A few weeks ago, a friend and I had an afternoon open, so we figured we would go check out the Tottori Hana Kairou (Tottori Prefectural Flower Park) garden I’ve always heard so much about.

Turns out it’s not just one garden, it’s a series of several gardens. The flowers and trees seemingly stretch on forever, taking advantage of the natural surrounding hills and valleys and view of Mt. Daisen to create the illusion that the series of little worlds stretches out into more and more and more little worlds.


The flowers in this area vary according to season, but for this season I couldn’t help but hear the Wicked Witch of the West in my head.

I didn’t take enough photos to do it proper justice, as I was busy using a number of my senses to enjoy the park. This sign outside the herb garden made me quite happy–these people encourage enjoying plants like I enjoy plants! Quite often their textures get ignored in favor of their appearances or scents, and I get weird looks for touching the leaves and petals (for whatever seems it won’t damage me or the plant, anyway). At least the people in this part of the garden won’t think I’m weird, right?

I didn’t even take any pictures of the lilies, the signature flower of the garden, which were already in a bright bloom. The rose were taking center stage in many areas, especially with a temporary rose exhibition going on. As one small part of that, in encouraging people to interact more with their flower subjects, they had a set of very perfumed roses showing of the different types of scents roses carry.

That’s not to forget the orchids.

It was such a pleasant world of color that I don’t have too much else specific to report about the gardens (just an overwhelming sense of “oooh, pretty!”), but a couple non-floral things of note:

1. Concept benches! Along the elevated track circling the gardens, they had a number of creative benches designed and constructed by schools and other organizations.


2. Ice cream! Following up on a recent post about local specialties produced in ice cream form, I couldn’t pass up the park’s Tottori 20th Century Pear soft serve. Pear wouldn’t usually be my flavor of choice, but I’ve had these pears once before, and they were among the tastiest fruits I’ve ever eaten. I found it refreshingly tasty, but my friend more comments–that it was more like a sherbert, and that that halfway through she detected a flavor like apple juice.

And now for a little more prettiness:





Allium in flower language: “the correct assertion” or “infinite sorrows.” Would one of those sorrows happen to be that it can smell like onion?





Fair warning: Are you ready for some nerdiness? We’ll be addressing both ancient political and geographical history, hopefully in a way that’s easy to follow.

In the comic retelling of ancient mythology, we’ve recently addressed the story of Kunibiki (国引き, literally “Land-Pulling”), which comes from the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki. What seems to be a story about theft of land may actually have more roots in cooperation with other lands, but it nonetheless was not politically desirable to add to the Kojiki. Along with the Nihonshoki, these three texts were among of the first of Japan’s publications in the early 8th century.

They’re a little late to game of keeping written records. Earlier records of Japan written in China and Korea help to tease out some of the origins of the myths recorded at such a comparatively late date, especially considering archeological evidence suggests the culture of the Izumo region being hundreds of years older than the 8th century. Many of the shrines which take a center stage in both local and national mythology had probably been around at least 600 years before anyone got the idea to write about them.

And why did they start writing about them? Put simply, for legitimacy as having their own culture to defend against the cultural takeover of the Tang dynasty (China). There had been years and years of cultural and technological influence from the Asian continent before this time, but at this time in history Japan imported so much literary culture and lifestyle tastes that they never quite got back to their previous homegrown culture. This period of influence and its merits and demerits are historically perceived very differently on either side of the sea, but for our purposes, the important point is that the Kojiki and Nihonshoki were written for political reasons and recorded in Chinese characters (which leads to some disputes later on in history about whether they should be read according to the meaning of the characters or purely read phonetically). They collected whatever information they could from around the different provinces of Japan, and chose to leave stories like Kunibiki out so as to focus on a tighter narrative that would enforce the legitimacy of the emperor (or empress, as occasionally was the case at this time). We’d be jumping ahead a little bit in the Kojiki timeline to say why (I’m hoping to get to that part in my comic renditions by early 2015), but that narrative purpose meant downplaying the role of Izumo and its heroes, like Susano-o, in favor of his sister Amaterasu who is said to be the ancestor of the emperor. You could read this as how the victors write history, and the ancient kingdom of Yamato needed to make sure they held more legitimacy than the ancient kingdom of Izumo, who they had finally made peace with at some point (again, this theme will come up in later legends).

