One summer day in Wakaki Town, Takeo City
On a hot summer day, Thai students studying hard in Japan gathered at JR Takeo-Onsen Station. It was so hot on the day that sweat ran down their necks and they all said, with a frown: “It’s hotter than in Thailand,” even though they must have been accustomed to heat.
They were there because they had been invited by Wakaki Town in Takeo City to participate in a two-day exchange program with local people and junior high school students, which was held on that and the following day.
Blessed with the richness of nature, Wakaki Town is located in the western part of Saga Pref. The town is adjacent to Imari City, and also within 15 minutes driving distance from the historic Takeo Onsen hot spring resort area. At the station, the Thai students took a bus to Wakaki, where they had a nice time, for example, visiting landmarks and participating in a summer festival. Now, let’s look a little more closely at what they did on their “slow trip”!
Kawago-no-Okusu, the pride of local people
Their first destination was Kawago-no-Okusu, a giant camphor tree in the Kawago no Okusu Park in Wakaki Town. Upon arriving at the park, they met students from Takeo Kita Junior High School at Tametomo Hall, who would be joining the Thai students in the two-day program. Then, they all saw a karakuri puppet show based on an old local legend of a huge snake. They watched seriously how karakuri mechanical dolls were used to tell the story of MINAMOTO Tametomo, a 12th-century Japanese warrior, who defeated a huge snake living on Mt. Kurokami. Some students shot video of the show with their smartphones.
After the show, the students went to see Kawago-no-Okusu, which also provided them with some fantastic photo opportunities. A female Thai student said: “I’m very surprised at the size of this tree. In Thailand, I have never toured such large trees. This is a rare experience for me.”
Next, the students visited a splendid wooden water mill, located next to Tametomo Hall. The operation rate of the water mill is higher than that of any other water mill in Japan, and rice threshed with the water mill, named “Suisha-mai,” is available for purchase at the hall.
According to the Environment Ministry’s “Giant trees survey,” Kawago-no-Okusu, a giant camphor tree in Kawago, is the fifth largest tree in Japan and has been designated as a national natural monument. With a trunk circumference of 21 meters and a height of 25 meters, the impressive giant tree is said to be over 3000 years old.