My Church

It is only because my parent took us on trips up to Mammoth, along the California coast, and to places such as Yosemite and Kern County, that I grew up in the outdoors, among majestic evergreens and splashing about in streams and rivers. Southern California used to have a rich watershed that supported steelhead and Grizzlies, but long ago they were dammed off, paved over, and methodically eliminated, or changed to the point where they were unrecognizable from their previous natural state.
The only river near our house in Orange County is the Santa Ana river, which is not really a river at all any more. It’s just a huge concrete drainage conduit that channels runoff, prevents the ground from absorbing water, and efficiently flushes it out into the Pacific Ocean (why are we doing this when we have a limited fresh water supply?). The only fish you’ll find in there are the occasional goldfish or mosquito fish, along with some crayfish that subsist off of the decomposing crud that stinks up the pools. It is amusing to see the occasional kayaker in there when it starts flowing, but not so cool when kids fall in and drown in the straight, powerful current.
Japan is a land of mountains and rivers. Sure, the Japanese still like to dam up their rivers and streams for no good reason (while the general practice in the US has become that of removing dams and restoring watersheds to their former state because society has finally recognized the value of a healthy watershed), but there are so many rivers over here that some of them are yet to be ?modified to increase safety and efficiency? so they are still in pristine shape. To find such rivers, you must venture deep into the country and search out those hidden places that are unknown to or neglected by the average Ichiro.
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Yamabuki suigen was my favorite place in Aso, because it was only 20 minutes away from my house, and no one went there except for me. After a hard day at work, I would often come here and walk through the primeval forest, sneaking up on frogs, toads, salamanders, voles foraging for food, wild songbirds, and even rabbits, deer and foxes. The water was so pure that I drank it without fear of giardia or other microbes. The water bubbled out of so many places in the forest, feeding the snaking river and creating countless islands of lush green in its swirling flow.
The best time to go was just after the sun started to fall from its peak in the sky, because the light would pierce the canopy as golden rays, breaking up the thick shadows. This is surely the religious experience that John Muir loved so much and fought so hard to protect. The forest was mine, because no one else knew about it, and if they did, they seldom, if ever, went there. I actually preferred to be alone here most times, rather than break the connection that I had with the forest.
Obviously, some people did come here on occasion, because I was always picking up trash on my hikes. It felt sacrilegious to let litter sit here, and I could not comprehend how anyone could do this. This is one thing that I hate about Japan. They should really know better than to litter- they have so little land over here that you would think that they would treat the little patches that they have with more respect. It kind of made me want to start my own Monkey Wrench Gang, and to start punishing the bastards who defiled these sacred grounds.
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Ikeyama suigen is the spring that everyone visits in Ubuyama. It is a nice place, but this is the “lite” version of Nature- manicured and commoditized.
If you ever find yourself on the Yamanami Highway, passing through Ichinomiya and Ubuyama, I highly recommend dropping by Yamabuki suigen (spring). The other spring, Ikeyama suigen, is quite popular and famous (people always come with plastic jugs to bring water home with them), but Yamabuki is so much better. Even if you follow the signs to Yamabuki, you still might get lost, but that?s a good thing. It keeps some of the riff-raff out, and it makes for a challenge.
My favorite time to visit the spring is right after a snowstorm. I wish I had pictures to show you but, take my word for it, it is the most beautiful spot that I have found in Northern Aso. It looks too beautiful to be of this world.

4 thoughts on “My Church”

  1. Hey – just returned from 3 days at Big Sur/Julia Pfeiffer Campgrounds. Not realizing we weren’t supposed to fish in the stream, my brother caught 5 trouts early Friday morning. Trout and eggs for breakfast. As it turns out, there is a protected population of steelhead that we weren’t supposed to catch. Sei La Vie. Next time I’m in Osaka – you have to take me to this spring.

  2. Oh my god, endangered baby steelhead for breakfast. Hope you had a religious experience! Pray to the Sequoias and those big fat yellow slugs in the forests of Julia Pfeiffer/Big Sur!

  3. By the way, great description of the best church in the whole wide world!….the church of the great outdoors! I’m in it daily on the Big Island, watching dolphins and whales, seeing how the forests overgrow abandoned hawaiian homestead sites and remembering the smell of cypress tree forests in Japan, right after a cleansing rain. Cool.

  4. I would take you to the spring, but it’s located in Kyushu (I’m more than willing to make a trip down there if possible, though). If you want to go fishing in the streams, I wouldn’t mind hitting up the Wakayama countryside though. Or there’s always Awajishima- bassing on the reservoirs with Justin.
    As long as it’s not one of those lame fishing parks (can you believe that crap! On a side note, if you do go to one of those and rent a pole, you should take extra hooks- the ones they use are cheap and break off at the shank, and if you use a mustad you might actually be able to land a hamachi or tai…) I’m perfectly happy going anywhere to dip a line.

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