In 2005, some 12 years after I left Japan, the town was merged INTO Ohtawara-shi. Way to go, Mayor Sembo! He was the mayor in Ohtawara when I arrived in 1990, and he continues to be mayor as of 2014.
Kurobane was/is a beautiful farming town that has many sight-seeing destinations within its borders.
Along with the picturesque farming communities, and nice forested walking trails, there are mysterious samurai burial mounds (no one is sure why the samurai are buried there, except that they obviously were hired for a battle); the beautiful Unganji Temple which I will look at one day soon; the Basho museum where the famed Japanese haiku poet created some of this best-known work; and this stone that resembles a vagina.
At least I think it's in Kurobane.
My friend Ken (Kenichi) took me to this place... and like many a Japanese tour guide I had (and you will have), they are often vague about where you are going and what you are seeing.
My only clue that this photo might be in Kurobane, is the fact that I used black and white film with my 35mm Minolta camera - shot with my 50mm lens... and aside from one other roll I shot this way (of local Ohtawara sights), I should the rest in Kurobane.
In Japan, the naughty bits are seen as symbols of fertility. There are carved penises everywhere... but this was the only place where I actually saw a stone vagina (though I have been caught between a rock and hard place before).
Perhaps it's not a famous attraction, but at least they were trying to drum up some tourist cash - except, on the day I went with Ken... the lone souvenir stand was closed - I think we got there too late on a Sunday afternoon - 4PM, I believe.
I could see the souvenirs they had for sale... miniature stone versions of the vagina rock. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have purchased one even if the place was open. I was able to see more than my fair share of the real thing while in Japan... and besides, I wouldn't want anyone to think I was a perv or anything. Yeah... right.
Anyhow, Ken was perhaps the biggest pervert I knew in Japan, and that's saying a lot because most men in Japan are a bit perverted... that is to say they are normal men.
Every guy around the world is a bit of a perv. Every single guy. If they aren't, woe is you. So... it should come as no surprise to see Ken posing for a photo in front of those wet rock face, with his tongue out as though giving it a lick.
He introduced me to the world of whale sushi (thanks, but no thanks - it's too chewy), gyu riba (raw cow liver), fugu (that poisonous blow fish), bear stew (he has a buddy who went hunting in Hokkaido, who shared the meat and meal with us). He also provided me with all the uncut Japanese porno movies (on VHS video tape) that my powerful right forearm could handle. Surprisingly, uncut Japanese porn seemed to be quite easy to get a hold of.
It really is a spectacular right forearm. I developed the muscles from years of accordion playing (true). LOL.
Anyhow... Ken is one of those friends I met in a bar - the 4C (4 Carat - Yom Karoto), who probably knew who I was (my buddy Matthew and I were well known and respected members of the Ohtawara-shi community), and knew I had a good sense of humor... so why not come over and say hello.
He did. We remained quite good friends for a few months, and then I met Nobuko, and like he knew I was now busy with a woman, so he backed away... now that is a great friend.
I see these photos, and I thank Buddha that he was there to provide me with some great laughs during my stay in Ohtawara-shi, Japan.
I miss ya, buddy. But I think I miss that rock more. I should have come again and got a souvenir.
PS: Kurobane-machi is also where my good friend and JET boss Kanemaru-san is from. I need to do a story on him and one of the many homestays I had at his home.
PPS: The wife is busy studying for her nurse's license, so it may be a few days before I can do a regular column again. Whatever that is.