42 Shimokita: The long, winding road to Buddha

My breakfast was handed to me off the back off a truck: 3 scallops freshly reeled in from Mutsu Bay.  In the early morning sunshine I had gate-crashed the scallop harvest; a row of flatbed trucks were overflowing with scallop all grown on lines dangled in the ocean.  Bits of blue rope were still threaded through the valves I was given.

Not knowing the dining protocol, I retreated to a side road, tore off the juicy, white rectangles of muscle with my teeth, and then threw the empty shells into a hedge.

The priest was right, there was nothing along the road north.  Civilisation was reduced to a narrow strip of grey tarmac winding up steep, thickly forested slopes.  I passed more monkeys than cars – and was passed by more cyclists, a team of sun-scorched Kyoto University riders in lycra quickly overtook me on my basket-bike.   The support car driver slowed with a playful smile and offered me a bottle of water through the window.  I foolishly refused.

I rotated between pushing, pedalling and sheltering in the shade, cursing at every corner that revealed more mountain.  I felt abandoned by modern Japan, even vending machines shun this edge of the axe peninsula. From a lone bench at Nagaseasedai (Sweat Pouring Observation Point) I could see nothing but green slopes and the distant ocean. It felt like I had been shrunk and placed on a mossy rock in the middle of a stream.  The views were stunning, but where was everybody?  Quicker than expected, I was craving the comforts of civilisation – or at least a pot of tea and a packet of biscuits.

The eventual descent challenged the rusty brakes of my elderly basket-bike.  I abandoned the bike for the walk down the steep staircase to Hotokegaura, (Buddha`s Beach), a stack of skyscraper-sized red rocks standing on shallow, turquoise ocean; these enormous rocks must have been “assembled by ogres,” according to one Japanese travel writer.

Buddha`s Beach was wonderful, and a rare, free attraction in capitalist Japan – ignoring the price of petrol and sweat to get there; the only place to put money was in a collection box.  The beach is open with a freedom to wander off and explore, the rugged, red-rocked beach became an adventure playground for the few visiting adults.

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