Thursday, 2 August 2007

Ayu Fishing

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I saw some Ayu fishermen in the Araya river . Ayu fishing is a popular pastime in rural Japan as I often see people fishing for Ayu in the local rivers. The Ayu is a small territorial fish and the lure used represents the Ayu with some hooks attached. Fishermen then use a 9 - 10 mtr rod to try and hook them from below. As the Ayu is very territorial they will fight with another fish invading their patch of the river and when this happens they get hooked. Fishermen also use the fish they have recently caught as bait to attract fish as well. Pictured above is some Ayu Fishermen in the Araya river in the hills above Mikawa

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

View from the Agano river

The above photo of the Gozu Mt range was taken from the bridge on my way back into Niigata City. This is the mountain range that's in the center of the big loop that I rode around. I left home at 7am that morning and returned at 3pm, covering a distance of 122 km and drinking 10 ltrs of water. Now the weather is so hot I won't be able to do another long ride like this until Sept at least.

Mountain Village

The above photo shows a typical Niigata mountain village, there are many of these villages along side busy mountain roads throughout Niigata. In the summer they are very nice places to visit but in winter the heavy snow in these villages can reach over 2 mtrs in some cases. These villages are manly inhabited by older people and because there are no shops at all they have to journey over an hour or more to larger centers for their weekly shopping etc.

Araya river farm house

Pictured above is a typical rural farmhouse , originally these houses would have had thatched roofs but over the years many home owners have covered the roofs with corrugated iron or roofing tiles painted blue. As there are fewer people around now capable of re thatching a house and it's very expensive as well, that's the reason for the above mentioned alterations. This house is situated up the valley next to the Araya river.

Araya river

After departing Akatani Village there were a few small hill climbs followed by some fantastic downhill sections towards the village of Mikawa. Before reaching Mikawa I took a side road and followed the Araya river , I had often wondered what was up this valley on previous rides along this road and as I had plenty of time I decided to do some exploring. The photo in this post was taken from a small bridge further up the river , it seemed to be very popular spot for Ayu fishing and the water was crystal clear giving the fisherman a good chance to spot any fish that may have been lurking. It is easy to spot Ayu fisherman as they use a special rod which is about 9 - 10 mtrs long and they are often fully clad in wetsuits. After taking the photo in this post I headed up the road further alongside the beatiful Araya river, usually Japanese rivers have large concrete embankments but the Araya river is very natural and not unlike rivers back in my homeland of NZ. The road seemed to go on for quite a distance so after a while I turned around to make my way back to the main rd towards Mikawa.

An Akatani village house

When I lived in Shibata several years ago one of my favorite places to ride was up the cycle path towards Akatani village where some friends of mine lived. On passing through Akatani yesterday I noticed that many of the older houses in the village had fallen in to a state of disrepair, part of this would be that many of the younger generation have left small rural villages like this to take up jobs in the city rather than continue farming etc. And because of that many of the family homes now remain empty and run down. A few families have moved from the city to these rural villages taking advantage of the cheap rent and the quiet lifestyle but not enough to make a big difference. Pictured in this post is one of the more attractive houses located in the village

Shibata to Akatani cycle rd

After heading along route 290 I took a short cut over a small hill behind a local golf course to meet up with the Shibata to Akatani cycle rd. I used to ride this cycle road quite often when I lived in Shibata and it brought back many fond many memories of the trips I took while living there. This was the first time I had been back to this area for 6 years so it was nice to be cycling up the valley towards Akatani once again. About 8 years ago the Shibata city Govt constructed a fantastic cycle road on the old railway line from Shibata to Akatani, the original line went beyond Akatani further into the hills to the coal mine. Even though the cycle rd stops a little short of Akatani village itself , it offers cyclists & walkers fantastic views of the local country side with rest stops & toilets along the way. It is not only used for recreation as many locals who live along this cycle path use it regularly to commute to work or school. So in my view it would be better if local Government's spent more money on projects like this, than building more highways that are not heavily used because of the high road tolls involved. The photo in this post shows a view of the cycle road looking towards the hills of Akatani

Sasagami Mura spring

After leaving Niigata my first water stop was in the village of Sasagami where I knew of two springs that would be perfect for filling up my 2 ltr camelbak . I stopped by a spring that is well hidden near a school, behind a sports field. After waiting a few minutes for some locals to fill up their large water containers I then filled my camelbak up with fresh cool spring water. These fresh water springs are fantastic and the water tastes so nice as well, often people from the city drive out to these countryside locations to collect their weekly water supply. Pictured in this post is the Sasagami mura spring

The big loop ( distance 122 km )

Well as I had a day off yesterday and I knew it was going to be fine , I decided to do the big loop which was a ride from my home here in Niigata City out along the Agano river and across to Sasagami mura and along route 290 towards Shibata City then up the cycle rd into Akatani and down to Mikawa and then back to Niigata City. It sounds easy when you put it like that but in reality it's a very hard ride with some decent hill climbs and the hot humid weather made it even tougher. I noticed a temp gauge in one village that read 32 deg and if it wasn't for owning a 2 ltr camelbak ( drink system ) I wouldn't have attempted this ride in such hot weather as I consumed 10 ltrs of water throughout the ride. I stopped at fresh water springs to refill my camelbak throughout the journey and had lunch at a convenience store at Mikawa station before heading back along route 49 back into Niigata city. Pictured above is a map showing the big loop