A taxi is driving to the train station. I hope my reservation is working. Where is the bus? The driver tells me that I had to pruchase a ticket. Looks like I have a problem. But at least my seat is reserved. After a short discussion between the driver and the platform conductor I can pay cash. This was close. With every mile the bus is driving there is more snow in the mountain. Maybe I can see some snow in Shirakawa. Until now I always was one month to early.
Ogimachi is a white dream. The temperature is around the freezing point. But the snow is melting in the sunlight. But there is plenty of it left. This will last until tonight. I cross the river by using a extremly thin concrete bridge that is swinging with every footstep. On he other side the old houses are covered with snow. It looks like they sunk into the snow. I walk thru the old houses. (This is how Gothmund may look like after heavy snowfall.) I find the hiking trail that leads uphill to the view point. It is closed but I try it anyway. The way is covered with ice and snow but I manage to get to the top. From here I have a perfect view down to the postcard like scenery. The perfect view is only destroyed by the street that cuts the town into two peaces.
Ogimachi Gallery 1
Back in the valley I have some time left to walk thru the snowy streets. But with a look to my watch every few minutes there is no real holiday feeling. Too soon the hour is gone and I pace back to the bus station to pick up my luaggage. And than again over this strange bringe to the other side, because the bus is leaving there and not at the arriving bus station. Lucky for me that I can read Kanji and lucky for me that I spotted the bus stop earlier. It is not easy to pass the bridge with a heavy trolly. At the end of the bridge is a small step segment. I need three attemps.
At the bus stop I still have two minutes. Time for a coffee can and some postcards. The bus is on time. Like always in Japan. There is only one other passenger. After a few minutes I am in a conversation with the bus driver. I am “Doitsujin”. We stop several times on the way to Ainokura without a bus stop. The driver shows me old temple and houses. He opens the door so that I can take pictures. Cool.
In Ainokura I am lost. After the bus is gone there is just me, the bus stop and the street. But no village. I spot a sign that says 300m. OK. Not easy with a trolley and the half molten snow. At the beginning of the village is a big parking lot. The guard gives me a small map; nice. The Choyomon is one of the first few houses. Lucky. Because the snow is 1m high.
Ogimachi Gallery 2
I open the door and go inside. “Sumimansen”. An older women appears. The owner. We enter the central living room, without shoes. My room is just next to it behind a sliding door. The temperature inside is 45°F or less. I can see my breath. Then we go back to the central room an sit down next to the open fire. Fresh green tea is prepared. Cozy and cold at the same time. A small heater is spending a little warmth. A small sign says: “Do not use petrol. Only use kerosine.” This I call a bold statement.
At 2:45pm I feel the urge to go outside again. Taking picture. Ainokura is very small and in the middle of nowhere. I should cover everything including plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. All hiking trails leaving the village are blocked by snow. I visit the small museum that is located in one of the old houses. Not much to see but I can climb upstairs to the second floor. The roof construction is amazing. There are no nails. The beams are put togehter by ropes. Reed is applied in two layers.
I try to get uphill to the siteseeing spot. A lot of snow but I can manage, somehow. The view is nice. All I have to do is to wait for the magic hour. The way is leading further uphill and returns down on the other side of the village. My attempt is stopped after a few meter. Up to my knees I sink into the snow. Not easy to get out.
Back to the village. Btw. The weather is perfect. The sun is shining, no clouds. I roam thru the houses and stop at a small shop. Here I warm up with some hot nihonshu. I also buy some souvenirs. At 4:30pm, dawn is beginning, I go back to the sightseeing spot. The moon is just appearing above the mountains. It is not possible for me to catch the mood. Not without a tripod and HDR.
I built myselft a small camera platform with snow. I believe that one or two pictures are very nice. Downhill I stumble into a problem: It is dark and all the snow is white. No contours. Where is the pathway. I walk slow and carefully. If the snow is going up to my knees I am offroad.
I am back in time at the Choyamon for dinner. Fish is already broiling over the open fire. A second guest appears. The mother of the owner also arrives; this is a real obasan. Lucky for me the the other guest can translate, without him I would be lost after 4 words.
The TV is showing „Sasuke’s Rising“. The reminds me of Takeshi’s Castle, but the obstacles are really difficult. You need a lot of strength and endurance. After the show it is time for a hot bath. In the meantime the kerosine burner is heating up my room.
Before I call it a day, I go outside for another stroll thru the city. We are close to full moon. The snow is reflecting enough light to orientate. It is dead quiet. No birds, no wind in the trees, and no cars! Nothing. A few meters laters I hear water. The runlet is small and a couple of meter away, but I hear it. Amazing and relaxing.
The night is interrupted very three hours. The heating has a safety shutdown and needs to be restarted. Without it gets pretty cold within minutes. It is like a wakeup call. I just press start and crawl back into the futon for another three hours.