This past weekend I visited my hometown, a small in village called Komagane in the Nagano Prefecture of Japan. I, being born in but not raised in this area, know little about Komagane and the surrounding mountains. However, there is one place that I have never not visited every time I visit: that place is Ootagiri-kawa, a river that gets its water from the Kiso Komagatake mountain.
Ootagiri-kawa is a beautiful river that in which you can watch the water flow underneath you from a bridge (komakusa-bashi). Once you cross the bridge, there is a concrete-based stairs designed to look like rocks, that leads you to the edge of the water. On a hot day like the day I visited, you will usually find children playing with their friends as their parents watch from the shade under the trees. I also noticed that those who were old and strong enough to cross the river would set up a small picnic on top of a boulder to fish. The foot of the bridge, under the shade and hidden by tall grass, is usually where young couples would come and enjoy some peace as a date-spot. Recently, there has been an increase in tour buses stopping by this area. The small cottage-like shop has become a business that sells souvenirs of Nagano’s famous food, as well as the popular Suzuran milk ice cream. This year, a new section of the store had become popular especially among younger visitors: the gelato station that sells gelato made out of the famous Suzuran milk.
The air is fresh, trees tall, the wind keeps the area breezy, and not too hot even when the sun is out. This year, because of the delay in tsuyu or rain season, the river had significantly less water than previous years.
Nevertheless, everyone that visited seemed to have fun while submerging their feet into the clear, cold water. I noticed that the shallow edges of the river had a mix of human-placed stones as well as natural stones that were originally here. According to my father, the stones were put in at some point in his high school years so that children can cross to the middle land of the river in order to get to the boulder in the middle of the river. However, walking deeper into the river one would notice that the rocks are much heavier, larger, and the surface rough. My dad a few of these rocks, and showed me the type of creatures that hide under the rocks.
However, I cannot help but to notice the decreasing amount of water that flows downstream every year. I am not sure if it is because of the timing that I visit, or because of another cause. Yet each season, I go and take photos just to notice how much water is lacking, and how much the grass has grown and the rocks gone dry. I truly hope I have just been visiting on unlucky days when the river is not at its best state.