Driving along the Chusei Bypass, from Matsusaka city to Tsu city, one can see the Aoyama tablelands on the left to the west. A colleague of mine at Takada High School kindly offered to take me and another colleague up there for a drive, and I eagerly accepted. Hence, on a weekday during test week in June this year, when we had no lessons to teach, the three of us drove up to the hills and beyond to a delightful place called Akame Falls.
The full name is Akame 48 Waterfalls, located on the other side of the Aoyama plateau in a place called Nabari, once a famous place for Ninja training. The Akame Falls are regarded by most Japanese people as one of Japan’s best places to view waterfalls, mainly due to the large number of falls in one area, and the excellent hiking track through the Akame-Aoyama rainforest that links them all. It’s within that same rainforest that Ninja once used to train.
These days many Japanese children can take a ‘ninja course’ there, where instructors provide various challenges for them such as ‘walking on water’ (using rope and a floating platform for the feet), crossing over an area on an elevated rope (without falling hopefully), ninja-star training (throwing stars) and a variety of other fun activities. When I took Mandy (my wife) up on a hike in summer vacation, we saw children in ninja costumes attempting to cross the river as part of the course. The ninja instructors demonstrated the technique and then let the children try, saving them from falling in the river when necessary. It looked like a lot of fun, and while in the care of the instructors, the parents could do a bit of souvenir shopping or enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the nearby cafes overlooking the river. There is also a small museum with a few species of the local 'giant salamander'.
The Akame-Aoyama rainforest itself is a beautiful place in which to hike, and provides much spectacular scenery along the way. The walking paths are excellent, although naturally care is needed in numerous spots here and there. Of course, whether from perspiration or from the natural moisture of the rain forest, your clothes will become damp after returning from your hike, and it’s wise to take a change of clothes in a backpack. It might be a good idea to take a bottle of drinking water and some lunch as well, as the hike itself takes about four hours (probably three hours non-stop), and there are many times you need to climb stairs and cross bridges along the 3.2 kilometer (one way) course.
Japan’s Traditional Sport
Sumo is Japan’s traditional national sport and is one of the most popular spectator sports in the country. Sumo has its roots in ancient Shinto religious rites to ensure good harvests. It is believed to be at least 1500 years old. For me it is the traditional aspects and rituals of this ancient sport that really appeal. I will briefly explain about some of the more common traditions and rituals in this post.
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John Asano is a web developer and freelance writer living in Gifu, Japan. Originally from Melbourne Australia, he writes for Japan Australia, a blog dedicated to Japan travel, culture, traditions and modern life in Japan as well as Japan Travel Advice, a website dedicated to travel in Japan.