In the land of farming, the water of the Asuka River was used for irrigation, while the occasional flooding brought rich, fertile agricultural soil.
The water has flowed ceaselessly from the ancient times connecting the past with the present.
At the upper Asuka River in the Inabuchi district, there are stepping-stones which have been laid by the local people to cross the river since the ancient times. Whenever the stones were washed away in flodding, new stones were replaced in a long history.
As a historical fact, 南淵請安, Minabuchi no Shoan, lived around there. He was a monk studying abroad as a Japanese envoy to Sui and Tang dynasties China. When he started a school on his return, 中大兄皇子 (Crown Prince Naka no Oe) and 中臣鎌足 (Nakatomi no Kamatari) learned Confucianism there. It is thought that the two of them conspired to defeat the Soga clan, which "monopolized the position of 大臣 (Great Royal Chieftain) and was the first of many families to dominate the Imperial court by influencing the order of succession and government policy", on their way to Minabuchi. The defeat of the Soga clan led to 大化の改新 (Taika Reforms, 645) which brought about greater centralization and enhancing the power of the imperial court.
Crown Prince Naka no Oe and Nakatomi no Katamari would have walked on the stepping-stones to see Minabuchi.
Inabuchi district is noted for terraced paddies. The spread of beautiful terraced paddies is seen as the old heart of Japan.
The different scenic expression of the terraced paddies from season to season is one of the greatest attractions of the Asuka village. In autumn, it is 彼岸花, Cluster amaryllis, or Lycoris radiata, on the footpats beween the paddies.
|Ready for reaping.|
All the Japanese Higanbana is triploid form. “The triploid forms are sterile, and reproduce only vegetatively, via bulbs. The Japanese triploids are genetically uniform. It has been suggested that they were introduced into Japan from China along with rice cultivation.” (Wikipedia) They are unable to produce seeds. It is thought that some bulbs from China have spread throughout Japan by separating the bulbs. Higanbana could have spread to all Japan from this Asuka village.
This is one of some Manyo poems in which the stepping-stones of the Asuka appear.
万葉集 (Manyoshu Anthology, 8th century) 11-2701
Meaning: I’ll cross the Asuka River by the stepping-stones to see you tomorrow again, like “asu (tomorrow)” of the name “Asu-ka”. I’m alwlays thinking of you and I don’t think we are separted like the stepping-stones. (I love you so!)
In the Manyo poems, these stones often imply a (secret) date or emotional distance of two lovers.
Autumn of Asuka with more information about Higanbana: Strolling around Asuka
Spring of Asuka: April colors in Asuka village