So, back to the tale at hand, where I left off on Wednesday, 6/22, with a brief sketch of the morning in Sendai before going back to the coast.
Our presentations Wednesday, and I've talked with Masami about this, were not good. Some scheduling goofs, sure, and some language stuff, maybe, but no coherent structure, even in the handouts. For me, it gets back to: what kind of information do the Japanese have to give, and what kind of information do we Portlanders need? Obviously, there's no perfect overlap, so our challenge as participants is to sort the two out. Personally, I've been trying to look at all of this through a NET lens; some talks have fared better than others. Our Wednesdays speakers have done intriguing work in the aftermath, but I struggle to find the relevance to Portland. Labor trends in Northern Japan, no matter how extensive the surveys, just....I'm still working on it. Someone else in the group may very well be thinking "oh, you know what that reminds me of?"
After a quick lunch, we jumped in our crazy little buslet, our demi-bus, our busette, and motored up to the mountain road to Rikuzen-takata. I'm putting in a hyphen that isn't normally there, because it makes it clearer to my English-reading eyes where the pronunciation break is. In case you were wondering.
The trip up to the turnoff was hair-raising, even for me, because the bus's suspension was so shot that, at highway speeds, any lane change or course correction caused the back of the bus to roll madly from side to side, to the VISIBLE consternation of our fellow motorists. Official protests from within the bus were lodged and received....
Fortunately, the bus behaved better at lower speeds and, once we turned off into the mountains, there was no doubting this road's intention to have us drive at lower speeds. Which gave us a better look at the farms, the forests, the road up ahead/down below...
It's worth noting here how much rice is grown in Japan. I'd never given it much thought, but apparently Japan is self-sufficient for rice, if not much else. The paddies are everywhere (EVERYwhere), including stair-stepped up these mountainsides. I've seen a bit of corn and some clover cover crops, but so far, it has been 98% rice. It's like driving through Iowa, except I'd expect to see some soy even there. Here...nope. Is it possible that it's being imported from Iowa?
This was also the road that will have inspired a post on native/invasive plants in Japan. There's just no escaping it. OR knotweed. I don't want to talk about it right now.
But I will.
So, this is the road with real switchbacks, but also something I'm not sure I've ever seen before: a corkscrew. The road descends off a pass, goes out into the valley on its concrete stilty piers, and then drops down under itself to continue down the valley. It just seemed so random and almost theme-parky, especially where they closed our lane for construction at the very bottom. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a picture, but I don't evem know if that'd capture it. Too bad Barb slept through it. Sleeps on buses motoring through hairpin turns: Barb's pretty hardcore.
As we made it through the mountains to the coast, the rain intensified, making our arrival tour pretty soggy. But that's more related to other Rikuzen-takata stuff from Thursday. Stay tuned...