Returning from the mountains this last weekend was like descending from a great height. For three days I walked along fern festooned paths, my head literally in the clouds, all the while counting raindrops that seemed to have taken over the whole world. Originally the walk was meant to start along the higher, steeper crags of the South Alps, but with all the rain this summer landslides took out the one road that leads up to the riverine valley of Hirogawara. A whole mountain range that in normal years is overrun with hikers, this year sits in relative silence as most walkers avoid the astronomical Â¥25,000 ($220) taxi fare for the long detour.
On my first day of my six day walk down the length of the Yatsugatake range last summer, I camped by this lake. With evening the temperature plummeted and few campers were out and about. For two hours I sat at the end of the pier with my eyes closed, listening. I heard the lapping of the waves, the moan of the wind on the ridge above, a lone nightjar whose eerie laughter echoed across the water, and, almost a murmur, the quiet voices of campers huddled in their sleeping bags.