Ohara is a small town to the northeast of Kyoto, nestled along the Takano river. They are famous for their farm girls, who twice a year don the outfits they would have worn several hundred years ago while they work.
Due to excess energy and an abundance of time, I’ve been feeling restless the last few days. I decided to challenge myself by taking a trip on my bicycle as far north as I could possibly go. I didn’t take a map with me. I just decided I would follow the Kamo River until it forked, and then take the right fork (Takano River) as far as I could go in two hours.
As it turned out, I ended up deep in the mountains, in a town called Ohara. Ohara is pretty much just farmland- twice a year, there are festivals in which the farm girls of the region don the outfits they would have worn several hundred years ago while they work- and I’m sure on those days the town is packed- but the day I arrived, there was a cold wind blowing in from the snow-dusted mountains, and it was the middle of the week, so it was quite pleasantly quiet.
The 16.1 kilometer (10 mile) ride there was quite beautiful. The river is full of life and waterfalls, as well as manmade current correctors, I believe to keep the river healthy as over the years the silt is requires to stay healthy has diminished. There was one stretch that was quite dangerous, a mile of road that had no sidewalk and no curb, but I managed well enough. I even managed to give a Japanese man directions- and I didn’t even know where I was!
I didn’t get to visit any of the temples in Ohara, as I left the house with only $2 in my pocket, but I enjoyed biking along the meadows and farmland. I am certain the town will reach the peak of its charm in late summer, right before everything starts to be harvested. There was a little stretch of trees along the river where a sign announced “This is the best garden in Ohara” in English. I don’t believe it was true, but it was still funny.
I stayed for a while, watching the farmers burn small piles of fallen leaves or other debris, before getting ready for the ride home- the 16 kilometer journey home wasn’t as bad though, as it was all downhill. I was able to return to Kyoto in a little over an hour, and spent the last few moments of daylight at the Imperial Palace, photographing the plum blossoms there.
It was a nice day, and I hope to be able to explore Kansai by bicycle again soon.