I believe we left off with me looking down on the lake. Really quite a breath-taking view, this perfectly blue lake mirroring all the amber hills rising up around it and some wispy clouds in a clear blue sky.
Well first off, I was hungry. So I stopped by a little shop at the bottom of a hotel and bought some chip like things for the absurd price of 530 yen ($7). I had my little peanut butter filled pretzels and prunes but those are all I had eaten since 8pm Thursday and it was now about 11am on Friday. Anyway, the chip things looked interesting. The cashier and an older lady who was also in the shop complimented me on my Japanese, which was nice of them but I think they will compliment a foreigner if they can speak any Japanese at all. At guess it’s good that I could tell they were complimenting me, so I’ll give myself a little pat on the back for that. The chips were good, or I was starving. They were some sort of seasoned and dried root I think. Really thick, crunchy, and salty.
After my small meal, a refill of water (which I just noticed that my bottle is missing, I suppose I left it on the bus on the way back L It was a green tea bottle I had got in Kyoto ), and a short rest, I was on my way around the lake. Looking out from the shore, I knew this was going to be longer than what it looked like on the map. Perhaps against my better judgment, I went regardless. Right off the bat, the beach was beautiful. It was just like an ocean beach; all covered in sand with little streams revealing the rock beneath. I suspect the nearby hotels added a bit of sand to that area though. The rest of the lake had some sand, but not near enough to cover the rocks. The rocks were nice too though; a mix between river rock, huge volcanic flows and pumice-like stones. I walked along a path beside that beach for a little but it soon ended and left me to the little two lane road that I was to follow for the rest of the day.
The trees were beautiful. I spent most of my time just taking pictures of them and playing with the sun to try and get it to sparkle through the leaves of a tree and make the colors even more vibrant. I also tried to take a picture of a leaf mid fall. This is significantly more difficult than you would think. I even changed the sports setting to try and stop it from blurring but no luck. I’m not fast enough and, if I was, I wasn’t steady enough to keep it from blurring horribly. Also, despite leaves falling all around me, they never seem to fall in the exact right place. They are always just a little bit behind me and I wouldn’t notice until it was too late or too far ahead and I was unable to zoom in enough. As you can see, I put a great deal of effort into this but alas, I felt like a child chasing seagulls. It was endlessly entertaining and a great challenge but, all in all, futile as I was never able to come even close to accomplishing my goal. The idea is still tantalizing even though I know there is no way. Just seems like such a pretty picture; a red leaf floating down amongst the background of a blacktop road and glowing canopy of fall trees. I will probably try again. I still want to chase the seagulls too.
As usual, I took the first path I saw that went off the road and back to the shore. This is where I found that cell phone in the water. This is the second strangest thing I have found in the water, second only to the translator I saw in a drainage ditch in Nishi-Funabashi. How do you lose your cell phone in the water? It’s not like it was left on a rock of something, it was four of five feet off-shore. Well I reeled it in with a stick and pulled off the charm on it (everyone here has cell phone “charms”). This one said “Japan Golden Retriever Club.” Maybe they were swimming with their golden retriever. It was such an odd thing, so I kept the charm. I’m thinking I am going to have a jar of all the fun stuff I’ve found here. I already have two pieces of pottery, that charm and the top of a turquoise glass bottle with a rock stuck in it.
I was forced to get back on the road after that and saw tons of beautiful things again, but the next most notable scene was a roaring river that flowed into the lake. This lake is magnificently clear. I was only able to see what was close to shore, but you could see straight to the bottom even where it was four or five feet deep. It reminded me of lake Tahoe; if you were in fifty feet of water you could see the rocks below you. The only thing that seemed to obstruct your view was the lack of light at extreme depths. According to Wikipedia Lake Tazawa is over 1300 feet deep at the center. I can’t even imagine that. Most of the lakes I’ve been to are no more than 60 or 70 feet deep. Lake Powell is the deepest I’ve been to at 500 or so. 1300 feet is 260% as deep. Now imagine a 15×10 foot fire hose of that clear blue water. That is what this river was. You could hear the roar for 100 yards. Where it flowed in was just awe inspiring. Not only the sound, but the flow was so intense it causes these waves of water that flowed like tides in the ocean. The water would swell up and flow out, kind of like when you blow air down a straw, raising the level of your drink then, as the bubble bursts at the top, the level returns back to normal. If only there was a good way to describe that on a scale ten thousand times larger. I suppose the pictures will have to do.
About one fifth of the way around the lake I realized that I was going to have to pick up the pace. It had been about an hour and a half, meaning at the same rate I would get to my hotel around 7pm that night, an hour after I had planned. It would be quite dark and getting cold by then. I tied my shoes, ate some pretzels, and got a move on.
