Daibosatsurei

Above, the view from the top of Daibosatsurei, 2057 meters tall, in Yamanashi Prefecture.

We Hearty Hikers, a few days ago, drove up through Yamanashi Prefecture to climb Daibosatsurei, one of the “100 famous mountains of Japan.”

From the time, we got on the expressway in Shizuoka and headed toward Fuji, we knew we were in the right lane.

The hike was only going to be an hour and a half up, less than three hours round trip, so we were in no hurry to get to the starting point. We stopped repeatedly when a bit of beauty caught our eyes.

The persimmons, along the way, once we were in Yamanashi, of course got our attention. The combination of light orange fruit (mostly ripe) and dark, shiny orange fruit (sugars running, probably going soft) is lovely, don’t you think?

Yep, it was that time of year when the last of the persimmons on the limb have ripened . . .

. . . and so many folks are drying the astringent variety of the fruit out in front of their houses.

Another sign that we were on the right path.

And another.

And another. Could it be that the persimmons and the maples are sharing some common knowledge? They DO seem to be expressing the same feelings this time of year.

The golden beeches, in the sunlight, are pretty special, too.

Well, we got to the trailhead and got started around 11 AM. We went about everything very leisurely–and were back where we’d begun around 3 PM.

For the record: from the parking lot at the Kamihikawa Pass, you just follow the signs up. You can do the loop in either direction you like. It’s just 15 minutes or so to the Fuku-chan Lodge (where you’ll see the sign that tells you that Princess Masako and her hubbie, the Emperor, stayed there), then either left or right. We went left, the more direct route to the top. After an hour or so, you come to the main ridge, a collection of rocks (rocks big enough to lounge on) called Kaminari Iwa, or “Lightning Rocks.” This is where people like to sit and have a snack or meal and look out on the marvelous view of Mt. Fuji. Most likely it’s this view that makes this mountain one of the “famous 100.”

Turn left at the Lightning Rocks and five minutes later you’ll be at the summit, but here you’ll be in a little forest, so nothing much to see.

Then you can walk back, past the Lightning Rocks, and on along the ridge, to the Daibosatsurei Pass—and then turn right and you’ll be going  down the path that leads you back to the Fuku-chan Lodge. 

I’ve seen many blog posts describing this hike on overcast days, saying it was nothing special. Well, everyday in the woods is special to me, though it’s true there’s nothing unique about this walk, nothing especially special unless the skies are clear enough to get the really good view of Mt. Fuji.

The day we chose, fortunately, came with the bluest sky you could hope for—and we Hearty Hikers were ecstatic. Blue does that to us.

Recently I’ve been thinking about Alexander Humboldt, the German scientist/romantic who became the first naturalist/geologist to undertake a primarily scientific expedition to South America. His trip began in 1799 and ended in 1804. Charles Darwin and John Muir were big Humboldt fans.

Humboldt took with him a cyanometer, an instrument designed to measure the degree of blueness in the sky.  This instrument was invented by de Saussure, a Swiss scientist. Basically, it was a color wheel with 53 degrees of blue painted onto pieces of papers along the wheel’s circumference. One could merely hold up the wheel, rotate it, and match the sky to the most similar degree of blue.

At the top of Mt. Blanc, de Saussure “measured” a blue to the 39th degree.

Humboldt did him one better. On a climb in the Andes, up on Chimborazo, he measured a blue to the 46th degree. Humboldt believed in the unity of nature (who doesn’t?), and he theorized that the clearer and bluer the sky, the more lucid the thinking of those who spent time looking up into it.

Well, I’m not so sure about any lucidity of thought, but a person definitely finds joy in the blue, as any human being who has ever looked up into the blue can tell you, and she can also feel a little of that unity that Humboldt believed in so strongly. Well, understanding that unity, maybe it does lead to lucidity of thought. I’ll think about it a little more next time I’m under a really blue sky.

But up on the Daibosatsurei trail, well, I myself had no need for de Saussure and Humbolt’s cyanometer—because, to tell the truth, one of our heartiest Hearty Hikers is a cyanometer—I’d dare to say a more accurate cyanometer than those used by those two great scientists.

Basically, she looks up into the blue–and you observe how big her smile is. And then you know how blue the sky is. I don’t believe there could be any more accurate measuring than this.

