Setsuko Watanabe's World Sketches

Japanese page

Native Land - Japan

1. Early Fall in the Tashiroyama Swamp of Minami Aizu

I was born and raised in Tokyo, so I have no rural hometown. But I have discovered a nostalgic place in Japan. I should probably keep it a secret, but if you're willing to read my clumsy writing, I'll share it with you.

Fields at Twilight
Fields at Twilight
Copyright1998 Shiro Watanabe
Along a mountain torrent in the heart of the Tashiroyama Swamp, there is a village which will make you catch your breath. There's nothing really worth mentioning there, except for nature, severe but beautiful, and the people who continue to live closely alongside it- all woven into poetic scenes of the four seasons. It makes me feel nostalgic and I visit there often.

"Chasing rabbits in this mountain, fishing for crucian carp in that river" is probably sung about this setting. An ordinary rural district- in the past, it could have been found anywhere but now cannot be found anywhere.

No, that's not true. Throughout the world, there are beautiful and nostalgic villages where nature and people exist in harmony.

Stillness, clear streams, mountain waves, mushrooms, edible mountain plants, buckwheat fields, paddy fields, apple orchards, tasty vegetables, pure spring water, local sake, rustic fishing docks, landlocked salmon, charrs, crucian carp fishing, hidden hot springs along mountain torrents, hollows covered in colorful flowers, cool breezes, dry and clear air. And the people of the land- awkward with words, but sincere.

Tashiroyama Swamp
Tashiroyama Swamp
Copyright1998 Shiro Watanabe
Tashiroyama Swamp (1,926 meters above sea level) is a flower bed of alpine plants. Every time I come here, I am greeted by different flowers. I have climbed up the steep mountain path of volcanic rock and hemlock, oshirabiso and katsura trees many times- a trip which takes over an hour and a half- because I want to see each season's flowers. When I visited at the end of August, the mountaintop swamp was clearly showing signs of autumn. Among the Oze bellflowers, goldenrods, yamahahako, droseras and other flowers, the remaining day lilies were reflected here and there on the water's surface- an impressive sight. I saw the elegance of both the flowers that were beginning to bloom and those that were beginning to wither as the end of summer approached. Swarms of dragonflies, in a wild dance, dashed against me. As the fog suddenly cleared, I had a panoramic view of the Nikko and Nasu mountain ranges and Aizu Kogen highlands.

When the day lilies are in full bloom, the area is crowded with people who've come to appreciate its beauty. But today- although it is a Sunday- I have only met about 20 people. Even so, in the ten years since it's been possible to go part-way up the mountain by car and with the clearing of a logging road, the number of people coming here has increased. There are also plans to build a campground. And talk has come up of cutting down the Ohara virgin beech forest, the water source for the area, to build a promenade. The local people are worried about the effects of these activities on nature's systems.

Map of Tashiroyama Swamp and surrounding areas

Copyright1998 Setsuko Watanabe

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