Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Journey to Yamanashi (August 14th)

I dragged my heavy neck out of bed at 4:30AM while the sun was still inching its way up. My days seem to have become earlier and earlier despite the end of work July 26th. I watched the rice fields and low hills as the train rumbled along the track from Nara to Osaka. Even in the early hours my back was hot and sweaty from the short walk. My shirt and the train seat created a climate of their own in the space between. So much for trying to stay mildly cool. I stumbled around Tennoji station trying to stay in shade and find the bus to Yamanashi. It was nothing more than a curb, a sign, and a shelter that looked sweltering.

It was an eternity before the bus made it to the highway. It winded around Osaka and Kyoto like a half inebriated snake. No wonder this bus was slated to take 9 hours. There were few people on the bus from the first stop but by the time we pulled onto the highway it was full. For some reason I was hoping deep inside it wouldn't be full so I could ride in comfort. No such luxury this time around. Even the air conditioned bus had trouble keeping me cool. Nobody else seemed to mind. My heavy neck didn't find much relief in the stiff bus seat. I kept nodding off only to receive a stiff reminder of my discomfort. How many more hours could I stand of this? The short breaks highway buses make are sort of relief. Yet, I always want to get on the way. Japanese people seem to love stopping for breaks. Perhaps Americans are simply hell bent on getting somewhere.

The hours painfully went by one by one. The only enjoyable part was the looming mountains and peaks rising around the road. Around late afternoon the bus finally arrived in Kofu city, the capital of Yamanashi prefecture. I got off as quickly as possible and went to my hotel. I dumped my bag and went back out to find cheap food. I appreciate the luxury of being in a city because I can choose to eat things I normally don't. Nothing like a hot beef bowl of rice, the fast food of Japan, to take mind off the bus ride. Luxury? To me it is. I didn't spare much time doing anything else except stocking up on some rice balls and candy bars for my lunch the following day. I went back to the hotel to enjoy a refreshing shower that would be my last for 4 or 5 days.

I can't go to bed early but I had no choice. A 4:20AM departure for Kitadake and subsequent hike up would require the best of my rested body. I watched some soupy television programming that lulled me into a dreary state. I went to bed with dreams of my body soaked with sweat and mountain peaks filling my eyes.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hachiken Revisited

The first time was late March or April of last year. I took a different route that time. I thought for sure the road that took me over a mountain range into a forestry monoculture was going to dead end. A few times the dead foliage of the sugi made me think the road had vanished completely. Such fond memories of that day. That day led me to Hachiken.

IMG_8266_6-22 Hachiken

Last month the route was shorter and easier. Which in the countryside still translates to long and time consuming. But the rains had graciously let up and gave me a much needed reprieve. Along the way is the fall pictured above and below.

IMG_8271_6-22 Hachiken

You can go anywhere in Shikoku, maybe Japan for that matter, and find waterfalls. It was always a pleasure of mine to find small falls in the backwoods of southern Illinois. Those falls were meager streams spilling lazily over rocks not usually more than a few meters tall. But Bork's Fall was a great introduction to ones that were much better.


That was also the first waterfall pool I swam in. From that point, probably even before that, I wanted to see more falls. Water is an interesting thing. I loved playing in it and with it as a small child. Watching it run between a coarse groove in the sand box. Seeing it get sucked into the dry cracked dirt. Freeing a dam of debris to help a gutter drain. To see water working in the most natural ways always had a strong impact on my feelings. That is why a waterfall invigorates my mind. It's everything I could never make. Just waiting to be found.

IMG_8275_6-22 Hachiken

I'm sure no one would disagree that waterfalls are beautiful but my level of appreciation is fundamentally different as you can see. I often hear things such as, "Oh you went to a waterfall again?" and "You are such a maniac for waterfalls."  The reason is not just because I like the waterfall but going to those places awakens many parts of my mind that I love to have come alive, a sense of imagination, exploration, and discovery. All which are connected to my sum of experiences and thoughts.

IMG_8278_6-22 Hachiken

My first glimpse of Hachiken on the internet set my imagination in action. However, finding the way there the first time was a small adventure of its own. The internet had told me to follow the water channel and that required finding an unmarked path behind the hydroelectric site. Seeing this pipe was the only clue I had to go on. So I followed along the pipe, winding slowly to the top.

