The road hit a dead end and no sign could be found to lead me in the right direction. The man I asked seemed to point over yonder and before I could leave ran back over to relay one more bit of information. The only thing I really understood was to find a water tank and take a left somewhere. There seemed to be little other indication of where the mountain path lay. I drove back to the split in the road and found myself on a rarely used cell tower maintenance road. I suppose I shouldn't have been very surprised to receive a message on my phone let alone have a conversation with someone in that odd location. Acknowledging my obvious mistake, I parked the car in a wide clearing and trudged up the road to track down the route.
There was a path that was sandwiched between old houses. One lived in, the other lying dormant. This was the case all around. The signs of people were there but it felt like most were gone in spirit. Old village paths can lead toward interesting things. It almost feels rude to be on them. Truly an outsider to whoever calls the soil their home.
The paths are merely sidewalks though. There is no crime in using them. The only crime committed is by those who might look down on me for it. They have reason to think it. I found the water tank and on past it I stepped through an old grove of sugi trees fantastically out of place only to me. An old lady was hacking away at grass plants. She looked at me and smiled. I yelled a "sumimasen" in her direction to break the surprise of a bearded foreigner meandering in the neighborhood. I wasn't apologizing for my presence
In her thick country accent full of chus and vowel endings I found out that when I came to a wooden bench it was best to go take the left path. I'm thankful I asked. After some chit chat and me complaining of the lack of a sign she seemed beyond having a conversation. She said, "I'm going to start my weed eater now and won't be able to hear you anymore." That's one way to end a conversation.
The small plots of vegetables surrounded by sheet metal walls and blue-green netting reminded me of the sly monkeys that like to come out of the forest and steal. Is there any point to contemplate the shirt hanging on the wall? Its starched surface from the sun and moldy stains from wet weather explained exactly why it was there.
The path become more pronounced and slid into the tall trees. Several dilapidated houses of wood and metal were being overtaken by the forest undergrowth. These were nothing special to speak of. They were lost to the forest far too long ago. I could only imagine the individuals who scraped out their living here. The peaceful forest had little to say but you could feel something else writhing within it.
There was no mistake about that.
Yes. Generations worth.
I didn't feel inclined to stay around and find out just how many so I carried on. The mountain forest can make you feel overwhelmed. Yet sometimes its great to feel lost in something. I don't find it necessary to be known. I just want to exist. Existing in the miniscule spaces no one looks.
Because that is where special things truly exist.
Somebody might see it. I might miss it. We all might miss it.
It's always the matter of how you look at it. But isn't this view good enough?
The path should only make you press on harder but it doesn't distract you from all the importance around it. I found myself on the ridge line staring down this column of trees. Not too long ago it was probably entirely forested up here. A lone tori stood in the distance demarcating the existence of a shrine somewhere up ahead. Shrines feel peaceful but why the question remains why here?
I passed by the dogs and saw a sheet metal covered building standing in a clearing. On first look it was somewhat disappointing to see such an out of place structure on the ridge. There is rarely anything interesting in the immediate entry of a rural shrine other than old tatami mats, benches, and spare junk. I almost didn't look. But as with all my adventures it never hurts to take that look you didn't think was worth it.
While not extremely old, these Meiji period paintings on wood lit up my eyes as I peered in through the wooden slats of the sliding door. Thankfully the shrine wasn't locked, like some are. I was able to go inside and enjoy these nice pieces of art. There seems to be a lot related to the local inhabitants down in the village. This is some great local history and hardly anyone knows it exists. That is for the better though. Nobody needs to know it's up there.
After making amends with the local kami for looking at the inner part of the shrine I finished the final leg of the route up the mountain. I was greeted with wonderful views of trees around me on all sides. Somewhat of a let down but when compared to with everything I saw prior to that point there was no reason for complaining. This was merely physical triumph over the mountain and that was enough to be happy for. I sat for a few minutes wiping the sweat from my brow and warmed my cold skin from the shadowed forest. I took off down the mountain to explore some paths back in the village.
When I was most of the way back down I was startled by a man roaming around in the forest. I yelled hello and he came stumbling out of the forest clad in blaze orange vest and hat. He had been looking for wild pigs because the season had just started. He asked me to accompany him on the path back down. He had a lot to say about the old days of the area. He was quite the fan of American movies and didn't seem to mind my presence. I actually had missed a turn in the path and he took me back the original way I had come. He thought that my foot prints were wild pigs though when he had seen them earlier. We laughed together about it.
I made it clear I loved wild game and many foods. I made it clear I wanted some spare ribs from a wild pig. Not even my charisma was enough to get him to invite me over for a cup of tea. But what did it matter? The day was already mine.