Wild Walking in a Wild, Wild Wind

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The wind is blowing again today and I suspect that the mountain I meandered over last weekend is sitting hunkered down again, its back braced against the fury of Mt. Fuji looming just a hop over to the west. Mount Mikuni, more of an undulating hump than a real crag, sits right on the eastern knee of Japan’s most massive mountain. Some time ago in the mists of prehistory Mt. Fuji had one of her 150 year tantrums and vomited a slurry of volcanic ash and tuff, creating a huge black and crimson skirt in which she sat primly guarding the rising of the sun. Mt. Mikuni was created out of her agitation and fidgeting, part of a series of wrinkles in the drape of her skirts. When you walk Mikuni it is like crunching through burnt granola, the soles of your shoes grinding the granules as if waiting to be scooped up with a spoon. And when I walked last weekend the leeward sides of hummocks and trees clung to the remaining snow drifts that churned underfoot like cold milk. All the while the crew cut beech and myrtle forest bowed under the onslaught of a wind that roared and shuddered overhead, at times booming so loud I couldn’t hear my voice as I shouted cautions to my partner. It was a frigid wind, hurling straight from the ivory lips of Fuji, indifferent to the tiny lives moving among the rocks.

And a moving, almost achingly beautiful, in a grey sort of way, encounter with a lone forest. I loved how small and insignificant I felt. At the end of the day it was as if my soul had been swept clean.

Kagosaka Cemetery

Somewhat ominous cemetery at the start of the trail…

Kagosaka Cemetary Detail

… but with a tender bent.

Sika Antler

Base of a Sika deer’s antler.

Mikuni Beech Trail

Halfway along the trail.

Beech Roots

Upturned beech. The layer soil is so thin that tree roots barely find purchase.

Detail Beech Roots

Ice Debris

Ice Debris 2

Forest Debris

Not sure what this seed pod is. Anyone know? Everything in the area was covered in moss.

Log Fungus

Fungus on a log.

Myojin Peak

The forest opened up to this vista. The last part of the walk wandered down a vast grassy slope looking upon Mt. Fuji and a wind-harried, slate-colored Yamanaka Lake.

Myojin Peak 2

Fuji Yamanaka

View of Mt. Fuji and Yamanaka Lake.

Fuji and Yamanakako

Mt. Fuji Under the Weather

Dark, brooding Mt. Fuji.

8 Responses

  1. Lovely pictures and so glad to hear you have had a “sweeping out” walk!

    Conversely, I went up to Osaka to see an Art exhibit this past week-end and frankly I couldn’t get away fast enough. I kept thinking of what you said about how you felt in Tokyo and I have to say I think you would have to be totally insensitive not to. The heavy pall of grey concrete, dark and smelly air making the lungs constrict, the weary atmosphere of commuters fighting crowds, and lack of views of sky or sea must surely suck the soul out of all but the oblivious. Nothing could make me want to live in one those Monstropolises.

  2. Hi Inlandchi. Good to see you stop by. You know, it’s funny. Most people really have no idea just how humongous and overbearing Tokyo really is. Nothing in the States or Europre can compare with it, not even London or Paris or New York. Even when you attempt to get out it never really ends. You can take a train from Tokyo to Numazu (in Izu) and the city just goes on and on and on and on. That’s over 175 kilometers! And it just keeps continuing beyond that all the way to Osaka… another four or five hours by train.

    But Tokyo itself is a massive hardening of the arteries. I’ve always loved most a world in which animals and plants share a good portion of the space around me, feeling that I am more complete when I am just another creature in the neighborhood. But in Tokyo, though there are a smattering of wid creatures here and there, the general sense is one of a human generated, artificial world where nothing is meant to exist except us. The sense is that absolutely nothing matters except us. It is the most insensitive and self-centered kind of world I can think of. Those Japanese anime that show humans incorporated into mechanistic systems is quite an accurate view of what Tokyo is becoming. While not as dark as the movies, the lightness and seeming lightheartedness of the Tokyo infrastructure is just a token gesture of indoctrination; behind it all there exists no soul, no true caring for the very place one inhabits. Nor even any real understanding of how it is that life creates itself and where the ingrediants for living start.

    If Tokyo is a vision of the future of the Earth and humankind, I have serious doubts that we will make it.

    And you know, I had a choice for coming to Tokyo or not. My wife and I were standing in a telephone booth in Glen Coe, Scotland, calling my father to ask about apartment possibilities in Tokyo if we decided to return to Japan. We had also been contemplating giving Scotland or Sweden an honest go, because both places appealed to us so much. But I chickened out. Thinking that my Brazilian/ Japanese wife would not be able to get a decent job in Europe I reasoned that it was better to return to Japan where a visa and good work propects would ensure that she would be able to do more or less the kind of work she wanted to do. Without thinking of the consequences I chose Tokyo, because my father lived here. Biggest mistake of my life. And it may even have cost me my marriage. Getting out is much harder than getting in, when we both only had what we were carrying on our bicycles to worry about. It’s like a giant drain. Everything you do and pay for goes toward maintaining this unsustainable lifestyle. And the joy of doing things has died. It will take a huge heave against apathy to shift the balance and work my way toward a place I can love. Hopefully what I am doing now will make a big difference…

  3. Butuki, its wonderful to see your photos and see you are still able to get out on the walks you love so much. I worry for you, as it sounds as though urbanity is squelching out the fire of your soul. Please take care to give yourself the things that nurture you most because you have so many beautiful things to share with the world and you can’t do that when your own spirit needs desperately to be fed. In the past, you have spoken of wanting to move — it sounds like it may be a good time to figure out a way to make it happen.
    On another note, I seem to have no current contact info for you except through this blog, when you have a moment, please drop a line to your old friend in Seattle. I would love to hear from you.

