Welcome to Hatano – population roughly 20, with 11 standing houses and one slowly crumbling temple.
I recently picked up a detailed map of Kawamoto Town, with the hopes of discovering roads that I have not yet traveled. I immediately recognized a tiny mountain road leading up behind Shimane Chuo High School. I’d ridden my bike halfway up the steep road once before, but I hadn’t had the energy to complete the journey. I’d been curious ever since.
Today was the day – sunny with a cool breeze, traffic scarce… I took off just a little bit early from work and headed up the mountain. I turned onto a narrow road where a sign suggested it might lead to Denzui (the characters are den (rice field) and sui (water)). I eventually came to a fork in the road where another sign was pointing the way to the village of Hatano. I hadn’t noticed Hatano on the map. I thought I’d see if the road went through.
After another 15 minutes through thick mountain forest I came out on top of the mountain. There were a few scattered houses and several elderly folks out working in their fields. I passed through the town and found a road that I recognized heading back down into Central Kawamoto. The view from the top of the ridge was incredible.
I didn’t want to go back to Kawamoto, so I turned around and passed through Hatano again. This time, however, I pulled over near the home of an old man who was out on his front steps pulling weeds. I bowed hello and he took of his hat with a big smile and said: “My hearing’s not so good…why don’t you raise your voice a bit and tell me where you’re from.” We spoke for a few minutes, during which time he shared with me his version of the story of Hatano:
He was born in the same house he currently resides in 90 years and 7 months ago. The house was built 3 years before he was born. He lives alone now, but gets a ride into Kawamoto every once in a while as there aren’t any shops/restaurants/grocery stores in Hatano. I asked what the population of Hatano was and he counted off with ease the number of people living in each home in the tiny village. His name is Oomura-san (Oo: Big, Mura: Village) – he’s Mr. Big Village living in a tiny village in the mountains of Kawamoto. He laughed openly at the irony.
I returned to Kasubuchi by following the same road out the other side of the mountain – discovering ripe plums, waterfalls, and fern forests along the way.
A beautiful detour.