Teddy and I both really like waterfalls. So much, in fact, that this morning, we woke up at 6 am to catch a 6:44 train and transfer twice. We traveled 120 km in about 3 hours on the train. Once we arrived, we walked 8 km because the buses in that town ran so infrequently.
We took the train to Mikawaono, a local stop on the Iida line. So local, in fact, that the trains only run 1 time every 1-3 hours. We got off the train, and looked at the bus schedule. The buses ran less than once per hour. So, I pulled out my trusty Samsung Galaxy and navigated us towards the falls. Once we got onto the path, we were able to rely mainly on street signs, with brief reliance on the smart phone to make sure we were going the correct way at unmarked forks in the road.
This town was so inaka (Japanese for “the boons”) that people DROVE to the vending machines. There is no ticket gate at the station – you literally hand the conductor your ticket as you get off. We saw cows. We saw Mamushi (more on them later). I actually lost all cell phone reception near our destination. And we were hitch-offered (more on that later, too).
Found our first sign! Let’s go! Time for a LONG walk!
Walking along the country roads.
The water was super clear!
Pretty roses. This variety seems to be very popular in Japan.
A mossy Japanese style bridge.
This sign was warning us to watch out for “Mamushi” and “Suzumebachi”. I had never heard of or seen a “Mamushi” before, but I have some experience with Suzumebachi. Suzumebachi are horrible gigantic, acid shooting wasps from Hell. That is the best way to describe them. They can fly extremely fast, are the size of a grown person’s thumb (at least), and have a very strong venom. They can also spray acid at you if they so please, which has a smell that will attract its friends. If you are stung once and are not allergic to bees, you are fine, but it will hurt like hell. If you are stung again, it can kill you because the venom is highly allergenic. Luckily, these horrible creatures are mainly seen in the mountains, so you will not usually see them in normal Japan. I didn’t see these today.
After that creepy warning, we are rewarded by the falls!
A water shrine in front of the falls. You better believe I put in my 5 yen donation for protection from those awful mamushi and suzumebachi. Five yen coins are considered lucky, so many people use them at shrines and temples.
These falls are called Atera no Nanataki. The “Atera” part is the name of a temple. “Nanataki” means “Seven waterfalls”.
Teddy in front of the falls.
Me in front of the falls, with my Steeler pride.
A small Jizo shrine near the falls. Jizo is the protector of children. Parents who lose children prior to birth or shortly after will often bring offerings to these shrines to pray that Jizo will protect the souls of their children. Children who die at a young age cannot pass into the afterlife, and must be protected from monsters by Jizo.
A closer shot of the Falls.
Teddy found a lizard!
The lizard is hiding! Can you find him?
So, Teddy found a cute lizard. I found a mamushi. Do you see how huge it is? A mamushi, apparently, is the most venomous snake in Japan. A bite can land you in the hospital for a week on average, followed by 1-6 months of out patient recovery. We froze, waited for the snake to slither across, and walked slowly and quietly behind it. No thank you.
After passing Mamushi-san, we walked to the bus stop. It wasn’t too clear on which direction the bus traveled, so we stopped in this little restaurant near the parking lot for the falls. When I asked, the lady told me that the bus took 2 hours and 45 minutes to make its rounds, and that the city had ONE BUS. I had joked earlier to Teddy about how we should hitchhike, and funnily enough, a teacher who was dining in the restaurant offered to drive us to the station when he was done. We gladly accepted.
Unfortunately, when we got back to the station, we found that, because we had missed the 12:45 train, we had to wait until 3 for the next train to come. Really. So, we ate some lunch, and explored a bit near the station.
We found even more cute lizards, though!
This sakura tree grew two colors of blossoms!
We found another Jizo.
We also found Andante Cafe, which had delicious cake sets of a drink, cake, kanten (Japanese style Jello made from plants), sherbert, and fruit for 700 yen.
The jelly was black tea flavor, the sherbert was berry flavor, the one cake was white cake, and the other was chestnut roll cake. Super yummy!
After finishing our cake, we went back to the station. You couldn’t even buy tickets here, seriously. We were bound for Shinshiro, and we just told them where we came from when we got there so they knew how much we needed to pay. Craziest thing I’ve ever seen.
The next entry will be about Shinshiro.