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Izu Skyline - The Beginnings of an Epic Adventure

April 28, 2016

Day 1 - Izu Skyline

I am at the crest of bamboo covered knoll. The bamboo here grows like grass, 1-meter-tall grass, its undulations mark time with the gusts of wind blowing in from the ocean. The bamboo reminds me of the wheat fields I drove through in Kansas and Nebraska. Unlike the midWest though the dramatic topography of this landscape is anything but flat. To my right is Mount Fuji covered in snow, its summit masked by a ring clouds - like a halo. To my left the bamboo covered knoll drops precipitously 650+ meters into the unbelievably blue ocean. I am driving the Izu Skyline on Izu Peninsula, my destination is the relatively small fishing village of Ito (which is incidentally the name of the rod I fished the entire trip with). As I drove along the scenic Izu Skyline, I am forced to stop every few kilometers by yet another stunning vista. When the cell reception allowed, I pour over maps on my iPhone’s browser looking for “remote” keiryu that emanate from this mountainous spine that runs the full length of the peninsula. While there are lots of streams, finding ones that are relatively untouched by roads, homes, farms, and 7-Elevens was proving to be fairly difficult. With a shortage of flat ground on the peninsula every square foot of useable land has been overtaken by development in one form or another.

For the next three days I am planning to explore the interior of this tiny peninsula. While its overall landmass is small it is covered in huge mountains. The 4,000+ foot tall (1405 meters to be exact at the tallest point) mountains erupt from the Pacific Ocean and literally scrape the clouds. The ocean is crystal clear and possess a hue that you would expect to see in a tropical paradise – not a rocky and mountainous peninsula within spitting distance of Mount Fuji. My Kei van was loaded with hiking, rock climbing, and Tenkara gear as well as enough clothes and camping equipment to sustain me for a week.

After several hours of driving along Izu Skyline where each vista was greater than the last, I came around a bend in the road and through a gap in a stand of tall cedars I spotted a monstrous structure. It looked very strange way out in the middle of nowhere, yet somehow it meshed perfectly with the landscape. I turned off the mountainous by-way and checked Google Maps. There was not really anything here on the map, just some random roads that looked to be logging roads. I pressed on, through the trees, towards where I last saw the structure. Soon I entered a large and very well-manicured garden. The grass, flowers, and trees all looked perfect – too perfect. As I continued up the immaculately paved road I came across people who were all wearing the same grey track suits. Then I came upon apartment buildings in neat little rows. Towering over this scene straight from the Twilight Zone sat the ever present enormous terrestrial structure. People were staring at me, and not your typical “look a white guy with a beard” look that I get frequently but a sort of an “inquisitive yet you do not really belong here” look. Undeterred by the stares my curiosity took me towards the behemoth building. Further up the road there were more folks with grey track suits running in the huge grassy field beside the building (which was looking more and more like a corpulent oriental cathedral). They were chanting something that did not sound quite like any language I have ever heard. Not wanting to seem too nosy I continue on up the road to get closer to the building. As I drew nearer I could see that whole bottom level appeared to be an office building with cubicles and busy people hunched over computers and darting back and forth with reams of paper. The building was exquisite, the architecture and detail were stunning. There were ornate golden sheaves, strange globes on the points of the roof, and the whole thing was constructed from concrete - it looked like it could survive a direct hit from a tactical nuclear warhead. More people began staring at me and I was beginning to think that I may be trespassing. So, I turned around and head back to Izu Skyline, a little relieved to put some distance between me and this very odd place.

As I continued down the Izu Skyline, with my windows down and the wind blowing in my beard, I caught a brief glimpse of a spectacular keiryu! I pulled over at a bridge to investigate.

The water looked clean and clear – a perfect habitat for sakana (魚). I took the first opportunity to get off of the Izu Skyline and soon found myself at the edge of the river. I attached my line, extended my rod, and made the first cast. Before the fly had even hit the water a fish jumped out of the water and grabbed the fly mid-air. However, in my haste I had not secured my line correctly and the fish disappeared with my entire line and fly into the depths of the pool! I looked around hoping to recover my level line (maybe with a fish on the end still) but the lighting was horrible and I knew that there was no way I would ever find it. I rigged another line, this time triple checking the slip knot at the lillian and pressed on upstream. I ended up catching 3-4 Haya aka Japanese Dace (はや) and spotted several larger fish that appeared to be Amago! They were pretty smart though and despite all my efforts at enticing them to taste my fly they never did. After an hour or two I packed up as I still had a longish drive to get to the Michi-No-Eki that I was planning on staying at that night.

That night, after having found the Michi-No-Eki, I dined on sushi at the sushi go-around across the street. I did some research on the building I had discovered. Turns out that it is the headquarters for a new religious movement that was started in Japan but has since spread all over the world and is now lead by a guy who calls himself Seisho. After dinner I stopped in at 7-Eleven to grab a bottle of water. As soon as I crawled into the back of my Kei van the skies opened up and it rained the rest of the night.

To Be Continued...

Written by Isaac Tait who now lives in San Diego but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter