11-Aug-2003 -- The last remaining land confluence in the Tohoku prefecture is near the historic town of Hiraizumi, a town famous as the 11th to 12th century cultural and political center of the Fujiwara family which then ruled Japan. Today there are many beautiful temples around the town. My Taiwanese friend An (she co-discovered the first and, to date, only confluence point found in Taiwan) and myself traveled here during Japan's Obon summer holiday. After a day of walking around temples I was ready to head out to the confluence.
One great advantage of being near this historical town turned out to be that there were bicycle rentals. Though the bike setup was for going around to the temples, for me it also turned out to be the primary vehicle in getting to this confluence, making it a pleasant journey. An and I left Hiraizumi on bikes together and went out first to Takkoku temple, which was a little less than half of the 15 km or so it was out to the confluence. The temple, built into a cave of volcanic ash, turned out to be the most serene and enchanting of all the temples in the Hiraizumi area. An was not interested in going further to the confluence and took photos around temples instead.
I had gone over the road route to the confluence with the local tourist agency. The most direct route involved weaving around lots of little back roads to get to a more prominent highway. But they warned me that there were lots of ups and downs through the hilly countryside.
And so it was. But it was very scenic: small farms, flower gardens, forest groves and cow pastures. The uphill areas were a little too steep, and given that my simple bike didn't have any gears, I ended up walking my bike up hills. Rocketing downhill was refreshing in the humid air.
Once at the prominent highway it was only a short dash away to get to within only 300 meters of the confluence. It appeared to be in a rice field of what seemed to be a large production farm. However, I rode my bicycle through the farm, down a double track dirt path and found that the point was out of bounds of the farm.
I went as far as I could go toward the southeast extent of the farm, but there was a deep, highly vegetated gorge with a full river rolling through it. The confluence was now only 90 meters away, but it was somewhere on the other side of the river. I walked toward the edge and realized that this was not going to be easy because the side of the gorge was very steep and extremely vegetated. So I walked a little way along the edge of the rice plantation.
A little further up was a new Mitsubishi SUV parked on the side of the plantation. After wandering past it to look for a way into the gorge, I came back to it to figure out why it was there - had it's owner left to go down to the gorge? Sure enough, there was an old, rarely used, overgrown trail leading down from near the Mitsubishi. I followed it through forest, down the side of the gorge and down to the river.
At the river was an old bridge that had been half destroyed, but a log had been placed across the broken half. As I went out across the bridge and took a look at the river, I noticed a man fishing in a dark corner under the bridge. There were few people in this area, so it must have been the owner of the Mitsubishi. He never saw me. I didn't say anything because I thought I might have startled him.
I crossed the river and followed the old trail. I ran into a lot of spider webs between overgrown stalks of vegetation. The trail began heading in the wrong direction and I knew I was going to have to leave it. Fortunately there was what appeared to be an old pine forest grove which lacked a lot of the usual vegetation. Crossing through 100-200 meters of it I closed in to within 30 or 40 meters of the confluence. This last section was to be hell going through thick vegetation, but at least it was only 40 meters!
Having successfully located the confluence, coming back was a great treat. I cleaned off sweat, dirt and cobwebs by taking a refreshing dip in the river, and riding back to Hiraizumi, I had figured out that the longer, highway route was entirely downhill. I careened and coasted back to Hiraizumi having had the best day of my Obon holiday.