With winter approaching the chances to meet flights of wanderers along the streets of Tokyo would seem to die out with the passing of the summer birds. Summer holds the tickets to all the comings and goings that we do. And yet this last weekend I ended up with three days of encounters: my Friday night dinner with former students, the day long celebration of eating and peeking, and then yesterday, most unusual, a chance meeting with two hikers at an outdoor store.
Lately I’ve been contemplating the need for lightening my load. This is meant in all aspects of my life. The idea first took root three years ago when, upon returning from a five day walk in the North Alps, my knees ached so badly from the enormous weight of my backpack that for nearly six months the nerve at the side of my left knee remained numb. I carried all the “right” equipment: all the stuff that the outdoor magazines had insisted were necessary for a safe and successful spell out in the “dangers” of nature. I was protected out there and instead of relying more on my brain for coping with emergencies and circumstances, I limned myself with all manner of gadgets that would make my time in the wild less stressful.
All spring I had been anticipating the ten-day break of August this year, for a chance to escape Tokyo and spend a nice long period walking up along the ridges of the North Alps. My pack was loaded, all the food prepared, and the route mapped out. I even went to bed early the night before to make sure that I was fresh for the exertion.
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.
Down here in Tokyo a summer storm might cause people to grumble about sopping pants hems and forgotten umbrellas, but rarely does it make for more than passing banter. Up in the alpine regions of the mountains, though, a storm … Continued