Mom, you would love the road that goes around this lake. It is under a canopy of trees the whole way with a view of the lake. To break up the monotony (if you could call it that, I could look at it all day and be quite content), there are small farms and streams flowing into the lake. As I said before, it seems that things grow quite well here and it’s also something that the people quite enjoy. Everyone who can grow a garden does. You always think of Japan being the high tech nation but, in the countryside, I don’t see it. I see so much more attachment to things that grow. To take something paraphrased from The Lord of The Rings, “their real passion is with things that grow and good tilled earth.”
I next came upon one of the famous shrines in the area. The shrine itself wasn’t that special, but I cannot describe to you how ancient some of these trees are. The cedar that I took a picture of myself in front of has a circumference of at least 15 feet. The shrine that is currently there looked new but I suspect that there have been shrines there for a very long time, at least as long as the cedar had been there. It seems quite common for shrines to have a singularly ancient tree that they treasure. I certainly like that tradition though, I would treasure it too.
Some of the vines here are equally amazing. I don’t know how long it takes for a vine to grow, but some of the ones here remind me of what you imagine being in a rainforest. They are the size of small trees and twist and turn through the forest, tangled up in the trees and with each other. They are covered in most from top to bottom and wind endlessly into the treetops. I never could find the end of one. This one particularly large, but the most interesting part was that it was constricting the tree like a snake does its prey. Slowly, probably over a few decades, this vine will kill the tree that is propelling it into the sun it so seeks.
My feet were aching, but I was half way there. I had got to the town on the far side of the lake in good time. It was around 2 I think. As a reward, I headed up this path that wound up a hill. It was an exhausting climb but totally worth it. You could see the whole lake but possible more beautiful were the path carpeted with red, yellow and orange and roofed likewise.
A guy was wakeboarding by the shrine here. I so wish I could go skiing. I feel deprived being near a lake with ski boats and not skiing. It just kills me. I am going to being dying to go to the lake by the time I get back. I love the lake. I love to ski. I love to be there. I love the sun. I love the water. I love to sit on the boat with everyone too tired to do another run and talk, or not, and watch the sun move across the sky thinking of everything or nothing at all.
After another short rest, I was on my way again. Somewhere in between that town and the next I saw something very fun; a sign being crushed by a tree. It’s amazing what a tree can do if only you give it time.
I was making good time when I got to the next town, so I again rewarded myself with a bit of wandering. This time I saw a little shrine but again I was most awed by the nearby tree. This is another one of my favorite pictures. This thing stood out like a light in dark room. But how do you stand out against a background that already that striking? A towering, sprawling, banana yellow tree is how.
The next town was wonderful too. I watched the sun set over the hill while people worked their fields. There’s not much more disparate from Tokyo than that place. Tokyo could be characterized by high tech, utilitarian, and bustling. Watching them work next to their thatched roof barn was not any of those. Quiet, isolated, and comfortable come to mind.
Now it was time for the last push home to the hotel. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the hilliest part of the journey too; a rotten trick to play on someone as tired as I was getting. I didn’t take many pictures at this point because it was getting too dark to take any by hand. I would have to take out my tripod. Speaking of getting dark, the sun was setting by 4. By 5pm or so it was pretty well getting dark; not something I had completely anticipated. Luckily, I packed for the unexpected. I packed a flashlight. Those little metal LED ones that you guys use as stocking stuffers, ya, those are awesome. I used that all the way back to the hotel.
I have had awesome luck on trips. I already said that I think, but this just furthers the point. I got entrance to the lake right around 5:30pm and was able to take some great photos of the lake. Even though the pictures turned out so well, they are nothing compared to the real thing. I will have to take you guys someday.
I walked into my hotel right on time at 5:45pm or so. At 6 dinner was served and I was more than grateful for the short wait and generous portions. I did make a fool of myself a few times though. It was a very traditional dinner and I had no idea how to eat some of the stuff on it. The inn keeper was kind and patient though and willing to help me along. I think you might have died Justin and Dad. They served a whole fish. As is skin and all, mouth open, staring at you. That was interesting but surprisingly easy to eat. Another new item for me was these crushed flower petals that I think you were supposed to put soy sauce on. They were a bit tart, but good. The rest was fairly normal. Soup, rice, and vegetables; stuff that I get at my dorm. They even gave me a couple piece of a fruit local to Japan that is quite tasty. Not sure how to describe it, but I like them. After that I had a fairly simple night. Shower and off to bed. They had free internet so I just messed around for a little and fell asleep around 9pm.
I think I will leave the last day for another blog, it is almost 1am and I have church in the morning.