The Nishizawa Keikoku (西沢渓谷) is one of the most beautiful valleys of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, a park which covers more than 1250 square kilometers of forested mountains, hills, gorges and some rural towns in the prefectures of Yamanashi, Saitama, Nagano and Tokyo.
A hiking trail leads up the narrow Nishizawa Valley along a picturesque mountain stream and past several waterfalls. After about 90 minutes, you reach the valley's highlight, the Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki, a beautiful five tiered waterfall. A separate, more leveled trail leads back from the waterfall to the bus stop.
The trail through the valley is steep at times, and sturdy shoes are recommended. A visit to the Nishizawa Keikoku is particularly beautiful during the autumn leaves season, which usually reaches its peak in late October and early November.
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The eight islands of Japan sprang into existence through Divine Intervention.
The first two gods who came into existence were Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto, the Exalted Male and Exalted Female. It was their job to make the land for people to live on.
They went to the bridge between heaven and earth and, using a jewel-encrusted halberd, Izanagi and Izanami churned up the sea into a frothy foam. As salty drips of water fell from the tip of the halberd the first island was formed. Its name was Onogoro.
So far, so good. But when Izanagi and Izanami first met on their island, Izanami spoke to Isanagi without being spoken to first. Since she was the female, and this was improper, their first union created badly-formed offspring who were sent off into the sea in boats.
The next time they met, Izanagi was sure to speak first, ensuring the proper rules were followed, and this time they produced eight children, which became the islands of Japan.
I'm sure you did not fail to miss the significance of this myth for the establishment of Japanese formal society.
At present, Japan is the financial capital of Asia. It has the second largest economy in the world and the largest metropolitan area (Tokyo.)
Technically there are three thousand islands making up the Japanese archipelago. Izanagi and Izanami must have been busy little devils with their jewelled halberd...
Japan's culture is highly technical and organized. Everything sparkles and swooshes on silent, miniaturized mechanisms.
They're a world leader in robotics, and the Japanese have the longest life-expectancy on earth.
Text by Steve Smith.