TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

An Autumn Walk Through Yamanaka – one of Tsukuba`s old neighborhoods (on the only day it hasn`t rained in the past two weeks!)

Headman`s house in Yamanaka, Tsukuba

Gate to the village headman`s house in Yamanaka, Tsukuba

By Avi Landau Autumn is my favorite time of year for wandering through Tsukuba`s rustic old hamlets, with their traditional homes, old shrines and temples, sacred stones, magnificent trees and plenty of fruits, vegetables and flowers in the gardens and fields (not to mention the raucus chattering of birds all the intoxicating smells that accompany such a stroll Things haven`t worked out well this year, though. October 2017 has been rainy almost every single day so far… and I`m going a little stir-crazy! And things seem to be getting worse.

Old Houses in Yamanaka, Tsukuba

Old Houses in Yamanaka, Tsukuba. As in most other Japanese hamlets most people in the neighborhood have the same family name – in Yamanaka it is Ogawa. To distinguish between families nicknames are given to the houses. These are called YAGO.

As I write this, the rain is pounding on my closed storm shutters and I`ve received two special alerts on my smart-phone telling me that the neighborhoods along the Sakura River should prepare for evacuation in the event of flooding. You see, a typhoon is headed this way. School and work have been cancelled (for many) tomorrow, and today, it was raining so hard that I gave up taking pictures of voters making their way through the down-pour to the polling station at Teshirogi-minami Elementary School. The election results, with its great gains for Prime Minister Abe`s party (along with the New York Yankees crushing defeat today)  have compounded my rain induced blues stress to the breaking point. In fact, I`d probably be tearing the hair out of my head – if I had any!

A large hackberry tree stands in the center of the village

A large hackberry tree (enoki) stands in the center of the village. These trees were traditionally as distance markers (every 4 ri) and their leaves are the only food of Japan`s magnificent Omurasaki butterflies.

Last Wednesday though, was a happy and well needed reprieve from the weather we`ve been having (which the Japanese TV weather-people have attributed to something they call the Autumn Rain Front -akizame zensen??!!) I took advantage of the break in precipitation to enjoy a stroll through Yamanaka, one of the old neighborhoods not far from where I live. I could feel all the tension slowly melt away in my muscles and joints as I made my way along its centuries old roads.

One of the fifty or so so-called Large-nosed Dainichi-sama sacred stones whose distinctive style can only be found in this part of Japan (northern Kanto)

At the foot of the hackberry tree you can find one of the fifty or so so-called Large-nosed Dainichi-sama sacred stones whose distinctive style can only be found in this part of Japan (northern Kanto)

I decided to post these pictures tonight so you`d be able to see what a Tsukuba autumn should be like! Lets hope it clears up soon and that the damage from the typhoon is minimal. Take care and be safe!

These small stone shrines represent larger shrines that once stood in the village

These small stone shrines represent larger shrines that once stood in the village

 

cosmos

A cosmos field

 

Deep red pomegrantes (zakuro) on a tree in Yamanaka, Tsukuba (october 2017)

Deep red pomegrantes (zakuro) on a tree in Yamanaka, Tsukuba (October 2017)

 

Eggplant field

Eggplant field

 

A row of konyaku plants. While Gunma Prefecture is now the number one producer of this tuber that is processed into blocks of distinctively textured jelly it is a traditional product of Ibaraki Prefecture and the process that allows it to be eaten all year round was developed by a farmer in northern Ibaraki

A row of konyaku plants. While Gunma Prefecture is now the number one producer of this tuber that is processed into blocks of distinctively textured jelly it is a traditional product of Ibaraki Prefecture and the process that allows it to be eaten all year round was developed by a farmer in northern Ibaraki

Flowers growing outside a home in Yamanaka, Tsukuba

Flowers growing outside a home in Yamanaka, Tsukuba

A plant from which brooms, a traditional local product, are made

A plant from which brooms, a traditional local product, are made

An autumn plant called mizuhiki

This autumn plant ( scientific name persicaria filiformis) is called MIZUHIKI in Japanese, reminiscent of the colored strings (mizuhiki) that decorate ceremonial envelopes in Japan

 

Ogawa-san gathering freshly fallen chestnuts with a pair of tongs

Ogawa-san gathering freshly fallen chestnuts with a pair of tongs

 

For a beautiful description of life in an old Ibaraki village (with one chapter focusing on surviving a strong typhoon) read my translation of Junichi Saga`s Remembrance of Village Days Past (available on Kindle)



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