Sunday, 11 October 2009

Born to be mild

There are times in a man's life, wonderful though domesticity may be, that he has to get the hell out of the house, and yesterday was such a day. If you are getting the hell out, then Aizu is the very heaven you need to get out into. My particular golden cloud of choice was a lovely fast three hour circuit with a good pass in the middle, this day tinged with the first lick of autumn.

Looking back on the climb between Yokota and Fuzawa

I took a few minutes after the tension and adrenalin had worn off to stop at a sign marking the site of a secret Christian village from the Edo period when to refuse to stamp on an image of Jesus could mean a very inventive and painful death. It wasn't clear if the graves clustering at the edge of the forest were from the village or later. There were no Christian symbols on them, but no nearby later houses either - though there could well have been. The draining of young people into the cities since the fifties has led to a contraction from the less hospitable sites of habitation which is still continuing. If I were in fear of my life I would have chosen the slightly more hidden valley off to the side of the main valley, though even then it is hard to imagine in these close-knit communities that it was actually a secret. The local population must have known, but very sensibly did not want to pass it on to the kind of authorities that would do something horrible about it. Best leave them to it, eh? Just swop a few veg every now and then. I will explore on foot another day.


Or up here, round the corner and tucked away? Note the gratuitous bike shot.

The cobwebs were completely blown away by a fast descent into Fuzawa - and it's sadly closed down primary school - swooping through the hamlets and crammed-in paddies on the way down to the big valley that cuts south from Tadami. I had an entertaining race with an O-ji-san (elder) on a moped with something vegetable strapped on the back. I overtook him on a nice straight section, and hammered away, though the bugger caught me on an uphill, dammit. Sadly, I don't think he was aware he was in a race, it not being part of his normal universe to compete with a manic gaijin whilst taking the veg home. He is probably a demon at the gateball though, dog eat dog, no holds barred.

There are good roads both side of the river heading for Tadami, but I like the one on the east side as it is quieter...erm...even quieter and gives good views of the rock slabs that make up much of the riverbed. On 252 heading east, I enjoyed the strangely comical sight of a band of motorcyclists on extreme choppers coming the other way. Their hands were way above their heads to reach the lofty bars, which gave them the look of praying mantises or conductors about to deliver a huge orchestral stab. They may well have been fashion angels rather than hell's angels, salarymen on an expensive rebellion jag, but  if you actually drop out here, you don't eat, let alone buy custom bikes.

Their small front wheels were extended way out front, with lines of chrome lights up the forks. Very stylish, very post-modern Peter Fonda, but the prospect of negotiating zig-zags with a drop beyond the crash barrier with such a set-up is truly terrifying, and if they managed to teeter and wobble over 252 to the Niigata side, they have my respect.

Now there's a race I'd fancy, never mind the mopeds. Come on boys, it's just you on your bikes, me on mine, and 15km of downhill mountain road. I'll bring the veg.


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