Monday, November 1, 2010

The countryside and trails of Japan - an inside look

Today's guest blog is from Barry, who lives in Japan and shares his thoughts, words, photography, and love of the beautiful Japanese countryside. (more below)

This view, this beauty

A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.
              -Bokusui Wakayama.

   In 1990,during the dying-days of the Gulf War, I saw a satellite-image of Kuwait and the devastation caused by Saddam Hussein’s troops, as they fled back to Iraq. The sight of the thick black smoke billowing into the atmosphere and the oil pouring into the sea horrified me, as I am sure it did to many others. To get my head around this, I took to the hills and went mountain-climbing ( Mt Arthur (1795m), Kahurangi National Park, Aotearoa/New-Zealand). When I arrived at the summit I stood and took a look at the panorama surrounding me, and realized that this crazy man, and others like him, could destroy all this. From that moment on I looked at this piece-of-rock, we call Planet Earth, with a different perspective. From that moment I came to appreciate and respect what we have here. From that moment I vowed to stop taking what we have here for granted and end the abuse that I am part of. And, from that moment I began to show more consideration for all the different life-forms that cohabitate on this planet.

   In 1993, on the eve of my departure of a months cycling tour of Ireland, I was sitting in a pub in Kilkenny having a beer with a local. The gentleman had taken an interest in my plans, and, during the course of our conversation, offered me the following advice; “The best way to see Ireland my son, is to keep-off the main road”. I took his advice, and, as a result, I was privileged to have seen, experienced and met parts of Ireland that not many others get. While the bulk of travelers moved-about the country in one form of motorized transport or another, and visiting the popular tourist sites, I could just get-off my bike, throw it over the fence, wander-through a paddock, and sit amongst the ruins of the 2,000-year old ruins of a fortress, while having lunch. The highlight of my trip took place one Wednesday morning about 10-past-9. I had pulled-into a small village for a refreshment stop. While there an old man walked past me, and, as he did so,  greeted me and offered me the following blessing; “May the good lord be with you on your travels my son”. To this very day, 17-years later, I still adhere to the advice given to me in the pub that night in ’93. Whether it’s to do with my plans, or advising someone about travel around my country (Aotearoa/New-Zealand) or here in Japan.

   I made my first trip to Japan in 2000. I came here for 3-weeks, and, while here, I visited a castle and a couple of shrines and temples. When I departed, I left with the impression that Japan had no “Great Outdoors”, of the like we have back home, that all available space was taken-up with the sprawling metropolis of the likes of Tokyo and Osaka Cities. And what  remained, was used for the vast network of roads, highways and rail-lines, or engulfed in the hundreds of reservoirs that dot the countryside, or with hectares of rice-fields. Oh how wrong I was. In late 2004 my Wife and I returned to Japan to live (making sure not to forget our mountain-bikes and hiking gear). Over the following 6-years I would clock-up over 14,000km on my bike and hundreds of kilometers hiking in the area where I live and other parts of the Kansai Region, all the while adhering to that piece of advice given to me in the pub in Kilkenny. And, like Ireland, I have come to see, experience and meet parts of Japan not many others get. Japan has some spectacular scenery. It is a country steeped in history, tradition and culture. And, no matter what part of Japan I visit, and regardless of my purpose for being there is, I am never failed to be amazed at the sheer beauty of what I am seeing/experiencing. Someone asked me recently what was the best part of Japan I have seen. My answer was all of them. With all the sites I have visited, I couldn’t place one ahead of the rest.
Barry relaxes on the trail.
   One of my many purposes, when in the outdoors, is appreciation and respect for what we have here. And the hope it will still be here for other generations who feel the same.
   I am not into the testosterone or adrenalin type of experiences (I’m too old), where one goes-out and performs crazy stunts, putting themselves and others at risk. As you can see in the photo, I just like to stop wherever I can, take-in my surroundings while having a bite-to-eat and a drink.

   I want to thank Kevin for giving me the opportunity of sharing my feelings and experiences on his website, and, over time, I look forward to sharing my trips with you all. If you have plans of visiting the Kansai region of Japan, and want to see/experience something that’s “off the main road”, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It would be my honor to share this very-scenic and beautiful country with you.

Doomo arigatoo gozaimashita

             Barry Barcock.

Thanks to Barry for sharing his experiences in Japan. I am always glad to view Barry's photos and read his trail descriptions. If you would like to look at some of Barry's trail guides including his Castles of the Kansai Region, follow this link



Mattm said...

I love the haikus at the beginning of this blog post.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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trailsnet said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Do not quite understand what is at stake.