After leaving Kamaike Pond Norio-san continued driving on mountain roads heading towards the interior of the mountain area where he grew up. Norio-san and Kuniko-san also lived here for 8 years in a house that has existed with some modification for 250 years. The current metal roof covers a thatched straw roof. Here we were introduced to Debbie-san who is Kuniko-san's best friend. They were neighbours for the 8 years that Kuniko-san lived in the village. Their two homes are up on the mountain slope while a handful of other homes are either down the road a short way or down in a valley of sorts. Debra-san is married to Ryoji-san and the two farm up here in small fields and garden plots. The terraced fields appear to be too small for mechanized equipment, but that does not deter them from using equipment. Elsewhere in the mountains we saw a circle of about five men using flails to thresh "mame" or beans. The roads (trails) are very narrow with a small ditch on the upper side and a drop off into the valley on the other side. In the winter markers are placed to delineate the ditch and to aid in snow clearing operations which frequently take place morning and evening due to the heavy abundant snow. The homes are next to impossible to keep warm, yet Debra-san calls this her Japanese Tibet.
When I first saw Debbie-san up on the hill near the house, I wondered who is that typical Japanese farmer's wife. She behaves and dresses like a typical farmer's wife, but was brought up in Florida, U.S.A. But that is another story. She speaks excellent Japanese, but cannot read or write Japanese. Kuniko-san warned us her English might be 'rusty', but I did not find it so and we suspect Debbie-san was happy to be able to use her English skills.
Yayoi and I fell in love with the magnificent views that greeted us down in the valley and from the distant Japanese Alps as sunset approached. There were beautiful green mountains all around us and various small homesteads scattered about. We were in awe standing at the entrance of a driveway that sloped steeply up to the house, facing away from the house looking west over the valley. Words cannot express what we felt, nor do photographs do it justice.
Click on Otari Village to see photographs on Picasa.