Ready? Go! and Rock Wishes

Posted by on Dec 5, 2011 in Miyazaki, Travel Volunteer Journey | 4 Comments
Ready? Go! and Rock Wishes

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written: “[thing] wasn’t actually invented in Japan, but arrived from China” or words to that effect. This morning we discovered another one, an ancient Asian board game that was first known as weiqi (in China), then baduk (in Korea) or and finally go (Japan). The rules seem to have stayed more or less the same – just don’t ask me to explain them.
In so much as it’s black and white, and sets two players across a small grid from one another, I suppose it’s a bit like chess. So yes, for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s Asian chess… Except chess itself is actually Asian too, having originated in India. Right, it’s a game. Go is a game, and today we saw how the pieces are made.

While the black pieces are quickly made from polished slate, the white ones are a good deal more refined. They come from clam shells, especially thick ones that are harvested from a local beach. This seems ludicrously unsustainable, especially as in order to reach chippable maturity, the clams have to be between 14 and 16 years old. Surely they can be cultivated though, the poor, dumb clams? Nope. They need to be in the rough water – typhoon seasons are especially beneficial – in order to layer on that especially thick coat.

When thick enough, the shells are then bored by a drill in order to get the chunky chips. On the plus side, at least large shells can provide five individual pieces. These are then trimmed and bleached (twice) before being polished for six hours. The final pieces (181 black; 180 white) are bundled together with a wooden board (the lines for which are drawn using a katana dipped in lacquer) and sold for sizeable amounts of money. The most expensive we saw at Kuroki Goishiten today went for ¥5 million (£41,000), which seems excessive until you check out some of the more ridiculous chess sets available.

We spent a good deal of yesterday marvelling at Miyazaki’s coast line, admiring it as one of the prettiest prefectures in the country. Today we were 100km further north where things were every bit as dramatic – and that was just at the ocean. From there we moved inland, towards Takachiho. Like yesterday, there is a lot of religious legend up there, none of which we found very convincing, but the locations of these old stories are very special.

Amaterasu the sun god, and grandmother of the first emperor, was said to have hidden in this cave and taken all the light from the world with her. Other gods, disliking the gloom, came outside the cave and placated her with song and dance, before someone finally ripped the door off and let her out again. Shintoists and would-be castle-makers now come here and build neat little rock piles in honour of those gathered deities, and to make wishes. However, when the annual typhoons rip through here, all of those little dreams are torn asunder, which seems – oddly enough – like a message from the gods.

A short drive from there, we were also shown the Manai waterfall at the Takachiho gorge. It was beautiful too – and even retained its looks while we manically splashed around in a row-boat at the bottom, desperately trying (and just about succeeding) not to get wet. With some autumn colours thrown in, the whole place was treat to look at. Over 80 days into the trip, and having been in a semi-permanent state of autumn, we thought we’d maybe be getting weary of this stuff. But not today – not a chance.

Our time in Miyazaki prefecture was made possible by:

Kuroki Goishiten the makers of the go sets in Miyazaki, who let us behind the scenes to see the much-harder-than-you’d-think process of making go pieces in action, and for generously giving us a couple of gifts to take home.

The incredibly friendly staff from Takachiho Town Office for showing us around their beautiful part of the world, and for wangling us onto the boat ride up the gorge for free.

Our incredibe guides Mayumi Eguchi and Mizuho Mizutani, neither of whom are actually from Miyazaki, but who both travelled down from Fukuoka alone to spend time with us. They both did a great job and were excellent company. A special thanks to Mizuho who drove us around in her car all day, navigating the windy roads through the mountains.

 

 

今までいったい何度“OOOはもともと中国から伝わったものだ”と書いてきたか分からないが、今朝私達はまた新たな“中国から伝わったもの”に出会った。アジアのボード・ゲームはもともと中国でweiqiとして始まり、韓国ではbaduk、そして日本では碁として知られている。ルールはほとんど同じらしいのだが・・・詳細はどなたか知っている人を探して下さい(笑)。

それは2人で行うもので、小さなテーブル(碁盤)を挟んで向かい合って座り、黒と白の石を動かすゲーム。うーんアジア版チェスとでも言っておこう。そう碁はゲームで、今日私達はその碁盤と碁石が作られる行程を見せてもらったのだ。