I see I took 326 pictures of this blue sky. You probably don’t want to see that many pictures here on this blog post. But if you had been there, up on the trail, you probably would have looked up into that sky about that many times.

After the walk through the bamboo-grass, silver-trunked hardwood forest, we popped out into the opening, and had a full view of the main ridge.

10 or 15 minutes later, we were sitting up there on Kaminari Iwa taking lots of Fuji shots. It’s a beautiful view. If you can imagine yourself looking at Fuji (below), then turning your head slightly to the right, then, if you’d really been there, you’d be looking at the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps—Mt. Akaishi in Shizuoka, and Mt. Kita in Nagano.

Sorry, no really good pictures of that.

Yes, it gradually clouded over. It usually does. We went on to the summit, then walked back down the ridge to the Daibosatsurei Pass, then descended to the Fuku-chan Lodge.

And yes, we found the local hot springs resort.

Soaking in the hot springs, with your eyes closed, you’ll probably see that your life spirit is looking something like this:  

 

A November world of color

Oh, man, that blue. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

October was rough. We Hearty Hikers had three big hiking plans all worked out . . when the typhoons (so late this year!) and the rain ruined them all. It was especially disappointing not to be able to get to Yakushima (an island south of the four main islands of Japan) and into the lush green forests in which the ancient cedars grow. Ancient, as in several thousands of years old.

When the blue skies finally returned, and I knew that outside, somewhere, the beautiful orange persimmons were bursting through that blue, well, it was just then that a Facebook friend challenged me to post on Facebook, seven days running, seven B&W photos.

Black and white! Those words nearly killed me.

Don’t get me wrong. I like B&W photographs. It takes some real skill to take those suckers well. But that’s not me. I mainly take pictures so that I have an excuse to go out and bathe in the color.

For me, it’s simple. There is sunlight. It brings us all the energy of the sun. When it gets here, it breaks up–into color. When we look at this color, we see the energy that sustains us, recognize how beautiful the energy we’ve managed to secure inside ourselves is. Plants really dig this light, and are kind enough to turn it into sugar for us–so I’m especially moved by the color of plants.

Well, I gave it a try. The B&W challenge. For three or four days. My grand-hopes-for-November spirit gradually typhooned down into grey once again. I knew I had to quit, when I looked into the mirror one evening, and saw that my soul had turned to cold steel.

Look away if you need to.

So I had to admit defeat. And boy, am I glad I did.

Because colors color me happy.

Atop Ryuso Mountain, a thistle, and a happy bee blessed with a great eye for color.

Chlorophyl breaking down at the source of the Sakasa River—leaving yellow and gold.

Dabs of color along the road descending into Yamanashi Prefecture, seen from the Bara-no-dan Ridge.

Cycling into work, the pampas grass—and a blue sky.

Our friend Fuji, from the Aozasa ridge.

The blue is special. Because when you have that clear azure sky, the yellows, oranges, and reds under it, are going to be all the more special.

You guys know that I like the way those local folk singers, Shizuoka Duo, put it:

I feel the love coming through the blue . . . uh-huh,

I feel the warm glow of the orange . . . uh-huh.

Yep, the orange under the blue is something special, full of energy and love.

Energy and love? That might be redundant.

Persimmon dreams are there for us all the year round, but it’s really hard not to have persimmon dreams in November.

Along the Aozasa ridge, the light, the gold leaves of the beech, the blue.

Along the Aozasa ridge, the maples, the beech, the  blue.

Along the Aozasa ridge, the gold leaves of the beech.

And in the neighborhood, the love coming through the blue.

In the neighborhood, colorful persimmon dreams.

On the Bara-no-dan ridge, fall colors and the blue.

When you see a Hearty Hiker stand before this sight, and raise her arms to the sky, and smile bigger than the universe, then you truly understand the moral authority of blue.

In the neighborhood, the yellow of the rice—and the blue.

In the neighborhood, the greens and yellows of the rice. How sweet the light  golden grains look among them.

A deep sigh.

I’m feeling better now.

My soul has revived.

On campus, the cherry red cherry leaves.

On campus, the yellow and gold of the gingko.

And somewhere in the neighborhood, here and there, (keep your eyes peeled) . . .

