Monthly Archives: November 2017

Chasing Fuji and the blue

November 26. It was hard to say whether we were chasing Mt. Fuji, and it just happened to be surrounded by a lot of blue—or we were primarily chasing the blue and Mt. Fuji just happened to be smack in the middle of it a lot of the time.

All the Hearty Hikers had been recovering from colds and we weren’t sure how much energy we could muster, but the forecast called for nice blue in the morning, and we couldn’t bear not heading off into it.

But the blue never faded—so we had to make a longer day of it than we had intended.

Had to.

If you do get a clear blue sky that stays with you, and you’re in the more-or-less-leafless season, then this hike is a really good one.

From the parking lot halfway between the town of Umegashima and the Abe Toge (road only open through mid-December), up through . . .

. . .  the blue . . . for about thirty minutes . . .

. . . occasionally crunching through the needle ice. . .

. . . up to Fujimidai (“Spot to See Mt. Fuji”) . . .

. . . where, yep, you’ll see Mt. Fuji. In the blue.

Or the blue. With Mt. Fuji in it.

Then on up the ridge, up to the top of Mt. Hakkorei, about an hour from Fujimidai.

In the leafless season, Fuji is always there on your right shoulder . . .

. . . there, through the trees.

And over your left shoulder . . . oh, my! Look! Through the blue . . .

. . . there, at the end of the winding Abe River, some 50 km away, the rosy Suruga Bay.

This brings a pretty good smile to your face, so maybe it is the blue.

The blue—and the clarity that seems to live in the blue.

On up you go, chasing the blue (and there’s Fuji, too, between the trees, if you look close) . . .

. . . and then we’re in the snow. No need for clampons—but it’s below freezing, and a bit icy here and there.

Remember, as lovely as the blue is, you only need a patch of ice the size of a coffee-cup saucer to fall and break your neck—well, more likely, your ankle or your hip. Let’s avoid that, okay?

Can’t see all that much at the summit—and it’s a cold day—so let’s keep moving. Back to Fujimidai, down another ten minutes, then a sharp left, to cut across to the Abe Pass.

Along the way, you’ll come to these two ridges meeting up, and you can look out to the ocean if you like . . .

. . . or out into landlocked “central” Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture.

Or you can just look out into the blue. Can’t see Mt. Fuji from here, so yeah, there might be something to the appeal of this blue.

What do you know of this blue sky? Why do most of us love it so much?

As you get closer to the Abe Pass, you find yourself face to face with the Bara-no-dan ridge. When you get up on that ridge, you’ll have another good view of our friend Fuji.

Here we are descending down to the Abe Pass. You can make out the top of the ridge that leads up to Bara-no-dan. From the top of Hakkorei to here, we’ve walked about an hour and thirty minutes.

Up to the ridge from the pass is a fairly steep five or ten minutes. But from there, well, you look out and realize there’s just you,  your friend Fuji, and all that blue. It’s a good time to close your eyes . . .

. . . and find a balanced view of things.

Thirty minutes later, you’ve climbed along the ridge to Bara-no-dan.

Yep, the blue is still with you. Amazing. Count your blessings.

Then it’s back to the Abe Pass, down along the Sakasa River valley, and back to the parking lot. Maybe five and a half hours in all.

Five and a half hours. I’m trying to figure out our milage. How much blue we got for the minute. But first, you know you’ve got to figure out how much blue you go.

How much blue did we get?


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?