“A local artist carved it,” Mr. Takamori said, after he had pulled over in his truck and handed me two energy gels in silver foil packs, an impromptu support team for this Tour de Tōhoku. “With a chainsaw,” he added. I drank my coffee and admired the skeleton of the one-armed man-turtle guarding the last road to Aomori prefecture. “It took him two days.” He drove off. I finished my coffee and walked out of Iwate.
Tobacco is a rather beautiful plant, and in the hills between Iwate and Aomori, the fields were in bloom, and the harvested leaves were drying in greenhouses in long braids. This being Japan, the fields were tended to not by children, of which there were none, but by elderly ladies on little stools, wearing sun hats and long gloves, dwarfed by the plants.
“There is no culture, and the men don’t talk,” Ōhashi Aki had said on a distant Matsuyama afternoon, and the men didn’t talk because they were gone, and the women and the children were gone, too. No nuclear clusterfuck here, and no mountain valleys unable to resist the gravity of Osaka, either, this was just the dead end of Tōhoku melting back into the earth, the calendar unturned since 2009, rice bowls left on the table. In the afternoon, in a hot and dusty village where braids of garlic hung on abandoned houses, a loudspeaker played exercise music to a dead street, vines creeping in through the windows, and I walked, and perhaps the nature was beautiful.
📍 Hakka Pass, Akita — 🐸 Japanese toad (Bufo japonicus)
Prev. ← Day 97, July 18
These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.