Monthly Archives: April 2014

The quarter notes rise


You’ll be surprised by some of the funky new friends you’ll make . . .

140413_mountain_cherry_600. . . and you’ll come across a lot of mountain cherries in bloom . . .

140413_fuji_cherries_400. . . when you climb to the top of Mt. Hamaishi in the middle of April. You might feel mildly disappointed that the clear winter skies have gone hazy, that Mt. Fuji’s shimmering white crown is not as shimmery as a few weeks before . . . but the flowers in bloom on the forest floor will more than compensate.

140413_mikan_and_road_400All you’ve got to do is get together a carload of energetic buddies, figure out which narrow road will get you across the river, which under the expressway, and which over to the parking lot of the Satta Pass (about 3k from Yui Station as the crow flies), and start walking up along the road through the assorted citrus and biwa trees . . . and then straight through the cedar forest.

10k up, and yes, you’ve got it, 10k down. There’s another route, either up or down . . . if you like walking along the road the whole way. From bottom to top, for us hearty hikers, it took a little over three hours, but that was with me stopping seventy-three times to take pictures.

140413_rotting_roof_400Beneath rotting eaves

140413_new_mikan_leaves_400Slivers of young citrus leaves

Quiver in the breeze.

Up, up, up we went . . . and then we came upon these dear fellows. Can you see the curling tip of the black strand on the fellow to the left? You think it’s time for a barber?

140413_black_flower3_290 140413_black_flower_cropped_290  

One of our happy  hikers seemed fairly convinced that these guys were zombie pods (can zombies, I mean, real zombies, actually burst out from pods?), but I think she’d read one too many novel–and  the somewhat steep ascent had left her a bit lightheaded. It was pretty obvious (needless to say) that these cute little black fellows were newborn, elderly forest elves, sprite and humped shouldered all at once. Would a zombie have a single black strand of hair poking up from the top of its bald head. I think not. But I’ve seen babies like that, and old men, too, so . . . newborn, elderly forest elves it is.

140413_black_flower2_290 140413_vista_cherry-trees-on-mountain_290

“Come up and in!” they cheered, as clear as day, of course in that welcoming, inviting, cheery voice that is the voice of newborn, elderly forest elves.  “Have a look around. Take your time.”

And so we did.

(Okay, okay, the strand does not pop out, not exactly, from the “top” of their heads. But you shouldn’t let such an insignificant detail spoil everything for you.)

140413_fern_babies_375About the time

Fuji hides in the haze

Quarter notes rise from clumps of ferns

And take their places upon the staff.

140413_strawberry_flowers_roots_400Among greying roots

and silvery cherry limbs


Strawberry flowers find the key.

A hearty hiker holds out her palms

And feels the sound.

140413_white_purple_flowers_400“What about us! We’re pretty, too!”

Yes, yes, of course you are.

Any road will take you there

Follow the yellow brick — uh-oh!

140406_disappearing_road_400Or, considering how disorganized I was, and as dear old George used to sing, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

April 6. I thought, since I’d suggested to three others that next Sunday, the 13th, we drive to Umegashima (a place I’d never been) and climb Bara no Dan (about 1650 m, and which of course, having never been to Umegashima, I’d never even seen), that I ought to drive up today and check it out. I took a guinea pig with me. We’ll call him Super S, since he never got angry with me even once, despite my piss-poor planning.

Super S, the consummate good sport.

Basically, we didn’t . . . excuse me, I didn’t know there would still be so much snow up there–and thus I didn’t think it would matter so much when I went to pick up Super S and saw him step out of his house with tennis shoes on.

140406_abetoge1_400It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful, and let that be a lesson to all of you. (Still, I was a bad guide, no question.)

Shizuoka Station to Umegashima was about an hour and ten minutes, and that included a stop at the Circle K for coffee and rice balls. Don’t ask me which Circle K. There are thousands of Circle K’s on that road.

When we came to the end of the road (Umegashima) we turned right, drove up for about two minutes, parked in a little bit of space on the side of the road, and walked about seven big-boy steps to the Hakkorei/Abe Toge trailhead.

140406_trail_290 140406_snow_river_290

The first part of the walk went well. About an hour through the cedars. An easy path, if a little steep. Only hints of snow. Then we came back out to the road. Where we discovered a parking lot. Why didn’t we park there? What silly questions you ask.

We walked along the road for about ten minutes and then came to the “Old Abe Toge Entrance.” Notice that I used italics for old. It was a cute little (notice the word little) path running along a cute little river. There was quite a bit of snow–and not a footprint anywhere. I was happy as a clam, but Super S’s tennis shoes were feeling uneasy. Soon, though, the little path became the no path . . . or maybe the sublime path . . . undeterminable, with normal human eyes, beneath the pristine and lovely snow.

What a lovely, lovely place to be lost! Why not take a picture? Why not have a cup of the tea you bought in France?

Super S brought up the word old. As in “no longer in use.” If my brain had been functioning, I would have processed things like this: there is a river. We are following it up. It is heading up toward the pass that separates Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures. It will fizzle out at some point (it will not leap into Yamanashi)–and that point will be, more or less, the Abe Pass (Toge). Indeed, we were going the right way, but at the moment we weren’t sure–and the tennis shoes just weren’t going to make it through the white stuff. (I did have one set of crampons in my back pack. They seemed comfortable there.)

Well, even if we did make it to the source of the river, the source of the Abe River, the source of the Abe River that flows and flows and flows through the heart of the valiant Shizuoka City, we would have never, with that one set of tennis shoes, scrambled up the steep slope of Bara no Dan. See picture immediately below. That’s it. Bara no Dan.

140406_baranodan1_300But imagine it. Fifteen minutes from the source of all things . . . right where you’re supposed to be . . . and lost. There’s another lesson for you!

140406_snow_woods1_290 140406_skytree_290

But it was beautiful. I said that, didn’t I. We walked up along the road and then dipped down it, until we’d passed into Yamanashi–where we saw the road disappear. Then we walked back a ways, scaled a little ridge (the tennis shoes did what they could) and got a nice view of the surrounding mountains. Then silly me decided to go a little further up (yes, I had on boots), and I scrambled along the edge of a ridge through some wind-tangled trees and flushed at least one deer from its leveled resting spot. I didn’t see it/them, but I must have been within about five yards of it/them. I would have checked the tracks if I could have plunged into the brush as it/they had.

It was pretty cool being in the snow amongst the tangled trees.

All day, it snowed on and off, but for about five minutes on the way down, it was quite a blizzard. Not what I had expected. Blue sky, grey sky, blue sky, grey sky.

140406_grey_sky_snowOh, lovely blue sky,

Why oh why did you leave us?

Snow blew in, stupid.

The onsen, though, lived up to my expectations. Recommended. You buy your ticket and keep it, until you’re ready to leave–I suppose, like a hall pass.

140406_abetoge4_400Well, I’m a poor guide, a bit stupid and reckless, but I got us awful close to the source . . . and now my skin is as soft as a baby’s.

140406_abetoge3_400Travel with me as you like.