Gareth Naylor

Atmospheric paintings of Japan

Watercolor painting of the beautiful cliffs of Yabakei

Watercolor paintings of a beautiful cliff by a river

Watercolor painting of the beautiful cliffs of Yabakei
“The beautiful cliffs of Yabakei”

Today, we went on a family trip to Yabakei.

On the way, we saw a very interesting sight.

It was a road going straight into a rice field and then suddenly ending. Clearly the road was still under construction. But it was a very bizarre sight.

Yabakei, I should tell you, is famous for some tunnels. They were carved out by a monk called Zenkan. He did it to help the local people.

According to the story, the monk saw people walking along a precarious path on the cliff face in order to get from one village to another. Or something like that. And he decided to make the tunnel in order to make it easier for them. This was no small decision. It took him 30 years to make the tunnel.

Sadly, in more recent times the tunnels were made bigger for cars and in the process a unique historical feature was destroyed.

And now a new bridge is being built. 

By the river they have covered the grass with concrete. On top of the concrete they have put some flat stones.

It wasn’t a good idea.

The flat stones were sometimes loose. There were also big gaps here and there which tripped you over if you were not careful. 

And there were many steep steps and big drops where you had small ponds or the edge of the river.

It was very stressful walking around here with my toddler. I had to keep an eye on her all the time. 

In my opinion, it would have been better to have had a natural grassy bank. This would have looked more beautiful and it would have been a lot safer.

I wonder why they couldn’t leave it alone. It must have been so beautiful before. Anyway, that’s my rant over with for now.

So, as usual, I spent quite a while walking around and climbing over no entry barriers to try and find a good scene for a painting. 

Because I was with the family I had no time to paint so I took some photos. Later, at home, I did some paintings from those photos.

The cliff face here is amazing. And it was wonderful to paint such a beautiful natural feature. I am really happy with the results of the two paintings I did. But, of course, there is always room for improvement.

Below is the second painting I did.

Watercolor painting of the beautiful cliffs of Yabakei
“A pleasant stroll by the beautiful cliffs of Yabakei”

We also happened to see a group of bikers who had a thing for revving their bikes without even going anywhere. Yes, true animal behavior on display here. I guess they are the Japanese version of Hell’s Angels. 

Surprisingly, they were quite friendly or at least one of them. He made a peace sign when I took a photo of him. 

The seats on the motor bikers were very high. I thought they looked silly. But I suppose on the positive side at least you’re not going to fall off.


I originally wrote this story in 2014. I am now editing it in 2021. 

My story about the monk called Zenkan was possibly wrong. 

I learnt that there are many alternative stories about how the tunnel came about. 

I think the main story is that in the 18th century a monk, called Zenkan, made the tunnel in order to make a safe route for people to go to a spectacular temple called Rakan-ji.

One version of this story says that he made the tunnel all by himself with a chisel and hammer. Another story is that he enlisted help. 

And his motives are also subject to controversy. In one story, it said that his efforts were altruistic. In another, it is said that he charged people to use the tunnel and that this was the first toll road in Japan and that Zenkan became rich.

I like to think that he was an altruistic person.

That’s all,