The Fudoki were compiled around the same time with similar people running the little kingdom of Japan at the time, but their purpose was less to be a national narrative and more to be a set of encyclopedias about each of the slightly-less-than-fully-integrated provinces of Japan. They had detailed records of local customs and mythology, economies, even plant life. A big focus was on geographical features of the regions, and assigning appropriate names to each of those features (we’ll touch on this a little more in the following entry). Given the oddity of the Shimane Peninsula, with a little stretch of level ground sandwiched between stretches of mountains before the jagged coastline drops off into the sea, it’s not surprising that it would have given birth to such a legend as wriggling the coasts off of other places with a rake and mashing them together with the original coastlines here.

The reason the Izumo-no-Kuni-Fudoki is so important is because it is the only one remaining mostly intact today, so we know about 8th century Izumo in much more detail than we know about other regions of Japan whose Fudoki were lost or mostly lost. That, together with wider historical context and archeological digs so plentiful in this region, gives us a pretty good look into the ways in which ancient–really ancient–Izumo developed and had an influence on the rest of Japan.

This region’s proximity to the Korean Peninsula is a good place to start, and archeological finds of Korean origin in the region have shown that the exchange goes pretty far back. The Izumo region is considered the birthplace of many practical things in Japan: chopsticks, iron production, even sake. It stands that they were also taught farming methods and culture that lead to the rapid civilization of this region, which then was spread throughout other parts of Japan’s largest island. Hence, taking the land from Silla may say less about thieving from the Korean peninsula, and more about accepting a lot of cultural influence and knowledge from them.

Furthermore, there is historical context, archeological evidence, and later Kojiki stories that suggest a lot of exchange between Izumo and Koshi, though the regions are better known today as Shimane Prefecture and Ishikawa Prefecture. In recognition of this, Mihonoseki, the eastern tip of the Shimane Peninsula supposedly taken from there, entered a Sister City relationship with Suzu City on the tip of the Noto Peninsula, and once Mihonoseki merged with Matsue that sister city relationship was retained. Speaking of mythology-based relationships, the city of Miyazaki is pushing for a city relationship with Matsue because the place where Izanagi started cleansing himself after escaping the underworld of Yomi was connected with one of the myth-rich spots of Miyazaki, where the three noble deities were born as he bathed. Thus, Matsue and Miyazaki share a supernatural connection. We’ll see how that potential official relationship progresses (while we’re at it, Matsue also has relationships with Takarazuka, Onomichi, and a handful of cities abroad).

So why these places in particular, and why grabbing land? That may be because engineers from these places came to the flood-plagued Izumo region and helped to reclaim the land. Roughly 2000 years ago, the Shimane Peninsula may have looked more like this:

Click for source

The Izumo plains were frequently troubled by floods running down from the Chuugoku mountains into the oddly flat area west of Lake Shinji, which back then was more of a river than the lake it’s contained as today. There are other interesting tidbits about how the frequent flooding affected local customs in this stretch of the Izumo region, but for now it will suffice to say that flooding was a huge issue, and successful measures to control the issue were some of the most significant events in this region’s early history. Therefore, such an event may not only be the source of the land-adding Kunibiki legend, but also the monstrous Yamata-no-Orochi legend. Instead of a giant eight-headed serpent, that legend might be about getting the rivers under control. Also, Kushinada-hime, the bride Susano-o wins in the legend, is known by another name: Inata-hime. “Rice-field Princess!”

So it’s great that the Izumo region benefitted from Korea and Koshi’s influence, but why take land from the Oki Islands, too? Gee, beats me. Maybe just because they were close by.

Also on the geographical front, the placement and shapes of mountains and beaches may also have led to the creative formation of this legend. Let’s observe:

Mt. Sahime, now known as Mt. Sanbe, the highest mountain in Shimane Prefecture.

Click for source

A view of Mt. Sanbe from around Izumo Taisha, looking down the Nagahama coastline. Inasa-no-Hama, where 8 million gods congregate to make their annual visit to Izumo Taisha, is located at the north part of this stretch of coast along Izumo City and towards Oda City.

