The Watarase Valley and the Kasuo Pass

I went for a drive to a mountain area. It is named The Watarase Valley, which runs north to south between the northern area of Gunma and the north western part of Tochigi Prefecture. The Watarase River runs on the bottom of the valley. There is a famous railway named The Watarase Vally Railway running along the river.
A news told that the foliage getting colorful in the valley. It has brought me to this area. As it is often told, it attracts me a lot that those colorful leaves are shining in the last moment of their lives. Not only the beauty but the fact they complete their lives in this way could not help fascinating me. It was a lonely drive again but I believed there was W6CYX, Bob Warmke, on the side seat. He has always given me generous comments on my travel stories in the blog or in face book. When I complained of my solitude during drives, he kindly told me he was always with me on the side seat. 
Before leaving home, a snap shot for our garden. A few trees such as a kind of azalea or a kind of maple had leaves turned colorful.. Not very brilliant but still shining its last lives in the sunray.
There was an artificial lake on the way. It was born by a dam keeping back the water of the river. There was a souvenir shop and a restaurant beside this lake. I took late lunch there. I won't recommend you to have any meal at the restaurant  if you should have a chance to visit there. Even the souvenir items were a kind of cheating. Bob may shout to me loudly that there shold be competition in the market, or the businesses would get lousy and inefficient. Reluctantly, I am for his saying in this situation.
Further north of the dam lake, there was a town, Ashio, famous for the cupper mining which continued its operation until immediately after WWII. The industry has polluted the river with cupper containing toxic compounds. It has caused intoxication of farming products downstream in the farming area. It was in the era of Meiji.
A politician, named Shozo Tanaka, has fought against the nation and the mining company to get rid of the pollution and even appealed directly to the Emperor. It was a tough movement which no other politicians than Tanaka participated. By the government in those days, a village downstream was forced to  be turned to a big reservoir downstream. It meant the village had to disappear. Tanaka has lived in that village until the end of his life resisting that political action. He has dedicated himself and all of his own fortune to this movement. They say all he had at the end of his life was a new testament and a constitution book. All his fortune was donated to the movement resisiting the government and the company. Even though his action has not pulled off, his words and life have been regarded a pioneer in the anti environental pollution. It was a firm base for the same kind of social movements against environmental pollution in the following age.
Ashio town was quiet. Seemingly no industry. A few old ladies were slowly walking along the street. No much traffic. The railway station building was a tiny wooden one without any personnel there. The old building reminded me of those in '60s. It had the wall made of darkened woods with the tile-roof. No passengers were in there. I forgot taking a photo. There must be some tourists coming to this station on holidays.  
Off the trunk road, I came up on s small road at an skirt of a mountain in Ashio. In the left side on this photo, there was a river where this road was running along. Maples were still beautifully shining in yellow reflecting the sunray. I have met only very few people walking there. Almost no traffic.
The trunk road would lead me to Nikko, anther famous national park, in 30 minutes or so. I decided, however, to go over a ridge toward east, the way to my home. This pass, named Kashio Tohge, was only 4000 feet high. But, since the both sides were quite low in altitude, the slope was pretty steep. The road was winding so much that I felt almost a bit nauseous on the way. Some twenty five years ago, I have taken my wife and our 2nd son up here. There was a ranch on the ridge, where a couple of my ham friends, JH1TVZ and JH1HDX, used to operate a contest there over a night. We have visited them. They served us cooked food there, a little bit less salty than ideal. JH1TVZ was really serious at contesting while Mamo JH1HDX was just playing with it. We have become good friends since those days. Unfortunately, Mamo has died from leukemia a few years ago. Remembering of him, I stayed at a peak for a while. I could see the other ridge of mountains through colorful leaves and half naked trees. 
On the way heading back home, there was a river along the road. Another fall scenery there. There were very few people around there. Very quiet. It was quite near to the plain area. My wife used to work at a big hospital several miles east of this place. Don't imagine auch a quiet place as this around that hospital. It was surely in a messy downtown there. I was happy to see that this countryside had been preserved as it used to be a couple f decades ago.
A fine gingko tree along the river. Very beautiful. The leaves were really burning in golden yellow. Isn't is wonderful to have ourselves burning quietly as well as brightly like this tree in our last days of life? Trees are destined to live in a given place. They won't have any free will like human beings. Really, it is not their last days. The tree itself might survive and ressurect next spring. The leaves are still finishing their lives. Can I go on living my last years of life like this gingko tree?
On the way back home, there was the med school hospital I was working some 30 years ago. The roads were renewed and the surrounding was greatly changed. I was almost lost even with the navigation device on the car. Smiling bitterly, I ran around and finally found the right route back home.


  1. Shin, Thank You for the nice ride and thoughtful description along the way. Beautiful trees and their colors. Very beautiful scenery. Usually when we see pictures of Japan here they are of big cities. I prefer the peaceful countryside. Thanks Again.

    1. Bob,

      You are right. The big cities are always alike anywhere in the world. Only countryside gives us an idea about the culture, history or something unique to the area. Thanks for the comment.