. . . colorful friends doing what they can to get themselves up into that blue.

And, in November, after all the rain, everywhere . . .

. . . beautiful persimmon dreams.

The sky was so beautiful this morning, up on Yatsuyama, that I dipped down from the mountain and entered the grounds of Gokoku Shrine, so that I could toss a hundred-yen coin into the box—and express my gratitude for the color, for the love that lives in it.

And it just happened that today was Shichi-go-san—the Seven-five-three celebration. Boys celebrate becoming five, and girls celebrate becoming three or seven.

Where did they get the idea for all those colors? How happy do you think they feel in them?

A good day for persimmon dreams

How about that! It rains, and then the sun comes out, and the sky is the bluest blue.

“Bright!” one of my Shizuoka Duo friends exclaimed. We were all out in the neighborhood together, all three of us on bicycles.

It was a lovely October day. A good day for an outing.

“Wow! Lovely! Is it a couple? Mom and son? Best friends?” Shizuoka Duo wondered. (I don’t edit them, just report what they say. I like their spontaneous reactions—no matter the exact words. I don’t know why, but what they feel gets into me really fast.)

The light and the color had fallen in love. “I feel there are fairies flying among the flowers!” Shizuoka Duo sang.

On a day like this, you won’t be the only one out and about. Lots of folks know something good might happen on a day like this. “Music notes on a staff?”

You feel light-hearted, but at the same time, there’s a certain intensity, a natural sort of relaxed intensity (if there can be such a thing) in the way you see how the color and light are enjoying the day.

Not everyone will look in the same direction. No problem. The light is everywhere.

“What chord are they playing?” “What’s that instrument on the offbeat?”

“Looks like a gingko tree!”

Yeah, the pure joy of standing still, relaxed, your feet firmly on the ground (at times like this, it’s how you feel, even if you are on a tightrope), seeing the way the light and color sing and dance.

“I bet I’ll still be able to see it tomorrow!” Shizuoka said in a wondrous whisper.

It’s a good day to thrust out your chest, let it feel the warmth. If you know how to do the “bellybutton” (that dance number Shizuoka Duo sometimes sing), it seems like a pretty good time for it.

“Facing the truth!”

And yes, of course, it’s a good day for persimmon dreams.

But then again, every day is a good day for persimmon dreams.

“They’re going to be delicious!”

 

Ravished by the cosmos

In Shizuoka, an afternoon on a Saturday in late September is a great time to go for a bicycle stroll.

The farmers are out and about, cutting the rice—usually by machine, but occasionally by hand. I’ve been told that hanging the cut rice upside down allows nutrition from the stalks to flow down into the grain, but have not confirmed that.

But I’ve tried that myself, with my own body, and actually it works pretty well . . . if I don’t stay upside down too long—and I if don’t feint as I’m turning myself upright again.

Yes, it was a good day to stroll the fields, and to enjoy the cosmos . . . and to think about the cosmos. You know, the cosmos.

Walt Whitman said that he was a cosmos—and I suddenly thought to myself that it was as good a  time as any to wander about and see if I could find him. Honesty compels me to report that, from time to time, I thought that for just a fraction of a second, I had gotten a glimpse of him.

Of course, I must also admit that that may have just been the glare of the sun in my eyes.

Actually, it’s quite relaxing to search the cosmos for Mr. Whitman, and before long I’d fallen into a sort of contemplative bliss—and then it was quite easy to see Mr. Whitman, at least Mr. Whitman as cosmos. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what that was like . . . for the experience, the scene if you will, was not shot with sound.

No soundtrack. No words.

But a bit later, a gentlemen approached me (so to speak), and introduced himself, with a tip of his hat, as Somerset Maugham, and when I’d told him what I’d been doing, told him what/whom I’d been searching for, he told me that one of his acquaintances, a Mr. Larry Darrell, had once spent some time experiencing the cosmos rather fully (all of it, apparently, and all of it at once), and he told me with great precision how Mr. Darrell had described it to him.

Amazingly, Mr. Maugham, did not paraphrase. He quoted Mr. Darrell verbatim, for more than an hour.

I wish my memory were such! Unfortunately, I could, this evening, only remember a couple of minutes of Mr. Maugham quoting Mr. Darrell.

