Itako MAG

By Joalton N., San Antonio, TX

     Itako, a riverside town in the south-east of Japan, is renowned for its fresh, vernal beauty. It is a major tourist spot during the early part of the year when eager camera-toting nature-voyeurs amass for a few brief weeks, and then disperse with the advent of hot weather and the death of the irises. In the past, Itako was recognized as a romantic, small-town destination where poets and song-writers were known to linger, searching for inspiration.

With a population of scarcely 25,000 year-round residents, Itako has remained relatively quiet and free of cosmopolitan pressures. Walking through the hillsides of Itako you will never observe the fevered rush of people on the roads or sidewalks that characterizes Tokyo, or even smaller urban areas.

That isn’t to say, however, that Itako hasn’t changed with time. During my stay a year and a half ago, it seemed the very embodiment of semi-rural suburban life. Even though I was not able to see the Iris festival for which the town is famous, I was glad we visited during the off-season.

The farms which framed the highway seemed absolutely serene, intangible, indeterminate, as if I glanced away for a moment I would find an entirely new scene on my return. Generic suburban architecture and hilly, riparian topography had been poured into a perfect amalgam below the azure or alternately gray skies. It was riveting in its plainness. The aesthetic appeal of the place was almost religiously compelling for me, and I found myself frequently awakened from a pensive reverie by my companions.

Would I recommend Itako as an exciting tourist location? However beautiful, Itako is only “interesting” for a small fraction of the year. Without its spring flowers, Itako fades into obscurity among a potpourri of other small towns, losing its one distinctive feature. If asked to tout its virtues as a tourist locale, I would have to consider that maybe it’s this very lack of distinction that initially attracted me to the town. Ultimately though, I’m left with no choice but to describe it as a mixed blessing.

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