Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sawara Town

A year or so before this trip, I made a friend on Instagram. Yumiko agreed to meet with me when I told her I would have one day to spend in Narita (or anywhere near Narita) before flying back to Cebu.

We were supposed to meet at Sawara Station, but when I found out that the train from Narita Airport only comes once every 30 minutes (or up to an hour on non-peak times), Yumiko decided to pick me up at the airport.

I arrived at Narita Airport Terminal 3 and waited for Yumiko. When she sent a message that she had arrived, I could not find her. She was waiting at Terminal 2! Oops! I had to hurry and get on a bus that would take me to Terminal 2.

It was a 30 kilometer drive from Narita Airport to Sawara Town in Katori City (Chiba). Since Yumiko couldn't speak English very well and I could not speak Japanese at all (save for the very basic greetings), it was a pretty quiet drive.

Yumiko found a parking lot near the preserved merchant area along the Ono River. When Yumiko paid the parking fee, she received a discount coupon for the boat tour. And that's what we did: take a 30-minute boat tour along the Ono River (1300 yen per person; but because we had a coupon, we paid 1100 yen per person).

We got on the boat at the dock near the wooden bridge called Toyohashi (Toyo Bridge). On the bottom of the bridge is an aquaduct which used to transport water from the east side of the Ono River to the paddy fields on the west. Now, it is used for sightseeing: water is released from the center of the bridge every 30 minutes, but we never got to witness it while we were in Sawara.

Toyohashi (Toyo Bridge)

On the boat tour with us were a Japanese couple and two young ladies. One of the ladies named Kaori is Japanese but can speak English, and she voluntarily served as interpreter during the tour (the tour was in Japanese). With her was Anju. They were taking a little trip in Sawara to celebrate Anju's birthday. Coincidentally, Anju is from Cebu but she grew up in Japan and can only speak Japanese (and at that time, was still learning English).

Slowly sailing along Ono River

Because of that boat tour, all four of us ended up having lunch and exploring Sawara together. Lunch was at Chukei Chaya, a restaurant beside the Sawara Visitor Center, about a hundred meters away from the river. I got myself a bento lunch (1050 yen) which included vegetables, fish, rice, and soup.

Bento from Chukei Chaya

On our walk back to the river, we saw many old buildings, some turned into shops. This area was the merchant district and most of the buildings have been preserved. I don't know if it was because it was midweek or if this area was just not frequented by tourists, but it seemed we were the only ones out and about. Which was absolutely fine by me! I don't like crowds!

Back along the river, Yumiko suggested we go to the Former Residence of Ino Tadaka (open daily from 9AM to 430PM; free admission) and also to the Ino Tadataka Memorial Hall (open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9AM to 430PM; 500 yen admission fee).

Who is this man to have his house preserved and have a museum dedicated just for him? Ino Tadataka was born in 1745 and was adopted by the Ino family of Sawara when he was 17. The family had a sake brewery and Ino Tadataka handled the family business until the age of 49 (his son took over after). He then studied astronomy. At the age of 55, with permission from the Tokugawa Shogunate, he started traveling to survey and map the country. He did this for 17 years. And it was only three years after his death were the maps completed and submitted to the shogunate. In short, Ino Tadataka was the first to create an accurate/surveyed map of Japan! And that is an amazing feat truly deserving to have his house preserved and have a memorial hall dedicated to him! (The Ino Tadataka Memorial Hall houses more than 2,000 items related to Ino Tadataka and his work: survey notes, surveying instruments, maps, etc. Taking of photos is not allowed in the museum.)

Former residence of Ino Tadataka

Ino Tadataka

Quadrant used in surveying. Can you imagine lugging this around Japan?

I was truly amazed by this man! To do surveying with several instruments, some bulky and heavy, from the age of 55 to 71 and at a time when there were no motorized vehicles to get around... He had a team with him, but wow! Just wow. I gushed about him in my head.

And even after the visit to the house and the museum, I continued being wowed. This time, by the old-time scene along the river. So many beautiful old houses. And no tourists!

To cap off our hot summer day in Sawara, we tried the shoyu (soy sauce) ice cream (350 yen) which was sold at the little shop in the parking area where we had left Yumiko's car (and where Kaori had also parked). Soy sauce ice cream? Japan has weird flavors! But this actually tasted like caramel that wasn't too sweet.

Shoyu ice cream

Before Yumiko and I parted ways from Kaori and Anju, each of them gave me a small present (locally made items) which they had bought from one of the shops we went to earlier. Awww. What a nice surprise! So ashamed I didn't get anything for them in return (except for Yumiko; I had brought some Philippine goodies for her).

Yumiko and I made a quick stop at Sawara Station so Yumiko could take some photos (she is into photography). The station opened in 1898, but the current building was reconstructed in more recent years.

Sawara Station

Then we drove off to Narita Station, where I would be staying in nearby Narita Sando Guesthouse. Because on the morrow, it will be back to my reality, aka Cebu.

P.S. Big thank you to Yumiko for picking me up from the airport, showing me around Sawara, treating me to a visit to the Ino Tadataka Memorial Hall, giving me a present (chopsticks), and driving me to my guesthouse near Narita Station. Thank you also to Kaori and Anju for exploring Sawara with us, and for the presents too (handkerchief and coin purse). I am very lucky our paths crossed. Until we meet again!

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Sawara Town (you're here!)
Narita Accommodation: Narita Sando Guesthouse
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

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