For what it’s worth.

“I’ve always felt that there was something pathetic in the founders of religion who made it a condition of salvation that you should believe in them. It’s as though they needed your faith to have faith in themselves. They remind you of those old pagan gods who grew wan and faint if they were not sustained by the burnt offerings of the devout. . . . 

“I have no descriptive talent, I don’t know the words to paint a picture; I can’t tell you, so as to make you see it, how grand the sight was that was displayed before me as the day broke to its splendour. Those mountains with their deep jungle, the mist still entangled in the treetops, and the bottomless lake far below me. 

“The sun caught the lake through a cleft in the heights and it shone like burnished steel. I was ravished with the beauty of the world. I’d never known such a transcendent joy.        “I had a strange sensation, a tingling that arose in my feet and travelled up to my head, and I felt as though I were suddenly released from my body and as pure spirit partook of a loveliness I had never conceived. I had a sense that a knowledge more than human possessed me, so that everything that had been confused was clear and everything that had perplexed me was explained.”

By the time I got home, evening was falling, and the sky, I noticed, had gone pink. It seemed to be calling me, so I went upstairs, and out on the balcony, and scrambled up onto the roof, sat down, and fell into a beautifully serene meditation.

On this evening, I was quite sure, I was not the only one who had done so.

Down from Mt. Shirouma

August 28th. The day before we’d climbed the up through the “Big Snow Valley” to  the top of Mt. Shirouma. After a night at the lodge, we were back up at the summit, around 4:50 AM, I think, to see a cloudy pastel-colored day dawn.

5:15 AM. The skies brightening–and time to look down the sandy, rocky ridge we were going to walk on our own way to the Big Hakuba Lake . . . and then on down from the mountains.

Lots of lovely views at your back, so be sure to stop frequently to peer over your shoulder.

And lots of rocks along the trail—sometimes it’s necessary to scramble across them.

This area is famous for raicho—grouse—and we saw other hikers scouring the slopes for the birds, but we neither saw one ourselves, nor saw anyone who’d spotted one.

And lots to see looking forward. The day before had been a clear, clear, blue blue day, and now it was clouds and pastel—and that was just fine. Very, very lovely.

We got to Mikuni at 5:50, a point where three prefectures come together, Nagano, Toyama, and Niigata.

One more look back . . .

. . . and then on toward the beautiful backlit, cloudy sky–and on towards Mt. Korenge.

We reached Korenge at around 6:35. From here, you get your first view of the lake.

By the way, this route down from the mountain is a little long, but, for this part of the country, it is a very easy (not so much up and down) walk.

The walk yesterday started at 1250 m and went up to 2932, but today it was only going to go down to 1700. Those 450 fewer m in descent make a huge difference. How do you get down from 1700? The only way down is two gondola rides.  The first time ever for us to end a hike with a ride in the sky.

The closer you get to the lake, gradually going down, the more green there is. Lots of the scrubby hemlock firs, and more and more flowers.

Close to the lake and around the lake, you can see the famous chinguruma flowers.

At first you might think that these are strange feathery petals, but actually these are just the seeds that remain after the petals have fallen.

The petals are white—and present quite a different face. We were there at just the right time that we could see both faces.

We got the lake at 7:55 and stopped for breakfast. Then around to the other side (no, those aren’t sand traps, they’re bits of remaining snow), up through the hemlock firs a bit and then down toward the gondola station.

The ragged cliffs of Shakushi are there on your right much of the way.

Much of the way.

And then you come to this day’s snow valley. The day before, though, we walked up the snow for about an hour. This day, we only walked across the snow for about three minutes.

 

The descent gets steeper from here. For a while you can enjoy the flowers growing so beautifully by the snow.

After that, it’s flowers and rocky trail for a good while.

More chinguruma.

And lots of miyamakinbai.

And flowers you’ve maybe never seen before.

And some you have. Down to the gondolas at 10:55.      

 

Up to Mt. Shirouma

From the parking lot, in the village of Hakuba, in Nagano prefecture, looking up at the three peaks in the Shirouma range–from left to right: Hakubayari, Shakushi, and Shirouma. In the mountains, looks are often deceiving. Shirouma, on the right, is the tallest of the three . . . and our destination.

