I am fortunate to have a friend like Tomo. He and I take a photographic journey every summer. Each year we go someplace different and wander around with our cameras chatting away as we go. This broiling summer Tomo suggested that we head to Chiba Prefecture’s country side. A place called Yorokeikoku Valley. We were blessed by some cloudy weather, so it wasn’t as hot as it could have been. We even got caught in some rain, but it didn’t dampen our mood one bit.
It was a bit of a challenge to just get to, but the journey is what makes it so magical. I met up with Tomo at Shin Urayasu station and boarded the Keiyo Rapid train out to Soga. At Soga, we transferred to the Uchibo Line until we reached the little station commuter station of Goi. There the real journey began. We bought an all day pass to ride the Kominato line. It is known for its one or two car trains. The train otakus (geeks) love to ride and photograph this line. There was even an old fashioned train girl who would sell, inspect, and punch the traveler’s tickets.
We got off about 3 stations before the last one and started to walk some of the old country roads. It was a great feeling to be out of the heat of the city, and be surrounded by farms, cicadas, and trees. We passed though some tunnels which here in Japan have the reputation for being haunted on our way to the next station. We had to wait a good 45 minutes since the Kominato line comes only about once or at the most twice an hour.
Being out in the country I am reminded how much more there is to Japanese society than the city. In fact, most of Japan was an agricultural society up until very recently. Most of the society were subsistence farmers just a few notches above. The rural life was the Japanese life. Walking along the old roads and coming to a rice paddy that tucked into one corner is the family cemetery. The hillsides were dotted with tiny Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.
In an odd way I was reminded of the parks between the hills Berkeley and Contra Costa County. They are very country, even though you are only 45 minutes from San Francisco there are reminders that the city isn’t that far away. There were still signs of Japan’s industrialization at just about every turn we took.
All that is true, but the country is the country. The loud tranquility was a beautiful excursion from the hustle of Tokyo Life.
I look forward with an open heart to wander Japan’s rural side with camera in hand.