Click for source

And a look from St. Sanbe back up at the western end of the peninsula towards Izumo Taisha.

Click for source

Mt. Hinokami,now known as Mt. Daisen, the highest mountain in Tottori Prefecture, and the entire San’in region. Though Hinokami sounds like a better name for a volcano than “big mountain” if you ask me! It sticks out from near sea level, making it as noticeable as Mt. Fuji (and much more impressive when viewed from Yonago or Matsue (on a clear day) than Mt. Fuji when viewed from Tokyo! Photoshopped postcards of a towering Mt. Fuji behind the Tokyoscape make me giggle.). Given its similar shape and prominence, it’s often nicknamed the Mt. Fuji of Izumo (though technically it’s in Hoki!).

And a view from Mt. Makuragi, on the eastern end of the Shimane Peninsula:

Click for source

Finally, Yumigahama Beach, along the coast of Yonago City and Sakaiminato City. It’s current name comes from how it is stretched liked a bow, ready to shoot an arrow. This is one of the most popular summer beaches in the San’in region, but even among the coast line of cliffs you find a lot of little semi-circular beaches secluded by cliffs and mountains on either side. One of my favorite views I’ve seen of the Sea of Japan was from a friend’s place facing a tiny harbor, where no one would go out of their way to visit for a day on the sand. As for the sandy spots, you tend to notice everyone has their own favorite, and each one seems completely secluded from all the others. Not so with Yumigahama, known for it beautiful stretching coastline, and view of Daisen!

Click for source

That’s another geographical thing to note—the rope that attached the land of Miho to Mt. Hinokami was said to turn into an island, not a coastline. While the city of Yonago has a merchant history stretching back hundreds of years, perhaps hundreds and hundreds of years before that it was underwater! The volcanic influence of Daisen may also have led to a lot of the peninsula’s shape.

The island of Daikonshima (with an odd history behind that name) floating out there on Lake Nakaumi wasn’t specifically mentioned in this legend, and it used to be an independent township until recently merging with Matsue as part of a nationwide push a few years ago to cut down on the number of tiny municipalities. Today, as a district in Matsue, it still retains the name “Yatsuka.” This is just one example of how to you can still feel this legend’s impact on San’in region today, and we’ll get to more of that in the following entry.

I am currently on vacation and will return to reply to comments and provide new content later. Until then, please enjoy an excess of doodles and comics about my daily life in the San’in region. See you in mid January!

View of Daisen from the Yakumo Express

View of Daisen from the Yakumo Express

Given the choice between mountains and oceans, I’ll usually choose mountains. I attribute this to growing up at the foot of the Rockies, and finding going for a hike among the pines and aspens just a normal way to spend your time. That’s always been very commonplace to me, as opposed to scenes like this:

Going to the beach was always a big deal–you don’t get to enjoy tide pools where there is no tide. It’s still a little strange to me that I live such a short drive from the Sea of Japan, but I usually don’t think about it because Lake Shinji is but a 10 minute walk away. I can see a big beautiful body of water whenever I want! Not to mention the castle moats throughout town and the Ohashi River that bisects the “City of Water.” What with the pleasure boats around the city center and the array of bridges and canals, it’s not surprising that Matsue is sometimes called the Venice of Japan.

Living so close to the coast also does not sink in because of the unusual geography of the Shimane Peninsula. The areas between and around Lakes Shinji and Nakaumi are fairly flat (the Izumo flatlands on the west side are fairly unique nationwide, I’ve been told). This is just north of the Chuugoku mountain range, which sort of cuts this area off from the rest of Japan. Instead of fading out into the sea, however, there is another set of mountains along the northern coast of the peninsula.

Therefore, it’s not as if I have regular ocean views–I have a small wall of mountains to block that view instead of provide a vantage point. Seeing the green hills makes me plenty happy, though. Tsunami are hardly a concern either, and earthquakes are infrequent here to begin with.

On a clear day I can see to Daisen, though!

There are the days, however, when it strikes me: “Oh yeah! I’m right by the Sea of Japan!”

