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Foreigner’s Voice

Last up date
October 30, 2009

Foreigner's Voice

Are you interested in visiting Japan? Please do,it's amazing.The cities are a collision of old and new; grand temples and neon streets. But,in my opinion,the heart of Japanese culture beats a little stronger in the natural setting of the countryside. Rich nature and deep culture; Gujo City has this inspiring balance.If you give me a moment of your time,I would be proud to introduce you to this place.
For starters, my name is Stephen Harris and I am 37 years old.I come from Vancouver, Canada.I have been living in Gujo City (Hachiman town) for a year now working as a Jr. High assistant English teacher.
Don't be fooled by the name Gujo City.It's not a concrete metropolis,but, rather, the opposite. It is a large mountainous area filled with lush forests. Hawks and cranes fish in pristine rivers. Forest shrines hide on cliffs and creeks. In this setting are a collection of seven unique towns ranging from about 4 - 16 000 people. The names are Takasu, Shirotori, Yamato, Minami, Meiho, Wara and Hachiman.
In the northern highlands of Gujo City lies Takasu.In the winter Takasu gets an unbelievable amount of snow. And, of course, the many ski resorts have excellent conditions.When the snow melts, meadows of flowers bloom,water falls awaken and beautiful hiking trails await the outdoors person.
Shirotori, Yamato and Minami are naturally beautiful, but they are also historically rich in culture and religion. For example, in Shirotori, a priest called Taicho climbed Mt. Hukusan. He claimed that God spoke to him on the mountains summit. His epiphany has inspired pilgrimages to the mountain for the last 1300 hundred years and given rise to Hakusan shrines permeating the Gujo City area.. One of the significant cultural assets of Yamato is a 1000 year old collection of ancient Japanese poets. Four hundred years ago a priest from Minami named Enku dedicated his life to exploring Japan. A talented craftsman, he wandered about making and distributing over 5000 Buddha wooden carvings. Minami retains one hundred and fifty six originals and the Enku style is still copied by artists to this day.
In my opinion, Meiho is the most scenic town.The winding river has gorged deep into the rock leaving breathtaking views at every bend. Wara, on the other hand, is the only town with no major rivers running through it.It is located on a high plateau and for many generations was closely connected to Takayama and Samurai rule. The castles have all been destroyed but many temples and shrines remain.And every spring and fall the town ignites with festivals and celebrations.
I live in Hachiman, so, of course, I know this town the best.If you like walking, this place is a treasure. A restored castle perched on the hill guards ancient temples, hidden shrines, and fish filled waterways crisscrossing the town. For the last several hundred years a popular cultural dance festival has resonated the warm august evenings. The highlight of the festival is during "Obon" week.Every night for one week the dance continues until 5am. Thousands of people in yukatas (summer kimono) and getas (wooden sandals that make a unique sound when you dance or walk) congregate in the heritage streets and dance to soloist incantations accompanied by traditional drums, wind and guitar like instruments.
Of course, the kindness of the local people must be mentioned. They are extremely polite and helpful. Even the language barrier hasn't stopped me from enjoying great times together. But, many can communicate in simple English and are eager to learn about your country and tell you about theirs.
Gujo City does not have millions of people; it's quiet and revitalizing. And this is what allows the explorer to appreciate the people, the nature, the history and the culture in all its amazing details.Even after one year of exploration, I am still shocked by the treasures I keep finding. I hope in your travels you will get a chance to appreciate Gujo City.
Thank you for your time.