SHIRO (white) + UMA (horse).

This was August 27th, the first clear day (we were told by people at the mountaintop lodge) in the whole month of August. Lucky us.

A twenty-minute bus ride took us the Sarukura Lodge, at the bottom of the climb. You can drive your own car this far, but we were planning on coming down a different trail a couple of valleys over.

The trail up was through the famous “Big Snow Valley,” which is covered in snow the year round.

From Sarukura to the summit is about 7.4km in distance, but with a 1700 meter altitude change. That’s about the same, for those of you on the other side of the pond, as the altitude change from the Colorado River to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The first hour and a half or so is a gentle climb—with lots of flowers.

Enjoy them. Just a few pics here.

Then you come to the snow valley. Time to strap on the clampons . . .

. . . and up you go.

And go and go and go.

Yes, there are cracks here and there in the surface snow. Be careful. The mountain folks keep a pretty good eye on things, and at least on this day, a safe course up the valley was clearly marked. Also notice that there are lots of fairly big rocks on the snow. Yes, rocks are known to come tumbling down the valley. No, we didn’t see any tumblers, but you need to keep your eyes peeled.

Rocks. Melting snow. Gravity.

Yes, a river is flowing under your feet . . . but the snow and ice is thick.

We were right around here when I began thinking that this was the most beautiful hike in the world. I’m guessing it was around 20 or 22 degrees Celsius at this point of the trail. Felt mighty fine in short sleeves and hiking shorts—for me. I really, really thought that if anyone ever asked me to take them somewhere, this would be it.

Up ahead is Shakushi. All throughout the climb it seems the most prominent feature on the horizon—but remember it’s the lowest of the triplet peaks.

When you get up and across the snow valley (it took us about an hour ) find a good rock to sit on, have a little snack, and  look back at where you’ve been–and beyond where you’ve been.

You may have thought the snow valley was a bit steep, but it gets steeper from here . . .

. . . and gradually gets steeper all the way to the top. The snow valley got you up about 600 m, but the second half of the hike is another 900 m or so. But it’s also glorious. Green fields of flowers and rocks all the way up, maybe two-and-half or so of this beauty. Lucky, lucky you.

 

Once you hit the main ridge, just past the first of the two lodges, you’re about forty-five minutes from the summit. Thirty minutes to the second lodge where we spent the night . . .

 

. . . and another fifteen-minute loose-rock scramble up to the top.

More flowers up there.

And you may discover that some folks have had an easier time getting to the top than you have. Don’t obsess over that.

You are you.

Though you might give some thought to the advantages of traveling light.  From the summit, to the left, look out and over  the ridge that leads to the “Big Hakuba Lake”—our destination in the morning.

And then back down the way you came, yet another nice view of Shakushi.

And lots and lots of peaks all around. All around you.         

Late Summer Dream

“If we think no worse of them than they do of themselves,

they might pass for excellent men. ”

(Billy S.)

Or women.

Yes, once again we Hearty Hikers were on the road to Ryuso.

Again? Didn’t you just go a few days ago?

Well, yes. But when it comes to Ryuso, there can never be too many agains.

And I think you know every day is different.

But last week when we came to cheer on (cheer up?) the chabohototogisu, well, they weren’t blooming yet. Of course, we had to come again.

The chabohototogisu, you see, have a confidence problem.  Their green leaves are “mottled with ugly black spots,” and they grow close to the ground, so they’ve got that height inferiority thing, and because they are so small, and like to stay alone, a single plant growing here and there, hikers really do trod their leaves “fifty times a day.” All summer they save up their energy, if they don’t get stepped on, and then burst forth in bloom, but only for a few days, and then they are gone. They wonder if it’s worth it.

They are a most lovely “demure yellow,” a yellow we love, but one they feel somewhat ashamed of. I don’t know why. True, it’s not the most photogenic yellow.

Well, simply put, they are the most lovely and precious things we’ve ever seen, and it’s a sad, sad thing to be out on the veranda reading a book, or grading papers, or maybe downtown bowling—when you know how they may be feeling.

So up there we went, with Shizuoka Duo and their assorted instruments (those are their words in the quotation marks above), to sing them a song. You can hear the song we sung them HERE. Or not, as you like.

