Monthly Archives: May 2017

Nineteen ways of looking at the yashio


A couple of weeks back, we had seen the yashio trees in the grey. A few days ago we managed to see them in the blue. Two different ways of looking at the yashio.

I once heard of a man who sung of thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird.

When I saw the yashio in the blue, I wondered, “Just thirteen?!”





Why only nineteen ways of looking at the yashio?

I haven’t had much time–

And I am very small.



Was it frustating, trying to take the photo of the yashio swaying in the breeze?

170523_yashio_19_298 170523_yashio_21_b_298170523_yashio_4_298 170523_yashio_20_b_298



 A little leeway. A little time to spare. A bit of elbow room.

A few seconds in which you can choose to leave—or linger.

The view expands, evolves, develops, disappears.



Much to see . . . between the leaves of the yashio.



A flower.

Leaves with a flower.



On the mountain, the shijukara flit frenetically.

The eye can hardly keep up with them.

The eye cannot move slow enough to see the frenetic movement of the yashio as they journey to where we all journey—

The light.



Stand where you will, the yashio know the way around you.



Plum blossoms are bursting open now.

White-eyed birds are sucking at the source.

Cherry petals soon will paint the sky.

The yashio will give us reasons why.

Red-tipped leaves will glisten like the stars.

It’s bound to give our closed-up hearts a jar.



What was just behind the yashio?



We sat upon a tree that had bent down low beside the trail for us.

We looked at the yashio blossoms, peered into the centers,

Read the green braille on each petal

As the bees do.

170523_yashio_6_600  XV

A shadow—perception’s knife.


We were not sweating,

Not panting.

The climb up the ridge where the yashio bloom

was not a climb at all—

not on this magical day

in the magical month of May.



She said,

I’m so glad you’ve come along with me.

I said,

I am so glad you have come along with me.

Neither of us spoke words.



Look, Jane, look.

Look, Dick, look.



Pot luck.

We’ve brought the oxygen—

Decorated the table.170523_yashio_18_600XIX

Respiring, inspiring—with the yashio, breathing.

At tiny flowers fall to your knees


May 14th. Up to Umegashima, up the Mt. Hakkorei trail, we went, to see what the yashio were doing. They usually bloom around the end of May, but it was a cold spring, so we weren’t sure how far along they had come. The forecast was for blue skies, and we had dreams of taking some great pictures.

The skies, though, didn’t turn blue. They remained grey—and except for the bottom end of the trail, most of the yashio leaves were not yet out.  But at the bottom, up against the grey sky, the leaves that were out were lovely.


In some places the leaves were so thick, you could hardly see the grey sky at all.


Yashio trees belong to the azaela family. They grow, more or less, along mountain ridges (out in the wind and the partial-day sun), at altitudes between about 1500 and 2000 meters.


Unlike some of the other azaelas in the neighborhood, the yashio trees have rough bark—and they’re quite skillful at twisting their limbs out and around and all about, in search of sunlight. The wind, of course, also affects the way they curve all about.

The good thing about the trees not yet blooming—and many of the leaves not yet out is . . . we can go up and look again. We will. For sure.

Anyway, it was a misty grey day, and on such days, we often, suddenly, find ourselves remembering those lyrics by Unknown Shizuoka Duo . . .

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.

So that’s what we did. Look for tiny flowers.

Like the little guy below. He was all by himself—and had our eyes been absorbed in a blue sky, we likely would not have spotted him.


The kibanahananekonome (Yellow-Blossom Cat’s Eye) were growing more profusely and were easier to spot.


It was also the season for the iwazakura (Rock Cherry) to bloom. We knew that. We’d seen them last year. But we didn’t think to think of them this time, until a fellow hiker, passing the other way, reminded us of them.

The iwazakura grow, more or less, out from the face of rocks—and you can see . . .

170514_kumoiwazakura_1_600. . . that if you don’t have them in mind, you may not spot them.


The same flower closer up.

170514_kumoiwazakura_4_600Charming they are.


Also this time of year, you’ll surely see this green swirling guy, with hundreds of his friends, growing along the Hakkorei trail. His name is baikeiso, and some folks mistake him for an edible green. Don’t you. He’s deadly poisonous.

Hopefully, we’ll have more photos to share in a week or two, of, with a little luck, yashio leaves and blooms against a blue-sky backdrop.

But even if we don’t get blue skies on a day we can go, there will be no great loss. The grey is lovely too, and we’re going to go again next year.



Emerald city and the mountaintop beach

170430_emerald_pool_azaelas_600Emerald City.

One of our Hearty Hikers had been wanting to take us all to Hinata Mountain for a while now, and though she had something she wanted to celebrate on May 2, the weather forecast suggested April 30 might be better, so we all piled into the car and headed up to Yamanashi that last day of April.

It wasn’t May, but it was in place of  a May celebration, and what with our beloved yashio (click here) always blooming in May, we are always believing in (as Shizuoka Duo sing), “A magical, magical, magical May/A magical day in the month of May.”


