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Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road

JAPAN | Thursday, 29 August 2019 | Views [117]

Stay hydrated, Shirakami-sanchi National Park

Stay hydrated, Shirakami-sanchi National Park

JOHN IS PRETTY COMFORTABLE DRIVING ON THE LEFT as they do here in Japan.  He has had enough practice, after all — nearly a year in Australia and New Zealand, half a year in South Africa, several trips to the UK and even six months in Uganda on a motorcycle.  The automatic transmission in our mini-Nissan March makes it even easier but he still tends to switch on the wipers when making a right turn.

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                       Pumpkin and Sayuri show us the way 

We are in Hirosaki in northern Honshu where Shirakami-sanchi National Park drew Connie like a magnet.  For here there might be birds.  Our Nissan — all rental cars in Japan, I suspect — comes equipped with a multi-lingual GPS.  We named ours Pumpkin, after the character in Memoirs of a Geisha.  She gives directions in English but all of the commands are written in Japanese.  Instead of an address, you enter a phone number.  And it works, mostly.  Anyway, it got us as far as the national park visitor center in Nishimeya where Sayuri pointed out the rest of the way on the map.  

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                  Omaya Sankei Parade on the way to Little Fuji

While we were getting directions a parade had formed up.  Drums banged, kids chanted, flutes tootled and long paper dragons snaked along behind the procession.  After I took some photos we walked back to ask Sayuri “wassup?”  Omaya Sankei appears to be a local Nishimeya ritual for a successful harvest that starts in town and goes up, up, up to the 1625 meter summit of Mt. Iwaki, aka “Little Fuji.”

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   Follow them!                                  You are where??

The road became narrow and twisty inside the park, climbing as it corkscrewed.  After a about 10 km — it seemed longer — we crossed a river and found ourselves in a parking lot.  We are notorious for not finding the trailhead so we followed some locals wearing high-tech boots and carrying packs.  Turns out the trail to the waterfall was closed due to the recent heavy rains so we followed a hilly loop trail for a few miles until it, too, was closed.  We were hoping to see the native black woodpecker but strangely, there were no birds — not a one — just the towering beech trees and a few mushrooms.  Oh, well, it was good to be out and it didn’t rain.  Much.

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   Apples priced like gold                     Rice everywhere you look 

This is apple country.  And rice, course.  Every spare meter is planted in rice, much like the vineyards in Napa.  The apples are just reddening but after seeing the prices at the market, I wouldn’t want to be caught nicking one.  Grand theft apple!  Recently we’ve noticed that apple trees have gotten smaller, probably grafted to make harvesting easier and safer.  Some of the old school trees have had their branches twisted downward so they are growing more horizontal like grapevines.



     Manually, not genetically modified apple trees


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