Springs

Traveling in Senshu with Its Stories of Water

Springs

Though rainfall is comparatively low in this region, the evergreen broadleaf forest that envelops Ogami Jinja Shrine seems replete with the presence of the divine. Deeply rooted in this remote setting, the sanctuary tells a different tale from the urban temples and shrines that cater to visiting tourists. Also known as Amefuri Daimyojin, it is a shrine dedicated to the water deity, and people pray here for relief from drought. Nearby is the Amefuri (“Rainmaking”) Waterfall.

 

The word for spring is izumi and the character used is also read sen. This is the “sen” of Senshu. Other place names in the area incorporate this character, like the cities of Izumi, Izumiotsu, and Izumisano, as well as Sennan. The terrain faces the bay with the mountains rising up at its back. Rainfall is relatively low and there are no large rivers, but “springs” are the secret of Senshu’s fertility and vitality.

Rich Springwater Resources

Senshu has more than 3,000 reservoir ponds like these.

The Senshu region is dotted with reservoir ponds, some 3,500 of them accounting for 60 percent of the reservoirs in Osaka Prefecture. The prefecture itself accounts for 1/20th of reservoirs in all of Japan. Collecting water from local streams, these reservoirs are used to irrigate agricultural land through a vast web of irrigation channels.

 

The reservoirs of Senshu have a long history going back to the introduction of wet rice culture in the Yayoi period (300 BCE–300 CE). In the Nara period (710–794), the Priest Gyoki (668–749) was instrumental in building these reservoirs, saving the people from recurrent drought and continuing that role even today.

 

The reservoirs are maintained by their respective communities, and in recent years they have gained renewed recognition as the focus of citizen-participation in water-related recreation facilities. Nagaike Oasis, one of the “100 Select Reservoirs,” is encircled by a walking route.

At Fudoguchikan inn at Inunariyama Onsen hot springs, the baths look out on vistas of green mountains.

The slopes of the Izumi mountain range rising at the back of the Senshu region are the watershed that feeds these reservoirs. The peak of the Izumi Katsuragi mountain at the center of this range is covered with flourishing primary-growth oak forests known for their water-retention capacity, and it is these areas that supply the underground springs of the Senshu region. Hot springs are found in the foothills, and soaking in these plentiful waters while gazing out at the lush greenery of the mountains at an inn like the Fudoguchikan at the Inunakiyama Onsen spa is a special luxury. The Izumi Katsuragi Lookout Point offers a panorama of the Senshu region below.

Bounty of Delicious Water

The walk from the “oriental”-looking Mizuma Kannon Station to the Mizuma Temple is about 15 minutes. Canals through the town flow with clean spring water. The way is dotted with statues of the 16 doji boys who are said to have guided the Priest Gyoki to the Mizuma Temple waterfall. Gyoki is known for his contributions to building the reservoirs of Senshu.

You can take a short trip to trace the source of these springs. The Mizuma Tetsudo railway runs in a straight line from Kaizuka Station near the coast up to Mizuma Kannon station in the foothills. The two-car train does the run on a single track in about 15 minutes. Most of the passengers are local commuters. The street leading from Mizuma Kannon station to Mizumadera Temple follows the path of the stream running down the mountain. It is a pleasant walk, and you can tell the water is clean when you see the freshwater crabs raising their heads in the shallows. An approximately 15-minute walk brings you to the imposing main hall of Mizumadera and its three-story pagoda. It was the Priest Gyoki who first built the temple here.

 

When the Nara-period Emperor Shomu (701-756) was suffering from illness, he ordered Gyoki to go in search of an image of the Sho Kannon bodhisattva. In the Mizuma area the priest met sixteen doji boys (incarnations of Kannon), who guided him to a waterfall. There, an old man appeared and handed Gyoki a Buddhist image, then turned into a dragon and rose up into the heavens. It was Ryujin, the water deity. The Mizumadera main hall enshrines the Sho Kannon bodhisattva, and nearby is the waterfall out of which the legendary dragon appeared. Beyond the waterfall rises the forest-covered Izumi mountain range.

Farmer Kawasaki Takahiko specializes in mizunasu eggplant. Controlled hothouse conditions assure not only their excellent taste but also luster and color. His eggplant was served at the G20 Osaka Summit (2019).

One of the products for which Senshu is famous is the mizunasu eggplant, a small, succulent variety that can be eaten raw. Growing mizunasu requires plenty of water. Farm owner Kawasaki Takahiko does not rely on the reservoirs but taps into underground water himself. Orders for his meticulously cultivated eggplant that “maintain their freshness” come from upscale restaurants even in faraway Tokyo.

The Naniwa Brewery makes a fruity junmai ginjo sake (Right) and a bright and aromatic daiginjo sake (Left). At right is the well that supplies water for sake making.

Sake-making depends on rice, koji, and water, and the quality of the water determines the outcome. The Naniwa Brewery in Hannan, which was founded 300 years ago, has a well always brimming with spring water from the Izumi mountains. The brewery can draw sufficient water from this well for its sake-making as well as daily life, and they say it has never gone dry. When you visit, if you ask to taste both sake and the water, you will get some idea of the aspirations of the master brewer.

 

For Senshu tourist information inquiries, please contact the Senshu Japan Concierge Team.

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