More Discoveries with Nils: Mountain Roads and Spooky Forests
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Not to become an all-Nils blog, but another post about our little scooter ride into Northern Kyoto that yielded the photogenic posts “A Visit to Rengeji Temple” and “The Hakuryuuen Gardens.” We continued into the mountains north of Kyoto, past Kibune and Kurama, way north past civilization into the deep forest, up the mountain.

I had been on the particular road many times, but never on a scooter (and was impressed with how it handled the steep road with 450lbs of passengers... not bad for a 125cc scooter!). Near the summit we thought to turn around and head back when I noticed a small gravel path leading deeper into the mountain. At its entrance were small signs about hiking trails, and a place called “pretty view”, so we decided to check it out.

It quickly turned into a rough, narrow, bumpy road that I would not want to take in a normal car (a 4×4 would have had no problem), and I wondered what on earth it might be for. Japanese mountains are full of essentially abandoned roads that were used at one time during dam construction or the like, so perhaps that's what this was (though on second thought, we were so high near the top of the mountain, I don't think a dam would do much good).

After some time, we came across the most eerie sight: a clearing with a well-preserved big American-style motor home surrounded by tall weeds, a small well-built shack that looked as if it was made from old railroad ties, and several house foundations that were bare save a chimney jutting up....

What on Earth? -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
What on Earth?

There were well-worn paths leading away from the gravel road even deeper into the woods, and as we ventured in to check it out, Nils was cracking lines like “this is where I like to dispose of the bodies”. It was sort of an odd, creepy place, but its weirdness value skyrocketed when a hundred yards in we came across what appeared to be a turret or the top of a castle tower..

Mega Creepy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos
Mega Creepy

Nils' best guess is that it was a blind for hunting, perhaps wild boar. I dunno.

From there, down the mountain, we noticed trees with white-painted trunks, which has its own oddness...

Trees with White Trunks -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/100 sec, f/3.2, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Trees with White Trunks

From a distance I thought it might be paint or a wrapping... something to preserve against bugs, along the lines of the tree snuggies that I've posted about, but closer inspection showed that they were surrounded with squiggly plastic things, held tight by wrapped wire...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 35 mm — 1/100 sec, f/3.2, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos

The white plastic things littered the ground, and there were bundles of wire all over...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/100 sec, f/5, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos

I had absolutely no idea what any of it was for, but Nils suddenly realized: it's a tree farm where they prepare ceder trunks to be tokobashira (床柱), the main support post in a traditional Japanese house's tokonoma alcove (床の間). The trees continue to grow after being wrapped, and the wood gets a certain kind of prized moulded look.

Prized -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm — 1/100 sec, f/5.6, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
Prized
Not Yet Prized -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 44 mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Yet Prized

In either case the bark will be removed and the wood polished before it's used. I was searching around the web for a photo of a finished tokobashira and all I found was a picture of me (Nils' photos from the same trip).

Eventually, we returned to the scooter and continued along in search for the “pretty view” location, but the road became so rutty and bouldered that it was impassable on bike. So, we returned to the main road, but along the way paused to climb a short hill to get a nice (but hazy) view East out to Biwako....

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/640 sec, f/9, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

The tower from Kyoto's “I Fall” Tower is about half way between here and the lake, and about at half the elevation, but I guess is too low to be seen from this view.

I thought that the ugly tower at this location looked familiar, and indeed, I think it's because you can see it from Kyoto on a clear day. I found the following photo from a crisp day in February, taken from 10 miles away in Kyoto City proper not all that far from my place, near the corner of Kawabata and Imadegawa. The bottom of the tower peaking out from under the clouds in the upper left of the frame...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 340 mm — 1/500 sec, f/10, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos

This was from the same shoot that produced “More Thin-Depth-of-Field Fun” and the humorous ““Untitled 2009”.” It's also the same location that produced, on a much nicer spring day, “A Pleasant Day Along the Kamo River.”


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