. For scale the vertical post is almost 12" x 12".

Veranda. Note the huge beam running the length of the front of the house.

The bathtub is an iron pot.

Fired from outside.

And I guess the tradition of nailing a horseshoe for good luck extends to Japan.

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