To The Edge And Back

I stayed awake well into the night last night watching the end of the British Open.  There I was at 3 in the morning, watching the British Open in Japanese on the TV, the Red Sox on the computer, drinking Budweiser.   Unfortunately both Tom Watson and the Red Sox lost the drama was worth staying up for.

Despite my excess of beer and lack of sleep, I was feeling pretty good this morning when I rolled out of bed.  Today was Sea Day, which is a national holiday here in Japan, so we had the day off.  Chieko mentioned that she wanted to go to the famous cliffs of Tojinbo, which people routinely hurl themselves off of when life gets to be too much.  They’re about 2 hours to the south, in Fukui prefecture.  So off we went around noon for an afternoon of doom and gloom.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the cliffs were a big disappointment.  For a place with such a dark and troubled reputation, I was taken aback by how touristy it is.  The place was packed with families, everyone creeping as close as they could to the edge of the cliff to peer over into the ocean.  Everyone was smiles and laughs, taking pictures against the backdrop of the Sea of Japan.  

But what really let me down was the fact that these cliffs weren’t even that high — easy cliff diver fare, I would guess.  I could envision many scenarios where a plunge off these cliffs wouldn’t result in injury, let alone deaths.  You have to hope you land on one of the submerged rocks, on your head.

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We grabbed some ice cream and wandered around the touristy little center of town for a little while.  The stink of BBQ squid was heavy in the air, since every other shop was open pit grilling them on the sidewalk.  Smelly.

On our way home, we flung ourselves into the mountains, not really knowing where we were headed but going on the assumption that eventually we’d get some place we recognized.  Japan has an amazing network of narrow roads winding up and over (and sometimes through) mountains whose only purpose seems to be to link tiny hamlets and provide some scenic/hair raising driving through fairy tale forests for people like my wife and I.

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There’s a valid argument that Japan has completely marred/tamed nature which I’m not going to delve into at the moment.  But these small roads are one example of how you can be in very remote places and still find signs of how people have altered the environment.  The ever present power lines are another.  And the fact that majority of these fairy tale forests are full of non-native species an are meticulously maintained is yet another. And then there are the cement mountainsides.

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This river (which flows into a dammed reservoir!) was pretty pristine, and had a really cool layer of fog rolling along top of it.

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And then the road plunged back into the darkness.

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And eventually we popped back out into a place we had been before, and we found our way home.  All in all a successful day.  

I was planning to write a bit more for this post but it got late on me and after the last few nights, I need to get to bed at a decent our and sleep well.  So, until next time.

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3 thoughts on “To The Edge And Back

  1. i love the pictures. they really remind me of uenomura (gunma-ken), the village where I used to live.

    you are right…the amount of infrastructure in japan, even in extremely rural settings is remarkable. i have a theory that some of the roads/tunnels/erosion control devices/etc exist simply to employ people. just like a lot of the touristy areas in japan. it seems like every town has something they are “famous” for. what is your town famous for? konnyaku? the biggest ball of seaweed?

  2. Hi Izzy,

    I agree, I think a lot of the projects are done just to scare up jobs, especially in the rural areas. I wonder which county has the most tunnel mileage in the world; Japan must be close.

    Kanazawa actually has some legit claims to fame: one of the ‘best 3’ gardens, along with a pretty rich history and well preserved downtown area. I can’t think of any weird things they’re famous for, perhaps having the crappiest drivers in Japan?

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