Monthly Archives: January 2017

Snow hike


From Shizuoka City, the closest place to find a snow hike is probably Aozasa Mountain. There you can be pretty sure that there will be a bit of snow, but that it won’t be so deep.

We’d walked Aozasa recently, though, so we decided to drive all the way up to Umegashima, where it’s a bit colder, and where you’re a little closer to the snow blowing in from Yamanashi. The snow’s usually a bit deeper along the trails above Umegashima.


We had hoped to enter the town of Umegashima, turn right, and drive another three or four minutes to the trailhead . . . but we had neither chains nor special snow tires, and we came to a slippery stop halfway up the climb into the town, maybe a hundred meters short of the right turn.


Well, it seemed like a good place to park.

So we walked to the trailhead and started into the woods at 8:53.


It wasn’t snowing, but  with the wind, snow dust would drift down from the cypress trees and glitter in the sunlight—and highlight how the sun was slipping into the woods.


Admiring the sun dust and sunshine slowed us down quite a bit.

The first leg took about an hour, then we had to decide whether to head up to Hakkorei Mountain, or up to the Abe Pass.  We took the trail up toward Hakkorei, thinking we’d go as high as Fujimidai, “The Mt. Fuji Lookout,” and then re-consider our options.


We were the first ones up that way, so the snow was fresh, about 20 cm of it . . . the first ones up except for the kamoshika (Japanese antelope-goat). Their prints, and the prints of some small animals (weasels???) were pretty much everywhere. The kamoshika prints were a bit difficult to discern at first, because it kind of looked like one kamoshika had been running and another had been riding a bicycle, but then we realized the “bicycle” tracks must have just been the way their hooves dragged through the snow, step by step.

The tree below is a famous “climbing tree.” We’ll be back in the spring.


We got to Fujimidai around 11. Which meant our pace had been about half what it usually was. It wasn’t really so hard to walk in the snow—mainly we just took a lot of pictures.


We decided, rather than go on up to the top of Hakkorei, we’d cut over to the Abe Pass. The woods were a little more open there, not so steep, so we could imagine larger sweeps of pristine snow.


And that’s what we did indeed find.

The trail that connects the Hakkorei trail with the Abe Pass provides one of my favorite views (below).


And then, the Abe Pass (below).


Heading back down from the Abe Pass, along the Sakasa River, we were still walking in pristine snow, making our own path. I think it got about 50 cm deep. As long as you’ve got leg covers to keep the snow out of your boots, there is no problem!

We got back to the trailhead at about 2:15.

Our usual hot springs, Kogane no yu, was closed for repairs, so we stopped by Onogiso. 500 yen a person. A very nice, peaceful rotenburo (outdoor bath).

Please join us next time!


Persimmon Light


Christmas Day, 2016, we strolled along the ridge connecting Kita Kamakura Station with downtown Kamakura. Along the way, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant for clam chowder and sausages. At the table next to ours was sitting a single flower.


Just a flower. No people. No plates, no bowls, no coffee cups.

161209_persimmon_blue _2_450

It looked a bit like a dahlia—or maybe a chrysanthemum—but for sure it was a vivid, energetic lavender-pink (Pink! my companion said), and had, I thought a certain lotus-like quality to it—it didn’t burn but stayed ablaze.


We hadn’t ordered so much food (we were sharing a single bowl of chowder and a single order of sausages), but compared to the flower’s table, ours seemed jammed pack.

So I couldn’t help myself. I turned to the flower and said, “You’re a light eater, aren’t you?”


Yes, it’s a terrible joke—but it’s a joke, a line, that I can’t get out of my head.

Most of us, in so many ways, could benefit from becoming light eaters. And there is so much we can learn from the flowers in the fields and the trees in the forests.


And just what do they know? Well, they’ve learned to get the bulk of their sustaining energy directly from the sun—something our scientists are trying to mimic, though in a much more humble way. Yes, the trees and flowers take essential minerals from the soil, but the vast bulk of their intake is water and light. We, on the other hand, tend to consume—eating, playing, working—bigger chunks of solid things, heavier things, and we surely have to wonder how long these big, heavy chunks of things, at our current rate of consumption, can sustain seven billion of us.


So one small piece of advice: From time to time, think a bit about the “light” eaters. They help us a lot, and they help to keep things in balance. They will keep things in balance, if we let them.


Winter, especially, is good for contemplating light. As I go for walks beneath the trees or out about town, I feel, maybe imagine, at least three different types of light. One I call New Year’s Light. This is the light that warms you to the bone, that makes you ask yourself, “Wow, is it really January?” Maybe this light cannot be experienced everywhere, but it certainly can be here in Shizuoka.


And then there is what I call December Light. This is, to me, a somewhat melancholic light. You can feel the cool all around. Just before twilight, you feel the temperature dropping. You wish your gloves were doing a little better job. You know it’s going to be a cold night, but just then, you are happy to be there beneath the maple tree, the tree that has kept its leaves longer than any maple tree anywhere else in town. You are happy to see the December sun slice into the yellow and red, setting it ablaze. This light, you know all so well, is one you can only hold your palms up to for a few more minutes.


And then there is something I call Persimmon Light. This light is warming, certainly, at least a little bit, but that is not its main appeal. Persimmon Light is something I feel must stay in the sky. There’s something spiritual and mystical about it, something that seems to connect me, here on Earth, with something far out in the universe. I’ve never actually seen a persimmon tree, leafless, full of fruit, atop a mountain, but I can imagine pretty clearly the feeling I would have if I hiked up a snowy trail, beneath the bare-branched hardwoods and the shimmering evergreens—here and there, the sun lighting up the bamboo grass—


—and came out into the open air, the sky azure, and there a single persimmon tree, its dark, spidery branches seemingly etched into the sky, the hundreds of translucent-skinned, orange fruit glowing.


Oh, man.

So I’m happy to have this opportunity to say thank you to the light.

Light, thank you.

You sustain me—and give me joy—all the year round.

Ah, and now I’m imagining the lovely komorebi (more or less, sunlight filtered through green leaves, the lighter green the better) that is to be had (for free!) this spring on the trail up Yambushi. I can see myself bathing in it.

Hearty Hikers, get ready!

Persimmon Light

 You led the way

Through the sunlit day

For me.

Through the powdered snow

Bamboo grass aglow

Beneath the trees.


The truth was in your hand,

I heard no stern command,

I felt so pleased.


We climbed up through the glare

Gleaned through crisp, clean air

Persimmon light.


All discord fell mute

As we gazed up at the fruit

Shining bright.

What comes next I am not sure.

But we dreamed of the azure

That night.


Can you conceive

Why I believe

Persimmon light?


Can you conceive

Why I believe

Persimmon light?


Can you conceive

Why I believe

Persimmon light?

NOTE: Only the pink flower pic and Buddha pic are from Kamakura. The snow pics are all from Aozasa Mountain, Shizuoka. The persimmon pics are from here and there in Shizuoka City.