IMG_8330_6-22 Hachiken

There was the water channel and my exploration continued to unfold. I loved the feeling of unmarked paths and places people didn't usually go. It was a perfect moment for me. The final discovery of Hachiken itself was powerful.

IMG_8286_6-22 Hachiken

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It's not a matter of being a maniac or foolishly obsessed. It's simply imagine, explore, and discover.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ikegawa Never Stops Giving

Every once in a while you find little areas of houses that have long been abandoned. But in similar areas you find thriving little neighborhoods in the middle of nowhere as well. I'm always quite delighted to find the former. Anything open is fair game for exploration. I had fully intended to explore on this day. Nobody appeared to be around. After a short stroll amongst a few dilapidated houses and being sucked of my blood by bush mosquitoes I had suffered enough. It just wasn't in me to explore through junky yards and overgrown paths.

IMG_8179_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

I took this path to see if there were was anything else interesting along the way.

IMG_8180_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

I'm fascinated by the giant spiders and their webs around here. I don't usually find many opportunities to take worthwhile pictures of them though. This happened to have something good going for it.


A few more rotting homes were found. I dare not enter most of these. One time through a floor was enough to teach me a lesson.

IMG_8198_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

After backtracking along the rusty walk way once more I was startled. Just at the start of the path there was a snake coiled up against the rusty edge of the sheet metal. I'm sure it was venomous too. So far I've never stepped on a mamushi but I've been close at least twice.

IMG_8199_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

And really, it was too hot to be roaming around much longer. I wanted to go swimming.

IMG_8212_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

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It has only been this year that I started playing in the river a lot. I kind of regret not doing it more. Better late than never. I will always live by that.

IMG_8224_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

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There are hundreds of intimate moments that will never happen again. It's best to remember them for all they are worth.

IMG_8230_6-16 Ikegawa Wandering

Nobody will quite understand the way I love Kochi but I hope the pictures give them a start.

Friday, July 26, 2013


In the middle of June I finally made it to southern cape of Kochi. The cloudy skies and threat of rain put a damper on the day. I wasn't driving, though, so I could enjoy the scenery mindlessly. There is a foot bath overlooking the Pacific near the cape. While it was nice the humid day didn't allow me to enjoy it much. A cold foot bath would have been better. It's like the idea of visiting an onsen in summer. If I need a bath I would go but I don't want to be steamed to death.

IMG_8113_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

IMG_8115_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

It's a good thing I respect the aimless offering of money. I can't say how long the 50 and 100 yen coins would last in America. Too much temptation to pay for the next canned beverage.

IMG_8117_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

After a short walk you can see the rock that was just outside the footbath. This is somewhere by the lighthouse I think. There is no picture of the lighthouse close up because it blended in with the sky that day.

IMG_8120_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

I was more interested in the cliff than the lighthouse. I really like cliffs and rocky ledges.

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I suggested continuing our walk to the point seen in the picture below. My companions were skeptical to the feasibility. I had to reassure them it was much closer than it appeared.

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The diverse environments of Japan are interesting. I like coming out of the mountains to experience the shoreline vegetation and plants. But I always like returning to the ferns and thick jungle like forest in the mountains.

IMG_8124_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

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On the way back home we drove along the Shimanto river which is the only river not dammed in Japan. So it's naturally beautiful because of that.

IMG_8149_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

The submersible bridges are very popular and I have to say I they make for delightful pictures.

IMG_8150_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

Then the day turned sour when my friend hit her sister with a rock in the head. I just sat quietly in the car the rest of the time while I tried to hide from the somber mood. After eating some interesting nabeyaki ramen we walked their older sister's dog and then headed home. We were rewarded with a bit of treasure to save the day.

IMG_8157_6-15 Ashizurimisaki

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Ajisai season is long past by now. But we can still enjoy them.

IMG_8076_6-12 Hydrangea Hunt

I drove pretty far just to see this spot. I had passed it a few days prior when I visited Nagasawa Falls. I was kicking myself for not stopping at that time. I knew mom would appreciate this flock of hydrangea.

