Nagano & Earthquake

Well, I took a week off work to go hiking out in the northern Alps of Nagano prefecture. But unfortunately the weather was not really cooperating with my needs. Cloudy, foggy, and rain…. . My original plan was to hike from Shirouma-take to Oogisawa, the eastern range of the northern Alps,… just east of Tateyama. But, after a halfday hike up, I could no longer see the point in continuing. As I could pretty much see, nothing… After consulting past weather patterns, I was told that the Japanese “tsuyu” (East Asian rainy season) should be over in the Nagano region by the beginning of July. But unfortunately due to adverse weather patterns which seem to be synonymous with today, the tsuyu season has reached Japan quite late this year. Oh well,… I guess that I’ll have to wait until autumn for my next hiking trek.

Anyways, on the way back I stopped by the Hokusai museum. Know who Hokusai is? Have you ever seen those famous traditional Japanese wood print blocks of mount Fuji, a huge wave… etc? The “Red Fuji”, “Great wave off Kanagawa”? Then they’re probably Hokusai prints. Hokusai spent the later part of his life in Obuse, Nagano and instead of wood block prints, he worked on his calligraphy and painting skills. I’ve always been a fan of his work, and sorta spoiled myself by purchasing a framed print. Of course, it’s not an original but a copy. Still, in anycase I’m proud of it… still a bit costy. Also, I was impressed with a two other images which I’ve never seen before. Two paintings he made for the ceiling of a local festival float. Two waves, one representing a male, and the other a female wave. I just love the expression of the waves.

Oonami – Masculine Waves

Menami – Feminine Waves

Actully, I felt the 2007 Chuetsu Kashiwazaki earthquake while I was in the loo at the Hokusai museum. First I thought that I was slightly tired and faint as I lost my balance… “Oh my… I must be tired as my legs sorta gave way…” and after standing back up straight, then a couple of more shakes came around, and the dude in the stall freaked out “Eek!”… Hmmm, may be i’m just a bit too dense to realise how big of a shake this was. Hmmm, quite disorientating for one whom has experienced a few shakes in their lives. Heck, I’m one of those people whom goes to work the next day, and while everybody is talking about how they were woken up during the night from the quake and I myself was actually still awake but didn’t feel a thing…

After visiting the Hokusai museum, I took myself to Zenkoji temple which is Nagano’s main temple. Unfortunately, the main gates to the temple, “Sanmon” was under repairs… well, it’ll remain under reconstruction for the 5 years, and should be completed by the end of the year, Dec 31st 2007. The main strip was quite busy due to the bank holiday weekend. A bit touristy, but the slightly older look of the main drag was quite nice for a change. Unfortunately much of the items being sold were a bit cheesy and plastic looking. Not much quite different from what you can find on the main path, on your way to the Asakusa main temple. What you can get here is pretty much the same as anywhere else in Japan…

main strip in front of the temple

Well, while on my turn back to Niigata, as the weather wasn’t holding up in the mountains. Back down in the lower elevation things looked alright, mind you the cloud cover. In anycase, the expressway open for much of the drive back, except for a small portion. From Kakizaki to Yoneyama. Honestly, I was quite impressed at how quickly the road construction folks were out there, fixing up as much as possible. I was on the expressway less than 24 hours after the quake, and much of the cracks and roads were being paved to make it a level drive. The drive over bridges were surprising as, the difference in elevation between the road and bridge surface was quite obvious.

There were plenty of road works going on, plenty of military disaster support vehicles around doing their thing. In anycase, here’s just a few things I saw on the road. The worst parts where closed off.

Earthquake, 50km/h restriction

cracks everywhere


hmmm, that’ll do a number on your suspension

disaster military support coming in

can you see how the road is slightly wavy and it slopes?