Itaibara (Izumo Kaido)

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Postal Town Itaibara 板井原

078 Izumo Road at Itaibara Village

Map from Shinjo via the 四十曲峠 Pass to Kamochi

Coming from the crowds of Shinjo this is another world.
An almost deserted villge with few inhabitants by the steep Itaibara river. We parked the car at the village entrance on an empty ground, the former village school.

Bridge at the village entrance

077 simple bridge over the river

an old bridge
which nobody crosses ...
deserted village

The River Dragon ...

076 water dragon

Horse-headed Kannon Stone 馬頭観音
by the river.
This is a deity revered by people who used horses as means of transportation. It is reather seldom in these parts of Western Japan.
More in the Daruma Museum:
Batoo Kannon, Horseheaded Kannon 馬頭観音


Stone memorials before the Village Temple

080 stone memorials before the village temple

Buddhist Deities in the Village Temple

081 Buddhas of the three realms

There is also a big hand ball (temari) as an offering on the left. See more about these handballs along the Izumo Road in the postal town of Mikamo.


wood carving decorations on doors and roof supporters

082 family crest carving on a door

083 carp carving roof supporter

the carp still tries
to climb up the river -
deserted homes


drying shiitake mushrooms
The nights are cold and there is enough moisture for a generous harvest this year.

084 drying shiitake mushrooms


This is a different village, but the story is rather similar than here:

Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2000, Japan Times

Village whittled down to just four elderly souls
Itaibara seeks government funding to rejuvenate area, avoid fate of neighbor across valley

ITAIBARA, Tottori Pref. --
The death of this village's sister looms large in the collective memory of its residents.

Local officials believe they can attract sightseers to the village of Itaibara, Tottori Prefecture, if the exteriors of its early-Showa Era buildings are restored. But despite a generous proposal that will pay most of the cost, Hisashi Fujiwara has no plans to fix his house up.

Shimo-Itaibara, just one valley over, became a ghost town after the last villager moved out in the mid-1980s. And now only a handful of shaky buildings are still standing.

"Every time we (Itaibara residents) got together, we often talked about how we must do something about our village, because we don't want to be like Shimo-Itaibara," said Iwao Harada, who was born here 69 years ago.

Depopulation has turned Itaibara, like so many rural communities across Japan, into a settlement for the aged.

The youngest of the four people who still live here year-round is 72 years old. An engraved stone staff marks the spot where the elementary school stood until the last pupil left nine years ago.

The population "swells" to around 15 during planting and harvesting of daikon and other vegetables, with homeowners such as Harada preferring to base themselves 5 km away in central Chizu (pop. 9,773), closer to facilities and their families.

The fate of this waning village, however, is not necessarily entwined with that of its sister.

Town officials in Chizu -- which administrates Itaibara -- believe that if they restore the village to the way it looked at the beginning of the Showa Era, when many of the current structures were built, then sightseers will come.

"You can see the traditional way of Japanese life (in Itaibara)," said Yoshimichi Otsubo of the Chizu Board of Education. "When you come here, you can sense the real heart of Japan, and it's our responsibility to look after it."

The town is proposing to fix up the exteriors of the 130 mostly wooden structures -- including homes, storehouses, bathhouses, outdoor toilets, a temple and shrine -- that are shoehorned by the scarcity of flat land into this narrow valley.

In the absence of full-time care, many structures have suffered with age and weathering. Patch-up efforts are often ramshackle.

Itaibara might have been a potential outdoor showroom for the Meiji Era (1868-1912), or even the last years of the Edo Period (1603-1867), had a fire not burned down nearly all its structures about 100 years ago.

The seven-room house -- plus bathroom, kitchen and storehouse -- that Harada inherited and lived in until 1975 was built by his great-grandparents soon after the fire.
Like most of the 23 houses in the village, it used to have a thatched roof. But Harada plans to use the funding to build eaves and replace with tiles the tin sheets that now cover the tidy two-story house.

Hisashi Fujiwara and his wife, Yoshie, are two of the four people who still live here throughout the year. Despite the seemingly generous offer, Hisashi doesn't plan to alter his house.

"I want to leave it alone and change nothing, because even if I fix it, my son's family doesn't want to live here," the 72-year-old said. "Of course, we would be very happy if everybody came back, but I don't think we can have the life we had before. It's impossible -- it's a really isolated place."

None of Harada's three sons wants to move back either. Still, the band-saw sitting in the kitchen points to Harada's daytime effort to do up -- without prompting from Chizu -- the interior of the home he and his children were born in.

At night, Harada is a security guard at an old people's home in Chizu. When asked if he would be willing to show sightseers in Itaibara how to make charcoal, which used to be his main source of income, the voice of the softly spoken man suddenly increased in pitch.

"I'd love to," he said. "Yes, definitely."


Itaibara Photo Album



More detailed Izumo Entries to enjoy !

Izumo Kaido, The Old Road of Izumo 出雲街道


1 comment:

Gabi Greve said...

I am amazed at such enthusiasm for life and sharing his experiences even if he's been abandoned by his sons... Harada san, you are an example of Faith and a great teacher!!
TY for sharing , Gabi!
a ghost town with a man
hungry for life...
Brinda Buljore