The heat is really making it difficult to sleep beyond 7AM, so, we’ve been forced to get up early. It should be a good thing, getting up early and starting our daily travels. Yet somehow, we still don’t manage to leave ‘base’ until mid-morning. Today I spent the morning catching up posting the past few days worth of blogs.
It was another scorchingly hot morning/day, though the skies have been beautifully clear, so I’m not going to complain about the weather. It’s bringing back memories of Brisbane summers.
I asked a friend (that used to live in Akita) about his recommendations in the area, one of which was Oga Peninsula. I hadn’t heard of it, nor the namahage that it’s famous for. Trusting him, we set course for the west (Japan Sea) coast.
The first hints about namahage came when we pulled into a giant information area in Oga City. Out the front were giant demon-like characters, wearing straw clothing. Inside the information kiosk, we watched a quick video about the history of namahage. Every year, at New Year’s Eve, men dress up in elaborate costume, including a demon-like mask and straw clothing. They visit every house in the area (with children) and ask if there are any bad/crying children. They lecture/threaten the children, have a bite to eat and a quick nip of sake and take off to the next home to do the same. It’s ridiculous odd, and I would love to see it!
We grabbed a few brochures about the Oga Peninsula and read it over a plate of the local version of yakisoba. It was made using seafood (instead of meat), and had a slimy seaweed side-seasoning. It was actually quite a nice combination (the seafood/yakisoba), certainly something that I would consider again.
In the brochure, one sight that stood out was Ohtaki (big waterfall). So, we made a rough route to it, as well as trying to take in as many of the ‘sights’ as possible. The waterfall was connected to the main road by a road that was under construction. It was odd, the road was paved in thick iron sheets, one after the other for hundreds of meters. Must have cost a fortune… The road was like a goat-track, and there were signs prompting you to beep your horn, to warn other drivers of your presence. Finally we arrived at a tiny car park, where we realised that it was still another 30 minute walk to the waterfall. It was already 1:30PM, and it was extremely hot/muggy outside, so I actually was considering just driving on and giving the waterfall a miss. The actual path was fun enough in itself (apart from my thongs that require constant repairs), criss-crossing over a small creek until finally arriving at the waterfall.
The waterfall was more amazing than it appeared in the brochure. A small stream fell down through a hole above. It wasn’t large, maybe only 15m in height, but we were extremely lucky with our timing, as the sun was just shining through the same hole that the water was falling through. It was spectacular, honestly. And to consider that I’d nearly not bothered just because it was hot! (although, the path was nice and cool, walking through a cool creek certainly helped cool us down). Just as I was taking my final photo, a large branch from a tree above fell less than a meter from where I was standing. Absolutely scared the crap out of me. I looked up, and there were three or four trees precariously perched above me, ready to fall at any moment. Needless to say, I took that last photo then got the frick away from there.
On a high from seeing such a beautiful sight (the waterfall), we left to continue exploring the area, driving around the beautiful (and inaccessible) coastline, taking in the beautiful scenery of the Japan Sea coastline (including another, and inferior, Godzilla rock).
It was getting into rush-hour traffic, so to avoid any congestion/traffic travelling through Akita City, we jumped on the toll-road and headed to Kyowa for dinner which was a cumin rich chicken cacciatore made by Risa.
Only thing left to do was bathe and sleep. There was nothing available (that we could see) in Kyowa, so we headed to Kakunodate (which Risa described as being like the Kyoto of the north, not that she’s been, just from what she’s read), had a quick onsen and headed to a michi-no-eki just outside of town to sleep.