As we approached the realm they demurely bloom in, we felt energized. This is, of course, partially because we were optimistic of success, but also because we were surrounded by . . .

. . . some incredible light-to-energy converters—ones manufactured with the most cutting-edge technology this world has ever known.

We were also buoyed by an unusually clear view of . . .

. . . our dear friend Fuji (if you ever decide to come along, don’t expect such clear skies in August), and by a lovely view of . . .

. . . the big, bold, and blue southern Alps.

Man, I wish I could show these views to Chabo.

……….

Finally, we were entering Chabo’s realm.

We were walking the trail, beginning to feel, maybe even understand, their loneliness when—don’t you see her, there on the left? No? Now do you see how she feels? Look again.

THERE!

We gathered around. Shizuoka Duo had me count in. The Duo played, and we all joined in.

Here and there we went, singing to each and every Chabo we found.

We did the best we could. I was proud of our effort.

And I think we did cheer them up a bit. But as soon as we finished singing and headed back down, I began to worry. They were so young. If we think no worse of them than they do of themselves, they might pass for excellent men—or women. Were they too young to know what that implied?

Well, as the older statesman of the Hearty Hikers, I know what it implies. Most of the time, you don’t have to worry if “they” are thinking worse of you than you think of yourself, because most of the time “they” are not thinking about you very much at all. (I added the “very much” later, so as to not seem too pessimistic or misanthropic or whatever.)

But they need to know that. They need to understand that. Jeez, most of the time, they’re up there all by themselves. Most of the time, we’re all up there by ourselves.

Yeah, if they’re so danged hung up on the self esteem thing, the first thing they’ve got to realize is that they are, with very few exceptions, the only ones doing the esteeming.

But it was a good day for me. When you’re searching the ground for Chabo, you really look, and when you really look, you really notice all sorts of things that you might not have otherwise.

Or as Shizuoka Duo sing in another song, I think it may be a song they call “Hangnail”—

When your eyes are on the ground,

There really is so much to be found,

Walk the misty woods and see,

At tiny flowers fall to your knees.

And that’s what I did. Saw what I could see.

Hey, what’s that?

Oh, an apple mushroom!

And a toad lily! (A close relative of Chabo’s.)

And who’s this squirmy wormy guy?

And what subterranean magic kingdom did this fashion king spring up from?

Once my eyes combed the ground with such intensity that I could see down, down, down . . .

 

. . . to the bottom of the sea, where all the colorful coral grows.

Thank you, everyone. A special thanks to you, Shizuoka Duo. And a special, special thanks to you, Chabo. I feel really good about today. I hope you do, too.

Water – falls

Yesterday, we Hearty Hikers went up to Umegashima for a quick trek up to the Great Abe Waterfall to . . . well, to see the water fall.

We walked cedar shade, looked up at the canopy light, the sparkling jade. (“Cedar shade” and “sparkling jade” are Shizuoka Duo’s words not mine.)

Our eyes feasted on color.

One of the Hearty Hikers hadn’t been with us for a while—and seemed a bit concerned about getting lost in the deep, deep wilderness, so we took her on a route that enabled her to . . .

. . . climb the Eifel Tower. You know, just to calm her nerves a bit.

But mainly we walked the water, enjoying the world’s most perfectly-tuned air-conditioning system.

And I thought about the water.

A lot.

I tried to think of something profound to say about the water . . . and finally remembered a dream I’d had once.

I had dreamed I was applying for a position as an assistant professor in philosophy—a subject I’d never studied. All of a sudden, a member of the interviewing committee was asking me this: if there’s one thing, one simple-to-grasp thing, that you think all philosopher students should come to comprehend before completing their undergraduate degrees, what would it be?

Yes, a prickly situation. I was shaking. I was sweating. I tried to remember a time, any time, that I’d felt philosophical.  And I remembered, being a boy of five or six, and standing before a little waterfall, a very little waterfall in a creek near our house, and thinking . . . “Water . . . falls.”

So that’s what I said. At my dream interview.

“Water falls.”

And in my dream, I got the job.

Ah, the mystery of job interviews!

But, indeed, water does fall. A drop or two might bead up on a level surface (surface tension?), but you can’t make a big mound of water—it falls.

Falling, for water, is an effortless action.