黒い碁石が磨かれたスレートから作られていくのに比べ、白い碁石はもっと細かい工程を経なければならないようだ。それは地元の海で採れる特に分厚い蛤貝から作られている。蛤は14-16年と成熟したものでなければならないのだが、そんなに簡単に手に入るものではない。そしてそれらは美しい縞模様を得るために、特に台風の時などの荒れた海にさらされなければならないのだ。

蛤貝が十分に分厚くなると、ドリルで切り取って行くのだ。大きくて分厚い貝からは5つの碁石が取れる。それらは形を整えられ、漂泊をして(2度)6時間かけて磨かれる。そして最終的には(黒:181 / 白:180)碁盤とともに(碁盤にます目は刀に漆を塗って描かれていく)高額な値段で販売される。今日黒木碁石店で見せてもらった商品で最も高額なものはなんと500万円もするのだ!

私達は昨日、宮崎の美しい海岸線を堪能させてもらい、宮崎は最も景色の素晴らしい都道府県の一つだという思いを強くした。そして今日、昨日訪れた場所から100kmほど北に位置するこの場所でも、また格別の景色を楽しませてもらっている。そこから今度は内陸部に進み、高千穂を目指した。昨日訪れた場所と同じように、高千穂にも多くの伝説が残されており、それは個人的に必ずしも信じられるものばかりではないが、でもこの美しい場所にはなんだかしっくりくると思ってしまう。

太陽の神であり、最初の天皇の祖母に当たる天照は、ここの洞窟に隠れて世界中の光を手にしていた。が暗闇が嫌いな他の神が彼女を洞窟から出すために歌や踊りをささげた。
神道家やお城の建築家は神々が集まったこの場所に祈りをささげる場を作るのだが、毎年台風が通り抜けると、まるでそれが神々からのメッセージかのように、全てが壊されるのだ。

そこから少し車を走らせ、私達は高千穂渓の真名井の滝へ到着した。そこは渓谷の下からボートに乗って見ても本当に美しかった。ただ濡れないようにするのには必死だったが…。
80日間日本を旅してきて、永遠に続くのかと思われる紅葉の美しさを各地で堪能し続けてきたが、それでも飽き飽きしたなんて思う事はない。今日もそしてこれからも・・・。

宮崎県の滞在でお世話になった皆様

宮崎県で碁石・碁盤を作っておられる黒木碁石店の皆様。碁盤と碁石を作成する現場を見せていただき本当にありがとうございました。そしてお土産までいただきました。
本当にお世話になりありがとうございました。

温かいおもてなしをいただいた高千穂町役場の皆様、お世話になりました。高千穂の美しい街をご案内して下さり、また渓谷の下のボートにも乗せて下さいました。本当にありがとうございました。

宮崎県をご案内して下さった江口真由美さんと水谷みずほさん。実はお二人とも宮崎県にお住まいではなく、このトラベルボランティアをサポートして下さるために福岡から来て下さいました。水谷さんは日向から高千穂までの行程でも車を出していただき、そのおかげで短い時間ながら、たくさんの場所を楽しませていただく事ができました。ありがとうございました。お二人の素晴らしいご案内のおかげで宮崎県が大好きになりました。本当にお世話になりました。

4 Comments

  1. Kim
    December 5, 2011

    The art of making flawless “Asian Chess” pieces has to be applauded, although it is a little bit crazy that they can sell for £41,000! That is dedication on a whole new level!

    The waterfall looks breathtaking! I bet it would be totally different in the Summer.

    Hope everything is going well and you’re both in good health!
    <3

    • Katy & Jamie
      December 7, 2011

      Thanks for the kind words Kim! We were both stunned at how much the Go sets cost… a little crazy, but beautifully crafted.

  2. Mizu
    December 6, 2011

    Really nice meeting you, Katy and Jamie.
    I got home at 12 o’clock midnight after taking several rests at different rest areas.
    I ‘ll soon write my own blog about this one-day trip with you.
    See you again someday, maybe in Scotoland or U.K.

    • Katy & Jamie
      December 7, 2011

      Thank you again Mizu, we had a great day with you and hope to see you in Scotland one day. Don’t forget to bring the kids! :)