  4. Oh Lisa, I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me to hear from you here. There is nothing like old close friends to bolster a weary heart. If there is one thing I regret about deciding to leave the States back in 1991 it is that I have lost touch with so many people who have always meant something special to me. Just yesterday I was discussing with my students the effect that the internet and e-mail has had on communication people have with one another. All my students agreed with me that with the advent of e-mail a lot fewer people make an effort to contact one another or even head out the door to actually be with one another. Whereas I used to be in regular contact by hand-written letter with most of my friends those people who used to be sketchy about writing by hand now never write, and those who used to write by hand only send cards for Christmas. I’m just as guilty as anyone, of course. Recently I started up exchanging hand-written letters with a few people like Pica and Numenius of Feathers of Hope and my oldest friend A. in Germany, who was also my first girlfriend.

    I’d like to start that up with you, too, again Lisa. Letter-writing has always been something special for you, with each one of carefully picked paper and a wonderful array of designs and visual expressions of how you are feeling or wishing good medicine.

    I will contact you privately for a more in-depth update on how things are going. But thanks so much just for leaving a note here (for those who are wondering Lisa is one of my best friends from the University of Oregon. We started as friends from our pre-architecture studies years, Lisa a few years younger than I, and went on to share some of the most memorable and influential years of our lives while studying architecture together. She is one of the few people who came to visit me here in Japan, something that will always remain a special memory for me). By the way, Lisa, Scott contacted me. Are you still in touch with him? I’ll write more about him, too, in my private e-mail.

    You really made my morning!

  5. inlandchi

    Strange how such “snap” decisions change our lives. I also made a kind of spur of the moment decision to come to Japan the first time; it was more considered the second time, but both times the job teaching was the draw for me. I love teaching, and since I had returned to college in my 40’s to be a teacher, I felt I didn’t have so many options as a younger person. I needed to be able to support myself and that wasn’t happening back home. There were and still are constant cutbacks to education and later, after teaching here, I found I didn’t enjoy teaching in public schools where I seemed to be as much a police officer as an educator. Still, I didn’t expect to be “trapped” here, but I’m starting to feel like that. As you said, after awhile it’s not so easy to leave. I know if I go home I will go back to no job; one gets used to eating regularly here. So there is the “chicken” factor. But I’m thinking about what I can do, thinking serously how to get away from all the concrete, pollution and lack of breathing room here and how to create more meaning in my life. And it’s becoming a priority; I think about it every day. So far I don’t have the solution, but if you or anyone else have any ideas, please share them. And I hope things work out for you.

  6. Miguel, I’m so looking forward to catching up with you!

    It is funny how leaving Eugene, imagined having the ability to be much more mobile throughout life. I have great respect for people who can up and move readily, but for me, the opposite has proven true. I have grown to love Seattle despite my tropical blood, but I can relate to the feeling of being more and more entrenched in a place as I realize think of just how long I have been here. I understand what a big upset of the usual comfortability it would be to move, not only to another city, but another country.
    I guess I would relate it to my taking the leap to being self employed –I agonized for longer than I care to remember, nearly to the point of a nervous breakdown literally paralized by fear and uncertainty—feeling trapped much in the ways you both describe thinking I’d never survive such a transition. I finally could not stand it any longer, looking back, it was the best thing I have ever done. Not that those early years were ever easy, but I can’t image now why it ever took me so long. But then again, that time does come only when we’re really ready for it. It was a great lesson I need to remember– I have a tendency to take the path of least resistance, not realizing how much resistance I am holding trying to maintain status quo.

    Wishing great courage to you both.

  7. Miguel,

    How about getting together for that hiking trip we (or was it just me) alluded to before.

    I am heading off to the US for a two month hiking/kayaking trip in July/August, but if you are free for a weekend before that… I have been interested and reading up a lot about Nagano history, nature and culture…

    Let me know.

  8. Hi Kevin. Wow, that was a surprise getting a note from you, especially talking about hiking, which we talked about quite some time ago. But sure, it would be nice to get together for a good walk somewhere, especially Nagano. Just to let you know, though, I will be losing my job this week (May 18, 2006) and will be spending time on searching for a new job (if you know of any leads in teaching English or translation or, best of all, in working with nature education, please do let me know!), but I will definitely need some time away from the city in the mountains while I job hunt, so let’s see if we can find some time to set up a walk.

    Could you send me your e-mail address? Can’t find it on your site. There are quite a few other things I’d love to talk about, such as getting involved with sustainable development and nature education in Japan. talk to you soon.

    butuki at gmail dot com

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