You can apply force to water, squirt it out of a hose or a water pistol, but if you leave it to itself, it falls. You can dam it up, stop it for a while, but the instant you pull the dam away, it falls. And here’s the amazing thing, you can wait a day or a thousand days to pull the dam away, and the water will react just the same. The very moment the dam is gone, it falls.  Years of imprisonment affect its will not one iota, affects its temperament not one iota.

It has looked within. It knows what it is.

You might compare that to your feeling when lunchtime is over and someone says, “All right, everyone, back to work.”     To fall, or to flow (if you like) is water’s inner nature. Prevent it from doing that (put it in a concrete pool, for example) and it does nothing. Just waits. It’ll wait for all eternity if necessary. Because all it wants to do is fall. It’s all, really, that it can do. Don’t get mad at it because it can’t program a computer.

I’d say more, but would surely expose that I still haven’t studied philosophy!

On the way back home, we of course stopped at our favorite onsen.

Lots of water there, too.

 

Mt. Senjo

170811_climb_up_to_kosenjo_600

August 11. In Japan, “Mountain Day.” On the 10th, a long haul up Mt. Kaikoma, a lot of direct sun, and a whole team of tired legs.

Somehow, over twelve hours, our legs recovered, and with talk of rain (and at least the fog rolling in early), we were up by 3 AM . . .

170811_moon_600. . . and out under the moon and onto the trail by 3:55, hoping to finish by noon.

Walking in the dark is wonderful. Very peaceful. Birds just waking.

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Soon the sky had brightened, though, and we could see the trail and the firs clearly.

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It was not going to be a day of clear, glaring, blue skies, but for a couple of hours it was a lovely combination of candy blue, lavender, and grey. That’s Kaikoma on the right edge of that range. (One of the Hearty Hikers suggested walking that entire ridge some time or another. Sure, but one mountain at a time!)

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Finally out from the firs and into the scrub pines where . . .

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. . . the spotted nutcrackers thrive. (In Japanese, hoshigarasu, “star crows” . . . I like that.)

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The nutcrackers are crazy about the scrub pine’s soft, pink cones.

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And then a scramble up some rocks and up to the peak of Mt. Little Senjo, at 2864 m.  It was 6:25 AM. We were two and a half hours in.

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Then it was across the ridge to the main peak, Mt. Senjo. A lot of good places to stop and breathe slowly and deeply. Go ahead. Imagine you’re there. Stop and take a couple of good breaths—deep ones.

170811_along_senjo_ridge_fog_450  The higher you go, the rockier, and foggier, it gets.

170811_senjo_top_S&T_600And then you’re there, at the top of Mt. Senjo, 3033 meters. 7:30 AM.

Breakfast time!

A grey day for the most part, but actually a very pleasant day after all the sun of the day before. And as Shizuoka Duo sings to us about grey days, “When your eyes are on the ground/There really is so much to be found/Walk the misty woods and see/At tiny flowers fall to your knees.”

There were lots and lots of small plants and flowers up there around the peak.

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And . . .

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. . .  rocks, as beautiful—and as alive—as any of the flowers.

Then . . . down, down, you go. After an hour or so, the trail runs into the Yabuzawa River.

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After an hour or so along the river, you come to this point, where you cross back over into another fir forest.

But the hour that you walk along the river is one of the most wonderful hours you’ll ever experience. The riverside is a long, long rocky field of flowers. It’ll probably take you thirty seconds or a minute at most to scroll down through the pictures, but please, for my sake, imagine that the scroll-stroll down along the river, over the rocks and through the color, lasts an hour.

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Oh, along the way, I found a waterfall to take a head shower in. Felt great!

Okay. Cooled down. Ready for the last hour. Back into the firs, and down, down, down.

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How proud of the Hearty Hikers I am. Six hours of walking and still raring to go.

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An hour in the firs—and then out in the open again. Yep, the skies cleared here and there.

From here, it was only another fifteen minutes—fifteen minutes through the woods and back to the Komorebi Lodge.

A wonderful day.

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Mt. Kaikoma

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Above, Mt. Kaikoma.

Our goal, for August 10th and 11th, was to get up both Mt. Kaikoma and Mt. Senjo.

