the shorter 5-vignette version
the extended raw footage (3-minutes)
We took a one-night trip to the bottom of Wakayama prefecture this weekend. Wakayama is the prefecture south immediately to the south of Osaka. Most of the prefecture is pretty off the beaten track and was even more off the beaten track before Kansai Airport was built. The furthest south most Japanese tourists seem to get is the onsen/beach resort area of Shirahama, about halfway down the eastern Wakayama coast.
We rode along bending, beautiful coastal roads, with sight-lines only marred by a little more coastal concrete barriers than you’d like to see. We took a combination of local JR trains and hitchhiked. Lighthouses, crows, small fishing towns could be seen through rain-streaked windows. I don’t surf myself, but I’ve heard that Katsuura is one of the better surf spots in this part of Japan (as I’ve written elsewhere, I’m always impressed by this patience here in Japan to wait for small waves at crowded surf spots).
We eventually got down south to a small, budget ryokan. The next day we were met by the father of a teacher I work with in Osaka. He is a tour guide in the area. He took us to Nachi Falls, such a beautiful waterfall, where even the moss and the surrounding rocks seem like they could not be better placed. Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine is here – it is one of the first three Kumano shrines, from which 3000 other Kumano shrines in Japan are said to originate. Our guide explained to us that more than a 1000 years ago, Paekche Koreans arrived here. Apparently, in ancient times, there was a concentration of Koreans in the Nara area north of here. Frankly, I couldn’t fully understand the explanation I was hearing as it was in Japanese, and searching for extra details on the net certainly consumes some time.
On the way back to Osaka, we ended up stuck on the side of the highway as it was getting dark. It was drizzling and I began to worry that we wouldn’t get picked up, and it seemed like trains were hardly running. Fortunately, someone picked us up – a man pretty keen to practice his very limited English, and not open to the idea that I might somehow be able to converse in Japanese. Much appreciated ride, though. Saved us, in fact.
Update: I just watched the Cove, the documentary about an annual dolphin slaughter. Many of the places looked familiar. Looking at a map, I realize the Nachikatsuura area immediately surrounds the town of Taiji, where the documentary the Cove (about an annual dolphin slaughter) was made. It’s such a beautiful, spiritual place. I hope the nearby town will find a way to prosper and that the dolphins will be left alone.
Update: It’s early 2010, and I’ve just seen the Cove, the documentary film about the dolphin slaughter. I realized as I watched this film that it must surely have been made in the same area. I then looked at the map, and could see that the Taiji fishing village is basically it’s own administrative zone, bordered on all sides (except the coastal side) by the Nachikatsuura district.