The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part V – Lake Okutadami and the Submerged Mine

I was a bit put off when I saw the long flight of steps in front of me, but a man was howling at me from the entrance of what seemed to be a museum. When I went up to him, he told me that there was a small cable car that could take me to the boathouse on the lake side in just ten minutes, and that the fare was only one hundred yen. I would not have hesitated to take the cable car even if the fare had been ten thousand yen! It enabled me to see the Okutadami Dam from different angles. I was impressed by its height and breadth and by the beauty of the surrounding mountains. In terms of the amount of water stored behind it, this dam is the second largest in Japan. Of course, it was a pity that they had to build a dam in the heart of the mountains, but without this dam, I would never have been able to glimpse their beauty.

…………………… A concrete giant…
…………………… Holding back deep lake water,
…………………… Soundless in autumn.

Arriving at the boathouse, I told the woman in the ticket office that I had booked a boat trip to Oze Guchi and, from there, a bus ride to Oze Miike. The woman said, “Yes, you are Mr. Yuasa, aren’t you? The boat will leave soon. Please walk down to the pier, but take care on the steps.” A boat that could probably have taken fifty people was waiting, but that morning I was the only passenger. I saw an even larger boat in the offing, looking rather like an ocean-going steamboat, and it was moving slowly towards Ginzan Daira, the pier named after the once-flourishing centre of the silver mining. My boat, although smaller, was comfortable enough. It even had a guiding machine, from which I learned a lot about the area and its history.

The scenery was spectacular. The trees were just beginning to change their colours. The lake water was silvery blue and very calm. Overall, I found it somewhat haunting, though. This might have had something to do with the tragic history of the silver mine that now lay at the bottom of the lake. They had had frequent disasters in the mine, and it had finally been closed in 1862. That year, they had accidentally bored into the bed of the Tadami River, and more than three hundred miners had died in the resultant flood.

The mountains changed their shapes and colours as we moved. They became higher and higher; the ridge lines, sharper and sharper. The best view I had from the boat was where the lake divided into two forks and the silhouette of Mt. Arasawa and its range soared above the morning mist. On the promontory that divided the lake were a few white flags. The guiding machine informed me that a shrine was situated there. It had once belonged to a village nearby, which was now at the bottom of the lake. The villagers had moved the shrine to this promontory to save it before they had evacuated.

……………… The water so clear;
……………… Mountainsides, now slightly tinged
……………… With autumn colours.

…………………………………….. The melancholy lake —
…………………………………….. I think I hear the voices
…………………………………….. Of miners below.

……………… White flags still flutter,
……………… Though the villagers are gone
……………… And no house in sight.

…………………………………….. Mt. Arasawa!
…………………………………….. It has a white spot on top,
…………………………………….. Snow or silver ore?

.
To be continued …

3 Responses to “The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part V – Lake Okutadami and the Submerged Mine”

  1. Thank you for this absorbing account of travel, with some fine haiku included. I especially enjoyed the first and last poems, which both evoke a legendary, large-scale world. There is something almost heroic about you, the solitary poet, digging deep into the guiding machine (and into your own feelings) to excavate for us the sad story of a drowned mine and its community.
    Back in Feb. 1974 on the Suffolk coast, I visited cliffs looking out over the North Sea and the submerged village of Dunwich. What I wrote then seems now a little wordy, but records a similar sentiment to the one you have beautifully evoked in your haibun.

    Perhaps the sunken churches
    have met your wavy gaze
    in a shrieking silence
    below the curly ocean

  2. Ursula Maierl Says:

    Oh yes!… long flights of mountainous steps…daunting indeed …and the ‘howling attendant ‘- this made me smile , though rather than smilimg, a little hustle- and-bustle of panic sets in, when a cable-car attendant similarly shouts for us to rush from the mountain train ,
    to hurry to the Hiezan ropeway.

    ‘A concrete giant…’ , this somehow gives me pause, and seems a tad sinister, and indeed evokes the tragedy of the drowned mine.
    There is an echo of the lost lives of the tunnels, from the previous haibun. A similar echo of those ‘ghosts’ reverberates is the poignant haiku

    The melancholy lake —
    I think I hear the voices
    Of miners below.

    …and of the fluttering white flags.

    There is a sense of a pilgrimage of honouring.

    The sense of melancholy of mingled beauty, history of deaths, and of leaves turning in the ongoing cycle…

  3. Richard Donovan Says:

    Thank you. At times, evocative of silence, both natural and imposed. I enjoyed the summative poem sequence at the end.

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