That’s usually on a drive for work or with friends, leaving the city center to head north through the winding roads. There are a handful of beaches I’ve heard quite a bit about, but I’ve only seen a small taste of them. Furthermore, I never manage to get there during good swimming times! Either it’s too late in the day or too late in the season. Besides the colder temperatures, that also means giant jellyfish.

“This place is really busy in summer. Really! Drinks and flotation rental and everything! A lot of these houses are inns during peak season, too! Really…” my friend introduced one of her favorite spots to me when we visited on a rainy day. We saw the beach house structures filled with everything that I’m sure gets a lot of use in hot weather, there just weren’t any people.

That said, the water still looks lovely in cooler weather and the fishing activity is still just as lively. Dried squid is a speciality along the San’in coast, and at Kakahama in northern Matsue there are fishermen and fisherwomen who can teach people how to cut and clean their own squid, which then gets spun and sun-dried. Although it takes several hours to dry it into the kind of snack you can pull apart like jerky and eat with sake, you could probably hunt around for some place to eat some other specialities, such as sazae (turban shells) or kame-no-te (“turtle hand”). Or you could just join the locals who are fishing out there if you have your tools and some patience.

Thanks for the photo use, Alaina! Click for her blog.

Also Alaina’s photo.

Stand back if you don’t want a splash (or slap) to the face! Also Alaina’s photo.

I didn’t touch any squid or do any fishing that day, but I did take a nice walk and snap a few photos of my own. Although Lake Shinji gets some nice waves on windy days, it’s not quite like the crash of the surf or the echoes of a wave-cave.


Along the north coast, the neighborhoods are quiet, and you can walk out your front door to scenes like this:

Those cement blocks are found all over Japan to break the waves that could come on shore.

A seemingly quiet, peaceful spot, right? However, if you turn around, you’ll see this:

This is the site of the Mihonoseki Meteor. On December 10, 1992, right around 9pm, a meteor crashed through the roof and floor of a house in this spot. It was was 25.2cm in length and weighed 6.38kg, and the fireball it created was witnessed from Hiroshima, a few hours south of Matsue. Thankfully no one was injured! The meteorite itself has been studied and is now on display in Meteor Plaza, a museum, heated salt-water pool, and relaxation station attached to Shichirui Port (a good place to depart from to get to the Oki Islands). That heated pool happens to be mineral water from the sea… hmm, I guess that takes away the seasonal swimming excuse.

As special as going to the beach still is for me, I can understand how it may not be as exciting to other people. Case in point, a few weeks back we had a barbecue at a friend’s place, on a seldom-used road right along on a tiny harbor surrounded by docked fishing boats. Before lighting fireworks, I saw a stunning sunset. As we were all getting caught up in saying how nice it must be to live with the ocean at your door step, my friend laughed, saying she had always assumed it was completely normal, and pointed out the places where she’d jump in to swim as it was common sense to do so.

I guess I need to get more beach sense.

Not my kirigami illustration, click for source.

This is a story with variations throughout Japan (there must be a lot of very grateful cranes). This version is from Daisen Town in Saihaku District, Tottori Prefecture. It references Matsue City and Yodoe Town, which is now a part of Yonago City.

In some far away time, at some particular place, there was a little old man and a little old lady. Every day, the old lady would pull cotton to make two bolts of fabric, which the old man would take to Yodoe to sell. With the money from the first bolt he would buy rice; with the money from the second bolt he would buy more cotton. Thus was how they subsisted.

One day, as usual, the old lady finished her work and said to her husband, “Dearie, I finished two bolts ‘gain. Please take ’em to Yodoe and exchange one for more cotton.” Also as usual, the husband set out to do just that.

On his way, he noticed a crane flapping its wings helplessly as it struggled in a trap set up at the edge of a feild. Aw, shucks, that there poor bird is gonna die like that if nobody lets it go! he thought. But if I set it free, the fellow who set that trap is gonna be left empty-handed. Aw, man, what t’ do?

Well, I got these two bolts’a fabric. If I leave one’a them for the trapper, and then he’ll be happy and the bird’ll be happy too. That’s all there is to it.

Setting half of his load down at the trap, he released the crane, and it happily burst into flight and got away.