Except for our leader, we weren’t exactly sure what we were in for, but as soon as our car crossed over a hill and Kaikoma Mountain came into view, we got a good feeling about things. Our plan was to follow the Ojira River canyon up and up and up, and at the last moment turn up the steep ridge up to Hinata (only half as tall as Kaikoma), and then down the other side, a much shorter route back to the campground parking lot.

Out the back of the campground we walked, into the grounds of a shrine, where . . .

170430_warrior_450. . . a mighty warrior leapt out in front of us. Indeed, he was imposing, but the way he sort of pranced in place, did a silly sort of bent-knee jig as he talked, was, admittedly, a bit comic.

“Follow the emerald-green road,” he chanted. “Follow the emerald-green road.”

We stared in disbelief.

“The trail may grow knotty,” he chanted, “but follow the emerald-green road.”

“You may need to build a ladder to the sky and climb on every rung,” he sang, strumming an imaginary guitar, “but follow the emerald-green road.”

We were shocked, to say the least. We were used to meeting Jizo (click here) out on the trails, but never such a mysterious fellow as this. Maybe it really was going to be “a magical day in the month of May.”


Along the river we went.

We were just about to think that we’d imagined the  warrior speaking to us . . .


. . . when we came to the first waterfall, the first emerald green pool. Something inside us began to buzz. Maybe we were on a magical way.

Sometimes the trail would take us high above, and out of sight of the river, and we’d wonder if we’d been tricked, but just then . . .


. . . a line of azeala flowers would dance across the trail, or we’d see that . . .

170430_green_leaves_600. . . the emerald road was following us. The emerald road was . . .


. . . looking down on us, watching over us—no matter how far from the river we got.

Once we were aware of that,  we lost all sense of being on the trail for the first time.

We just felt we were exactly where  we were supposed to be.

170430_emerald_pool_1_600And then we were back on the river . . .

170430_emerald_pool_sand_600. . . feeling more and more . . .


. . . giddy. Feeling giddy . . .


. . . and something else. I felt it as much as anyone, but I couldn’t find the word for it.


Not until our leader suddenly raced to the edge of a pool . . .


. . . and said this:

I do believe in gratitude.

I do believe in gratitude.

I do I do I DO believe in gratitude.

170430_jinja_taki_b_450Believe me, we all understood it then. And that was the magic of the emerald green road.

170430_root_knot_600At least, that was the start of the magic.

Our vision improved.


So much delighted us.


And the way we felt just then, well the forest sensed it—and just then we peered in among the trees and realized that the trees had gathered and conferred . . . had chosen a representative—an ambassador—to bestow on us Hearty Hikers a heartfelt message.


I know, some of you may be disbelievers, tree branches don’t talk to hikers on the trail, you may say—but just try telling that to any of the Hearty Hikers who experienced that magical, magical, magical day—a magical day in the month of May.

Sure, you may take a dozen or so strides down toward the tree, get off the trail, get a different angle on things . . .

170430_heart_branch_stretching_600. . . and try to tell us all that the branch was not intentionally showing us its heart (in a language that we could understand, of course) . . . but we Hearty Hikers will answer that your perspective only shows how hard the tree is trying to persuade its branch to try and try and try to speak in a language that passing-by hikers can understand. Your perspective only shows the effort trees do make on our behalf.

You might try going back and standing in from of the emerald pool, just where our leader stood.

But it was steep, make no mistake about that. And as the warrior had warned . . .


.  . . things did get knotty.

Once we even came to a place where a landslide had destroyed the trail.

Fortunately, our emeraldized leader was undaunted. She clicked the heels of her boots together three times . . . and suddenly . . .


. . . there was our ladder to the sky.

Have you ever climbed a ladder to the sky? I’m not talking about that children’s story beanstalk mularkey—I’m talking about a genuine ladder to the sky,  a ladder to the stars.

Once you have, as my good friend Henry says, you will never see the tree you’re walking past—or your neighbor, or anything—in the same light again.

The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and
different beings in the various mansions of the universe are
contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human
life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what
prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place
than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

Once we’d gotten up that ladder, once we’d seen all the way to the stars, we certainly saw things in a new light.


All sorts of things.


We saw that trees could channel a lot of rock if they wanted to.

170430_treetrunk_root_600We saw that tree roots could channel tree trunks.


We saw that trees could grow right out of rock if they wanted to. (It’s a matter of minerals—and security.)

170430_sandy_slope_2_450And finally we saw that you could climb up and up and up through the canyon, up and up and up the ridge toward the mountaintop . . .


. . . and come to sand dunes.

170430_hinata_peak_2_450Saw that if you trudged up through the sun dunes, you would come to a magical kingdom.


Come to the the most glorious beach . . .


. . . overlooking the most glorious ocean.


Kaikoma would look on, enviously.

But this, after all, is just a hike. At a good clip (but stopping for pictures), four and a half hours through the canyon and up to the mountaintop. From there, maybe an hour and a half back to the campground and your car.


But as you take the short walk back, you’ll probably find yourself peering up through the trees, trying to keep a hold of the magic a little longer.

And once you’re down, you’ll probably need to drive to the nearest hot springs as quickly as you can . . . to let the whole day soak in.