I bought my first Christmas presents for Mom and Stormy today and have an idea for Justin, but it requires me to go back. I didn’t bring enough money.
Doing these little trips will really help my packing for the Nepal trip. A few things I found out:
1. My jacket is more than enough to keep me warm while walking, even at 35 F.
2. I don’t need 1.5 liters of water for a 5-6 hour walk. 1 liter is more than plenty.
3. Pack the heaviest stuff close to your back.
4. I need gloves. The jacket kept me warm but it did nothing for my hands. Numb fingers make for difficult photography.
5. Don’t forget sunglasses.
With those lessons in mind, maybe I will be able to pack decently. Maybe.
I arrived at a briskly cold Fujino Station around 10:30 AM with the sun shining brightly over the mountains. That’s when I came up with number 5. Number 1 and 4 were close to follow. Within 5 minutes I had taken off my jacket and sucked my hands into my sleeves.
The frost was wonderful. It covered everything and shown like prisms on every leaf. It’s hard to get the focus just right, but I think one or two turned out well. I think sunrise and sunset are the best time to take pictures. Shadows, colors, frost, clear air. It’s a great time.
After a bit of wandering through town, I happened upon a gate which means there must be a shrine to follow. At the time I hadn’t realized that although the shrine was only 250 yards away, it was 400 yards up. This was the exercise portion of my trip. A one person path covered in wet, icy leaves with half frozen mud underneath climbed up the hill in tall steps formed by rocks, roots, and boots. Upon reaching the top drenched in sweat and panting, I found a small, unkempt shrine and a marker saying “420 m,” which was crossed out, no doubt by someone who was feeling very superior and witty with their GPS, and correct “419.8” I’m not sure I trust them. Can it really tell the .2 meters? Maybe the other guy was standing on leaves. Maybe be was taller. Anyway, the view was great. You could see all the little towns, rivers, and hills all around. There are even golf courses out there. I wish you could go golfing here Papa. Judging the scenery I saw, I’m sure the golf courses are stunning.
Then came the decent, at least I thought it was; ended up on three other mountains (basically just small peaks only a few minutes’ walk away) before heading down. I got dumped out into someone’s backyard I think, so I hurried along to the road and took out my tablet to try and find me. For some reason I kept getting “Your location is currently unavailable.” I will have to try again in Tokyo or something to make sure it is working. Those golf courses I mentioned came in handy; without the GPS, may tablet is still a map. So, with a little bit of guesswork, intuition and landmarks, I figured out where I was. Off to the next town. But, before I headed off, a guy about my age started jogging (I assume he lives right in there somewhere) and gave me the “you have got to be lost” look. I get that a lot. I got the same look as he jogged passed again me going the other way on the same road, but this time followed by both of us kinda smiling at the ridiculousness.
I was met with that look again soon after entering the next town. I climbed up a little hill and started taking pictures of the town and surrounding hills only to hear someone calling from a house down below. At first I thought I might be being told to get out of there, it might have been his property. It probably was his property. Turns out he just assumed I was really, really lost and needed help. He liked my tablet/map too. And again I wandered around the little town. The first thing I came across was a shrine. I really wish I knew when their town festival was, it looked like it would be so much fun. Obviously it is tiny town where everyone knows everyone, and the shrine is nestled in some woods by a creek. They probably all come. The shrine is set up like a stage for those types of things. It looked like it was being renovated slowly in someone’s spare time and the only regulation seemed to be a sign that said “Please use slippers.” As I said before, shrines like that owe little to their magnificence but much to their homeliness.
And I wandered on to a cemetery on a hillside. I really love cemeteries. They don’t seem creepy or sad to me; they seem peaceful, quiet, and reverent. Graveyards marking generations of a family who had probably live and die in that town and a beer on the newest one. I’m sure he liked beer.
Shortly I came to a staircase still covered in frost that had far outlasted frost’s normal welcome. It led to a little street that climbed up a hill and dead ended into a house. I got another “you must be lost” look here too from an old lady sitting in her house watching the day go by. About this I decided I should be heading home. It was only about 1:30 PM, but the sun sets around 4:30 and with no GPS and no light, navigation might become more than a bit troublesome.
I was just going to try to retrace my steps, but I decided to confirm my location with a couple who was hiking through that town to. They had a car in that town, so they had no idea where my train station was, but they helped me out and even asked a local for directions and helped him explain them too me. In the end they basically just confirmed what I already knew, but they were very kind and helpful.
As the day wound down and I plodded on towards home, my stomach began to realize that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I came into a town just south of the town where my station was and decided to appease my stomach and find some food. After chrossing a bridge I stumbled upon this:
It is kinda like an art farmer’s market with a little boutique-like restaurant. The food was good, although I’m not sure what it was. Some sort of spicy soup, steamed vegetables on the side, and a spread that was very good on a home-made piece of flat bread. Apparently this thing is pretty big and they get a fair number of foreigners. The owner, waiter, and cook all spoke pretty good English. The owner was paralyzed and it seemed he sits in there all day drinking beer and talking to everyone who comes. And the cook graduated from Hosei University (where I go)! How cool is that. I met a senpai (roughly “senior” or something like that) in the middle of nowhere out of pure luck. After eating my fill, I looked around the shops for a bit. Most of them were expensive, but the place where I got Mom and Stormy’s gift was certainly no more than it would be in the US. I think you guys will like ‘em. I found something I want to give Justin because it’s a play on words in Japanese. I will have to go back.
From there it was just a straight shot back to the station, but like I said, sunset is the best time for photos. So I got a few with the sun going over the hills, trees silhouetted, and reflections of a painted sky in the river.
(PS: the first hill is the “Groveling”)
Three pictures for Mom:
The really like Pooh here.
Oh, and for Nana: