NAGANO -- A section of road to the heart-shaped Hokuryu Lake in Nagano Prefecture, called the "lake where love wishes come true," has been dubbed the "Hokuryuko Heart Line," as it, too, is very nearly in the shape of a heart.
Near the roughly 3-kilometer stretch of road in the city of Iiyama is a forest certified as a place where people can take therapeutic walks. Mirai Shakai Suishin Kiko, a local general incorporated association, came up with the name to make Hokuryu Lake better known and help promote tourism in the area.
Hokuryu Lake is surrounded by forest and has mountains on three sides. It is located at the foot of Mount Kosuge, once a hotspot for ascetic mountain practices. The lake contains meltwater, spring water and rainwater.
According to the association's vice-chairperson Toshiaki Dezawa, Hokuryu Lake was once called "Saotome's lake," where "saotome" female rice planters washed their hands and feet. There is a legend that a koi carp in the lake fell in love with a local saotome and wished to be reunited with her, which was fulfilled. The lake's reputation as a place with the power to grant romantic wishes stems from this legend.
The association is working to create a sustainable "1,000-year-old village" that makes the best use of Iiyama's nature and human network for the future. It recently noticed that the two municipal roads 4-359 and 4-442, connected to Hokuryu Lake, are shaped like about three-quarters of a heart, and gave it a name.
The forest embracing the lake makes it a prime spot to take in the beautiful autumn foliage. Dezawa said, "It's also said that male and female dragons joined by love live at the bottom of Hokuryu Lake. We would like people to know the charm of Hokuryu Lake and its rich natural surroundings."
(Japanese original by Naohiko Takura, Nagano Bureau)