Then the old man continued his journey to Yodoe. He was supposed to use one of the bolts to buy more cotton, but since he was now only carrying one, he passed on the cotton and only bought a meager amount of rice instead. On returning home he explained to his wife how he left the bolt to save the crane and therefore couldn’t buy cotton on which they would rely for income, and she kindly replied, “How nice. You did such’a good thing t’day.”

As they sat down to eat their humble dinner that evening, they were visited by a very pleasant-looking woman. “Please excuse me,” she said as she invited herself in.

“Yes?” they responded.

“I’ve somehow found myself all the way out here, and I’m terribly lost. Ah! I don’t know this place and it’s gotten dark, so would you mind if I spend the night with you?”

In the reply, the two said, “We’re happy t’ let you stay, but we got no more rice or anything.”

“No, I do not require rice or anything. I’ve brought some,” she said. “Would you mind lending me a pot?”

They did so, and she brought out a paper bag full of rice which she boiled, and then implored them to eat with her. They thanked her and said, “We usually make a gruel or soup outta our rice to stretch it out, it’s been so long since we ate it like this!” They were quite pleased to partake of it.

The following morning when it should have been daybreak, the sky was dark with heavy rainfall. The girl asked if she could stay with them another two or three days. “You can stay as long as you want,” said the old man and old lady.

“Then I would like you lend me your inner room for two or three days. No one else is to enter, or even so much as crack open the door!” she ordered, and then disappeared into the inner room.

Naturally, this made the old couple very curious, and they figured it wouldn’t hurt just to slide the door open a smidge and peer on her. Upon doing so they saw not a girl, but a crane sitting at the weaving machine and pulling out its own feathers, which it then wove into beautiful, sparkling fabric. “Ah! Well I’ll be! That’s the very crane that was caught in that trap!” the old man whispered to the old lady.

Three days later, the girl emerged from the room holding a bolt of fabric. “Um,” she started. “Take this bolt of fabric to a vendor in town and sell it, alright?” So saying, she immediately turned into a crane and flew away.

The old man did as she instructed and brought it to a vendor in Yodoe. “Nope, this won’t do. I can’t buy this!” the vendor refused. “There’s so way I could afford somethin’ worth this much. Try takin’ it t’ the Lord’a Matsue instead, he might be able t’ give you a good amount for it!” Therefore, the old man went out to Matsue to seek out the feudal lord.

The lord granted him an audience, looked over the cloth, and then exclaimed, “This is excellent! It’s made of crane feathers, isn’t it? I had been wanting some fabric like this, but since no one sells any, I couldn’t buy any.” The lord gave the old man a very, very great sum of money, which he happily took home.

Though they had made a meager existance on producing a small amount of fabric every day before, they could now could afford to take days off and still eat well. They were quite happy, and never had to taste such suffering ever again.

This is a story from around Daisen.

Daisen

Once there were two old couples who lived in a small, poor village. The first old man and his old wife lived simply and honestly, and the other old man and his wife were notoriously stubborn and lazy.

One day the first old man went out to chop grass as usual and began to polish his sickle, when he slipped. The old woman heard a terrible noise and feared her husband had fallen down the well, and sure enough, he had. “My dear! Are you alright?” she called down to him.

“I’m fine, but I can’t get out! Send down a rope!”

She lowered a rope down, which he tied to his waist, and she pulled as hard as she could. He soon came up with pockets full of gold coins. The village children all came out to see what the commotion was about, and the old couple shared the fortune with the children. They all lived happily ever after.

The lazy old couple, however, saw what happened and were filled with jealousy. “We could get a fortune that way too,” said the husband.

“Sure, they could get a fortune that way. That old man stays in shape because he goes out early every morning to cut the grass, but I just have a cunning good-for-nothing for a husband.”

“Fine, you want me to cut grass? I’ll go cut grass!” the old man barked back, then picked up a sickle to start sharpening it. He also fell down the well, and shouted to his wife, “Alright, I fell! Now lower a rope!”

She did do, and he tied it on. She pulled him up as fast as possible, but his pockets were empty and he upon emerging his hit his head.

The moral of the story–although you could glean many from it–is not to imitate others.