The summit of Mt. Kaikoma is 2967 m, that of Mt. Senjo, 3033 m. Kaikoma is the 24th tallest in Japan, Senjo the 10th. But don’t let the statistics fool you: of the two, Kaikoma is the real bear.

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We stayed at the Komorebi Lodge, at the Kitazawa Pass. From Shizuoka, we drove about two hours, to Ashiyasu, then took two different buses through the mountains on the restricted roads, for another hour-and-a-half. Think long dark concrete tunnels, guardrails on the edge of huge cliffs, a lovely river below, and numerous waterfalls—one of the longest in the southern Alps. Think of a busload of hikers, anticipation lighting up their faces.

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All sorts of happy faces greeted us at the lodge.

The food was great. The lodge, some other hikers said, was ranked number two in Japan.

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The idea is to get to the top before the fog rolls in. You never know when the fog will roll in—but often in the morning, often early in the morning. Thus, the 4:30 AM start. We had a light in the sky, and lights on our foreheads, so no problem, though we had to remind one of our  members that she was going to have to open her eyes before we could begin.

Does 4:30 sound early? The lodge and the mountains are a different world. Everybody is up by 3 or 4. No private rooms. Rows and rows of “bunks.” Throats clearing.  Boots pounding the plank floor. You can’t sleep through it. And really, it’s a good time to begin.

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There are two trails up. So you can do a loop—or take the counterclockwise or clockwise approach—and come back the way you came. We ended up doing a counterclockwise loop.

So, it’s 4:30 and we’re off. First through the forest, along the Kitazawa River. Then . . .

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. . . out from the forest and up to the Sensui Pass. We got to the pass about 5:40. Above, we’re looking back at what we’ve just walked. The moon was still with us.

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From the Sensui Pass, you get your first view of Kaikoma, on the left. The other peak is Marishiten.

From the Sensui Pass, you head back into a fir forest—and the steep climb begins.

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Lovely views when you look back.

170810_up_komatsumine_600 Nope, you don’t get to go directly up Kaikoma. First, you have to climb Komatsumine, at 2750 m.

You eventually, come out of the forest, and into the scrub pine. We reached the summit of Komatsumine at 7 AM.

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On the horizon, to the left, was Mt. Kita, the second tallest mountain in Japan.

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And further to the left, and way off, behind Mt. Houou, our dear friend Fuji.

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And even further to the left, Kaikoma.

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And sorry to say, but you have to go down before you can go up Kaikoma. It’s a rocky way, with boulder fields that you have to scramble across.

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Very rocky.

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Some rocks want to think they’re little mountains. Let them. As Shizuoka Duo sings, “Hope-despair are living where the thinking makes them so.”

Just as you start to go back up, up Kaikoma, you come to a choice. You can scramble-crawl straight up the side of the mountain—or take the “winding” road up. Seems most people opt for the winding road, but lots of ordinary-looking hikers chose the steeper way.

But the winding path is steep enough, believe me.

170810_kaikoma_rocks_sky2_600  And because it winds . . . 170810_kaikoma_trail2_600

. . . you’re likely to think you’re ten minutes from the top . . .

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. . . for about an hour.

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Sand and rock.

You are a great climber, sure, but you have not conquered the moon. You’re still on Earth.  170810_kaikoma_trail4_600

And just when you think, you’ve gotten through the worst of it . . .

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. . . oh . . . more rocks between which you’ve got to figure out how to pull yourself up.

You’ll do it, don’t worry.

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And then you’re at the top. It’s 8:37, and you’ve beaten the fog.  Take a picture before it rolls in—because  it’s going to roll in before you can finish breakfast.

Ahhh.  Mt. Kita and Mt. Fuji have disappeared.

Back to Komatsumine.

And it’s farther back than it was coming. An amazing phenomenon that you’ll  experience often on hikes like this one.

From Komatsumine, we could have gone the way we came, back by the Sensui Pass, but we decided to go the other way, via Mt. Futago.

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There’s Mt. Futago right in front of us, the green guy. It wasn’t until we’d come down from Komatsumine quite a way that we realized that the trail was going to take us up to the top of Mt. Futago. Yes, we have a silly leader.

But we made it. Then back into another fir forest—and back to the lodge at a little before 1 PM.

Would our legs recover to hike up Senjo the next day? We’ll see.

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