A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.
An Autumn Walk Through Yamanaka – one of Tsukuba`s old neighborhoods
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-style 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 raucous chattering of birds and all the intoxicating smells that accompany such a stroll).
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.
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 O-murasaki butterflies.
This past Sunday was a happy and well needed reprieve from the weather we`d been having (a long bout of cold and rain) and 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 of having been cooped up indoors slowly melt away as I made my way along its centuries-old paths and roads.
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)
These small stone shrines represent larger shrines that once stood in the village
A cosmos field
Deep red pommegrantes (zakuro) on a tree in Yamanaka, Tsukuba
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
A plant from which brooms, a traditional local product, are made
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
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)