Today I went out to Mihonoseki, the peninsula that makes up the northeast tip of Matsue, most known for the highly important Miho Shrine, and for its lighthouse.

Can you find the red 'you are here' marker?
The primary point of my activity today

To the south you can see Nakaumi…
Hey look, it's Daisen!

…and to the north you can see the Sea of Japan.
Not to mention the Oki Islands, though they aren't in this picture.

It’s a fairly rural area, with a very laid back way of seafood-rich life.
There were still more in the water, too
Wish you were here, Dad!
Literally, the bridge to the floating island
You want to drive around in this ancient shrine? Sure, why not! I'll help you up there!
I'm still not a big fan of azuki (red bean) manjuu, but I found out today that I do enjoy kuri (chestnut) manjuu!

While waiting for the festivities to start, I peaked into the tourism center to see what was for sale there (besides dried squid and dried seaweed and all kinds of dried fish).
It looks wide from this angle, but the upper floors are actually very narrow
The dried squid beckons you!

That was when the old ladies seated in the back who spoke in a thick Izumo dialect addressed me: “Welcome. Come sit down for a cup of tea.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you don’t refuse when old ladies offer to have you sit down, especially if you have the time to kill. They served me dried squid first and showed me how to tear off the pieces a little bit at a time. It was not my first time having dried squid (I certainly got my fill a month ago while interpreting for a squid-drying workshop!), but one of the other things I’ve learned is to just shut up and pretend it’s my first time hearing something when people want to teach me something, no matter how much I may think I know about it.

After that they gave me some of the kuri-manjuu I had seen on sale in stalls outside leading to the shrine (that I was nearly tempted into buying myself!), and some sencha prepared in a Chinese style tea set–warmed up ahead of time, gong-fu-cha style.

The conversation was light and the location was highly informal, but according to my book-knowledge but yet unpracticed tea philosophy, it was essentially a tea ceremony. I was invited to eat a couple morsels before taking part in the tea my host had chosen and served her favored cups, and we appreciated each other’s company in the fleeting moments it took to consume them.

Though the squid sort of changes the mood... or sets it?

It was light conversation. What country are you from? Have you always lived in Mihonoseki? Is this your first time here? How old are you? Were you a teacher at Mihonoseki elementary school? Has this festival always been like this? Do you have a boyfriend? Hmm, even old ladies can sound like high school girls sometimes. High school girls with thick dialects.

In the spirit of being a guest, I asked questions about the tea cups, and then they decided they should prepare Japanese style matcha in a proper wide cup. Guess who got her afternoon dose of caffeine?

Over the course of our little tea party, they called out to acquaintances walking into the shop, or acquaintances walking into the shop called out to them. They were invited to tea with us, and each time someone new showed up to talk about the make up the girls put on him for the festivities or about the year end party they’re planning, the old ladies introduced me, my job, my country, my age, and that I’m going to find a boyfriend (you can guess whose idea that was).

Soon after the festivities started and the party ended. Even outside where everyone was crowding around with giant cameras that put my point-and-shoot to shame, acquaintances who had briefly passed through the tourist center made sure to point out the best spots to me.

And just what had I gone there to see in the first place?

This was ceremonious, really.

I’ll explain this December 3rd festival properly another time. There is a lot more of the Kojiki to retell first!

I wound up having summer vacation days to use not even two weeks into my new job, so I took my first trip out of the region then to go visit family and friends in the Chubu region. The fastest way to get there was by first going from the Matsue JR station to Okayama, where I transferred to the Shinkansen (bullet train). In order to get to Okayama, I took the Yakumo Limited Express.

“Yakumo” is a district in the southern part of Matsue. This was also the Japanese name author Lafcadio Hearn adopted when he became a naturalized Japanese citizen. “Koizumi” was his wife’s surname, and “Yakumo” was a bit of a hat-tip to the region. The train was established in 1972, and is operated by the JR (Japan Rail) West, and runs from Okayama from the Hakubi line, then switches to the San’in line in Yonago and goes on to Izumo. The Yakumo runs once an hour (15 of them per day), with an average speed of 77km/h (about 48mph).

