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Tuesday
Sep272011

Ukiha

   Ukiha is a small farming town (now designated a cityーうきは市ーthanks to its merger with neighboring Yoshii Machi) in the southern part of Fukuoka Prefecture. While the center of the town itself has a collection of traditional houses and buildings that it is trying to promote as a tourist destination, I'm afraid I haven't been there personally. (You'll have to take the city's HP's word that it's worth visiting.) I have, however, on a number of occasions been into the mountains to an area called Ukiha Machi Shinkawa (浮羽町新川) to see the terraced rice paddies--known as tanada (棚田) or dandan batake (段々畑)--and the higan bana (彼岸花, lycoris radiata or cluster amaryllis) which bloom, appropriately, around o-higan, that is, during the equinoctal week in autumn.

   Although there is a bus that dawdles its way up the winding mountain road, the best way to get there is by car. You take route 210 to route 105 and follow it all the way up, past the dam, and on up into the mountains until you start seeing the terraced rice paddies. Keep going on up as far as you can, then get out and hike up the rest of the way. Trust me, it's worth the trip.

   The best time to go is in early September, just before the rice is harvested or shortly after the rice harvesting has begun as the contrast between fields of rice that have already been cleared and those waiting to be is quite beautiful.

   Along the borders of the rice fields you'll find a curious looking flower called the higan bana. The generally come in two colors: red and white. According to Mr. Wiki:

  "The bulbs of Lycoris radiata are very poisonous. These are mostly used in Japan, and they are used to surround their paddies and houses to keep the pest and mice away. That is why most of them grow close to rivers now. In Japan the Red Spider Lily signals the arrival of fall. Many Buddhist will use it to celebrate the arrival of fall with a ceremony at the tomb of one of their ancestors. They plant them on graves because it shows a tribute to the dead. People believe that since the Red Spider Lily is mostly associated with death that one should never give a bouquet of these flowers."

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