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Story & Photosshapeimage_12_link_0
Nuts & BoltsNorikura_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlNorikura_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlshapeimage_13_link_0

Although the main purpose for this trip was to get as high as I could get in Japan, I figured it wouldn't hurt to get some cultural highs as well. This is one of them: the tiny village of Narai, midway between the two stations you'll probably want to set out from (Kiso-Fukushima if coming from Osaka, Shiojiri if coming from Tokyo). Narai has been a protected area for the past 20 years, so it looks much like the backwater villages in Okayama and Shiga that I cycle in regularly. The houses are now shops selling locally made traditional crafts. Old Japan hands will immediately recognize that this old woman is pushing not a baby cart but a shopping cart to hold her purchases (invariably a tremendous volume).

Flashback time: strolling along the street, I smelled this truck even before I saw it - and was taken right back to my first year in Japan. You're looking at a sucker-truck for pit toilets. Once a month it comes around to remove the contents of your commode. The resulting blast of air permeates the entire house and any streets nearby; once having experienced it, you will NEVER forget it. Trust me...