(Please don’t mind the red circles, as this is a borrowed map I edited.)

I enjoyed watching the map on my smartphone continually update my location (where it had service, anyway) so I could see how it weaved its way through, east and west, east and west, and gradually north. The San’in Region can take a notoriously long time to reach because there aren’t any routes that go straight to, say, Matsue. Instead, the roads and train tracks weave through and along the Chuugoku Mountains, which are shaped so that developing towns and cities within doesn’t work very well. Instead, you’ll see many small towns and villages nestled in the little valleys scattered throughout.

When going from Okayama City (down in the San’yo region) to Matsue, the train first weaves through parts of Okayama prefecture along the Takahashi River, until it reaches Niimi (still in Okayama). After a mountain pass, it runs into western Tottori, and runs along the Hino River until you get closer to Daisen. All the while, it switches off between single line and double line train tracks, and frequently stops to let other trains pass by. The journey takes about three hours (okay, a little less than that. Just a little).

Here is a brief video of the Yakumo as it reaches parts of the Hakubi line:

An old story from Yonago, which takes place around Daisen, the San’in region’s highest mountain.

An elderly couple lived in an old hut at the foot of Daisen and kept horses. They were exceedingly pleased when one horse gave birth to a handsome foal. As they were settling down to the bed that rainy night, they were unaware of the thief who waited in the rafters for a chance to steal the foal, and the wolf that waited in the hay to eat the foal.

Lying down in bed, the old man said to his wife, “The most fearsome thing in the world, dear, is Koya-no-Mori.”

“That’s right. Koya-no-Mori is more dreadful than even thieves or wolves. When the sky turns such a dark color, I start to worry about it coming at night.”

“It certainly is terrible. When the Koya-no-Mori comes, we won’t be left with much of a place to live in.”

Unbeknownst to the wolf, Koya-no-Mori means ‘leaks in the old hut.’ As the wolf listened, he became indignant. “What is this Koya-no-Mori, and how could it possibly be more fearsome than me?” he thought.

Then, the old man felt something against his back. “Oh no, the Koya-no-Mori is here!” he cried, and he and his wife sprang to their feet.

“Oh! It’s here!” thought the wolf, and he ran outside to meet whatever foe this was.

The thief, waiting in the rafters, noticed something dash out and thought, “the foal is running out of the hut—now is my chance!” Without a second thought, he leapt out and grabbed onto the wolf’s back and clung on.

The wolf was thoroughly startled, and tried to run away as fast as he could, thinking, “The Koya-no-Mori! It’s got me! It’s got me!”

Trying to take shelter elsewhere, the terrified wolf ran up the mountain with the thief clinging to his back, and as it increased its speed, the thief held on tighter. Once daylight finally came, the thief noticed how thick it’s hair was, and saw that it was not a foal he was riding, but a wolf. Himself terrified and unsure of how to get off, he noticed a hole in the ground near the base of a tree, and at once he let go and was flung down the hole.

Relieved but still terrified, the wolf ran to find his animal friends in the mountains and tell them about the dreaded Koya-no-Mori. They were all filled with fear as they listened to his account of his encounter with and narrow escape from the monster, and at last the wisest among them, the monkey, spoke. “You said you flung it down a hole. You should show us where this hole is so we can investigate.”

The animals all cautiously followed the wolf to the hole, from which came the sound of horrendous moaning. “Wh-wh-what should we do?” the animals shuttered and asked the monkey.

Trying to hide his own fear, the monkey bravely put forth an idea. “I’ll lower this long tail of mine down into the hole and grab it, and when I bring it up here, we’ll all gang up on it and beat it up.” (Back then, Japanese monkeys had very long tails.) The other animals agreed, but remained nervous. However, when the monkey felt that there was indeed something down there, he yelped and all the other animals screamed and ran away.

As the thief felt the monkey’s tail, he mistook it for a rope and thought he was saved. He grabbed it tightly and yanked.

“The Koya-no-Mori! It’s going to eat me!” the monkey screamed, and with a swift yank he ran away, leaving his tail behind with the thief.

Since then, Japanese monkeys have not had long tails.

EDIT: Some photos of modern day Yonago (with Daisen in the background).