Beyond The River: A View of Life from Otoyo

by Telmen.B

Driving to Otoyo over one hour from Kochi city.

The drive to Otoyo takes about an hour from Kochi, some forty kilometres along a highway where you see big mountains and clear nature streams. It’s peaceful while watching beautiful nature of sightseeing.

“Oh my god, what is this place?” said somebody suddenly. We were surprised “What? Where? What happened?”. But she just said “I can see nothing here. There is nothing in Otoyo”.

I was silent and looked out the window at the green hills from car. I went with my four members of class’s group. The other four students are Japanese. Everybody said “Oh yes, absolutely nothing in here” and agreeing with the one who said nothing. Except me. I looked everywhere then I thought about the very little town, Otoyo. I wanted to argue with everybody who said “Nothing”. In fact, Otoyo town has very rich and beautiful nature.

Actually, I was really surprised when they said nothing was there. I could say “Nothing” if there was no electricity, no post office, no asphalt road, no train station or buildings. In my country many place don’t have such infrastructure. I am a international student from Mongolia. I am used to rural life more than urban life. Of course it is related with my hometown lifestyle.

Forty percent of Mongolians citizens live in countryside where they live like old nomad lifestyle. Mongolian infrastructure has not developed yet like Japan. But there is still human living and will be keep on living in Mongolia. I noticed Japanese and Mongolians sense of beautiful nature is little bit different. In my sense, I say beautiful nature must be that which nobody has touched or crossed that land. My sense is also every Mongolians sense. But Japanese sense is opposite. It is people make change for nature while protecting it. For example cutting trees and building pond. These must be beautiful nature for Japanese people. I don’t think so when I see pond or cloud imaged trees, “that is not such a beautiful thing”.

“As of 2010, the town has an estimated population of about five thousand. On 1955 the villages of Higashitoyonaga, Nishitoyonaga, Ōsugi and Tentsubo joined to form the village of Ōtoyo then the village became a town.” according to Wikipedia. I was surprised when saw index of “65 years of age or older the proportion of the population is fifty four percentage”.

I visited a little station by the road and interviewed a shop assistant who has been living in Otoyo her whole life. Shop assistant is Nakamura Masako.

“I am 45 years old,” she said and I quickly wrote down on my note.

She was laughing and looking at me “That was joke, actually I am 57 years old.”

I was really really surprised when she told me her real age. After four years later she will be the average age of citizen of Otoyo town. Otherwise still young women of Otoyo. How interesting is an old aged society. If she had been Mongolian, Nakamura Masako would be an elderly person who looked like 40s young women. Otherwise, Mongolians average life expectancy index is man 64 years, women 68 years. Otoyo town’s population rate of change is -14.1% from 1970 year to 2010. And population were 12,440 on 1970. But made big jump population to 4720 on 2010. Most intersting rate is under the age of 15’s rate was just 5%, with the number of 243 children. Population over the age of 65 rate is 54%.

Where are the young people? I wonder why it is happening. Actually, Mongolian countryside people are migrating to capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Rural land is becoming empty like Otoyo town. I felt strange feeling from Otoyo town. There wasn’t energy of young people

“I am really happy to see you,” said Nakamura. “I have not seen energetic young recently”. When asked how many people visit her shop each day, she answered, “I don’t count, Maybe 80 or 100”. I easily calculated that per day one big tourist bus or middle two tourist bus. I know who coming there is almost all elderly people’s tour.

The only really super thing here is rafting. It is just one of the energetic sports on Otoyo. The company called Rio Bravo’s representative Tetsuya Watanabe said “Touch the space of non-routine called “River”, we experience the splendor of the Yoshino River in the whole body, to everyone to provide a happy hour/smile/vitality for tomorrow.” He is a rafter who has the bravery to fight the Yoshino river by raft. The dynamic water sports of rowing down the river’s rapids in a raft takes dedication when the water becames white with cresting waves. Rafting at the same time you can experience a sense of thrill and be refreshed, and that experience will be addictive. Yoshino has been called one of the best rapids in Japan, the Mecca of rafting.

The Yoshino River is a river on the island of Shikoku, Japan. It is 194 km long. It is the second longest river in Shikoku, and is the only river whose watershed spreads over the four prefectures of the island. It is regarded as one of the three greatest rivers of Japan along with the Tone and the Chikugo. The Yoshino rises from Mount Kagegamori in Ino, Kochi Prefecture and flows to the east. In Otoyo it turns to the north and crosses the Shikoku Mountains. The river has some “submerged bridges” (潜水橋 Sensuikyō). If Shikoku hasn’t river there is not road. River flows along lowland. This makes it easy to build a road behind river. Country’s development began with road building. I noticed Kochi would not develop without road and railroad. If you were walking around Shikoku for 88 temple before 1900 year. You can watch and feel “nothing” haven’t changed wild beautiful nature. Yoshino river is beautiful, more like a picture of mine.

Otoyo town is most populated of elder person and has most rapid river streaming. Elder natives stayed when their friend left in 1970. Nowaday, young folks are going to see “nothing”, and having fun, epic and energetic time on Yoshino river. Unfortunately today’s young don’t understand what happened to that town. In the end, it make me wonder: what is development? Me representing to Mongolia, what I should do for Mongolia. It is happening now. Japan is already at its limit.