IMG_8078_6-12 Hydrangea Hunt

I feel like hydrangea are fake.

IMG_8081_6-12 Hydrangea Hunt

The blue and purple colors don't seem of nature. This synthetic quality makes me feel uncomfortable about them. I appreciated them much more this season though.

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I also thought about the little blue hydrangea in the garden at home.

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I hope it's doing well and will show its colors when it can.

IMG_8088_6-12 Hydrangea Hunt

While the seasons seem to be here one moment and gone the next in this part of Japan, there is always just enough room to enjoy each one in succession.

IMG_8089_6-12 Hydrangea Hunt

I had a pleasant time absorbing the hydrangea saturation for several weeks.

IMG_8090_6-12 Hydrangea Hunt

Then the humidity reminds us that summer has come and we want fall here too soon.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nagasawa Falls and Ladders

This post started off on a much more somber tone until I couldn't stand it anymore and disposed of everything I had written. I went to a few random places last month and my blog has been dead despite that.

IMG_8009_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

I like the man riding on a cloud. I didn't notice that till now.

IMG_8011_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

This waterfall is called Nagasawa. It apparently used to be on some list of great waterfalls but the part of the sign proclaiming that has been covered up. I found it odd. I wonder how you get demoted from a list. Geographical dispute?

IMG_8017_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

There was a path that led to a shrine somewhere at the top of the waterfall. A plastic yellow chain hung across the path telling me to not go forward because it was dangerous. Right, you can't fool me Japan. That's merely a suggestion. I didn't want to miss out on something farther up. I trudged up the weedy path until the sign made much more sense.

IMG_8029_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

The steps were completely rusting away.

IMG_8021_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

That didn't matter however. I'm not silly enough to try going up the middle. You just have to climb up the side. The paths in this section were in pretty terrible condition. It's really a gone by era. No one is bothering to fix them up.

IMG_8025_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

Unfortunately you can't see it but there is an interesting shaped opening at the top of the fall. I believe it looks like a heart. The trees did a great job of obstructing it despite how many different angles I tried to view it from. After aimlessly wandering around the broken paths I decided it was time to head for the shrine somewhere above. I was greeted by yet another flight of rusty stairs.

IMG_8044_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

The dilapidated stairs give a feeling of neglect. Well not just a feeling. That is what it is. I like it however. With someone's sweat the stairs went in. With the humid summer air they are torn back down.

IMG_8046_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

Shrines are shrines. Only the most remote tend to be interesting to me. I still appreciate their presence. They are almost always found by waterfalls.

IMG_8033_6-8 Nagasawa Falls

I drove rather far to see the waterfall but found I enjoyed the walk up to the shrine more so than the fall itself. I came back to the car layered in salty sweat. I like summer. My salty lip confirms.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Memories of Golden Week

I spent several days in Nagano which was very refreshing. It was nice to sleep on a bed and not in the back of my car. As this blog serves more as a reminder of where and generally what I did as opposed to very specific details, I don't have many pictures from Nagano. I just didn't take that many. I did, however, make soba for the first time near a famous shrine. That was fun and it was even better to eat it.

IMG_7904_2013 Nagano Trip

IMG_7906_2013 Nagano Trip

The walk up to the shrine itself is great. I love the tall trees.

IMG_7909_2013 Nagano Trip

The shrine itself was completely underwhelming. The bamboo and soba flavored ice cream I ate after that was great. For some reason those flavors had an earthiness that plucked the green ivy growing around my heart.

I had a nice time with Yoko's family. They treated me very well. I made brownies for them, even though I kind of failed somehow. They were still happy. We had a nice cook out my next to last day there. That was also very good. I made pizzas for everyone and they all were very happy.

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The next morning we visited a flower festival.

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I spent most of that day contemplating my entire week. I'm not sure if anything changed in me or if I felt more sad to leave Japan. One thing was for sure though. I'm happy just to keep living life no matter where I am and what I do.

 IMG_7918_2013 Nagano Trip

Now on to the backlog of things and places that have been patiently waiting for a voice.