Shonai Life Village Report, Vol. 1, which highlights the Shonai region from multiple aspects. In this 4th episode, we are focusing on the connection between water and our modern lifestyle. It is from Yuzamachi, a border town between Yamagata and Akita prefectures. The town, located at the foot of Mt. Chokaizan, still utilizes spring water in daily life even after water pipes had been installed. Through their lifestyle, we find the residents’ innermost spirit for the gods of the mountain, and their connection with nature.
A town, which still appreciates and uses the gift of water in daily life
On a nostalgic road, lined with houses and just a few dozen meters from the Sea of Japan, we can easily hear the roar of waves when no traffic is passing. At the same time, we notice people chatting. There are two elderly men on a side street. One of them is holding a kettle and came here for drinking water, he said.
In Mega, a village located in the northernmost part of Shonai, there is a place used for washing that is shared by locals. The water here is called “Kamiko no mizu" (sacred fountain water), and the spring water is in daily use. The locals created six 1 m2 cascading water tanks made of stone. Each tank, from the top to the bottom, has its own purpose: for drinking, cooling vegetables, cleaning vegetables, laundering, washing agricultural equipment, and washing diapers. A signboard says that the water is “the life and symbol of the village.” Kamiko no mizu use has been passed down from generation to generation and named as “a gift from the gods of the mountain.” It also serves as the locals’ “water cooler.”
“I come here everyday to draw water. Washing places are not only in Mega, but also other villages nearby,” the other guy said. “Spring water is everywhere. We use spring water daily, which even gushes out of a beach, but that spring is no longer in use because of big waves mixing the spring water and seawater. We had water pipes laid from the mountain afterwards.”
As the guy explained, we encountered spots where spring water gushed out at nearby Kamaiso Beach. Although high tide covers the sands, spring water vigorously gushes out from underground. The water gushes out along with black sand, which impressed us in its abounding energy. We tried to put our hands in the hole where the spring water gushed out. It was much deeper than we thought, as our hands could go in quite deep. This exit of spring water also seems like an entrance to somewhere else. Strangely, the water from the hole isn’t salty. It is clearly fresh water, as we tasted it with our fingers.