Archive for November 17, 2015

Autumn Haike 2015

Posted in Autumn, Event report with tags on November 17, 2015 by Branko

Compared with last year’s Autumn Haike–-a four-day muscle-straining event on and around Mt. Tsubakurodake in Nagano–-this year’s, held on October 31st, was a low-key affair, and a very pleasant one at that: a day’s climb up and down Mt. Bunagatake, one of Japan’s 二百名山 (200 Famous Mountains). Its popular trail begins about an hour’s drive to the northeast of Kyoto city.

Following some last-minute cancellations and adjustments, we find ourselves a party of nine, arriving from different directions (Kyoto, Osaka and Shiga) huddled, respectively, into three vehicles. Five of us travel in a van: Stephen (driver), his wife Kazue, Richard Donovan, Kumiko and myself. At about 9:40 we pull into the car park, nestled in the gorgeous Hosonogawa valley. We seem to be the last to get here and are promptly told the car park is full! Stephen gives it a try anyway, and after some wheeling around the lot, he spots a narrow opening between two SUV’s. The van just fits!

We put on our hiking gear, double-check the contents of rucksacks, adjust the length of trekking poles, take a sip of water for luck. As promised, Stephen lends me his wooden stick, and, for the day at least, I fancy myself a wandering Bashō.

Before starting the ascent, we walk past some pretty wooden houses. A woman is washing daikon radishes in a clear stream. We proceed over a red wooden bridge and past some maple trees beginning to turn orange.

The path is suddenly constricted by the low buildings of Myōō-in temple. Here, there is a water-basin (chōzubachi), enveloped in moss, and a moss-capped lantern (ishidōrō). Under an eave of the main sanctuary hangs a massive hornets’ nest no one dares approach. Some of our hikers are already moving up the hill, so the rest of us try to catch up, only to realize this mountain is not to be taken lightly!

Fluffy dog:
an all-important guide
up the staircase slope

……………………………. Kumiko

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Bright leaves on the ridge —
there is one mikan
deep in my pack
……………………………. Richard

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Making a dash
across fallen red maples …
a monkey brat!
……………………………. Tito

a bright tinted beech forest
after the dark cedar slope:
Pocari-Sweat!
……………………………. Hisashi

It takes most of us two hours of trekking through dense woodland to reach the top of Gotenyama. Here, at long last, we are able to appreciate panoramic views.

not lonely at all
but filled with a hum of voices,
autumnal peak
……………………………. Hisashi

Five of our entourage choose to remain here, while the ‘shifters’ trek on towards Mt. Bunagatake’s crest. I stay with the ‘loungers’, blaming my untrained legs. We savour lunch packs as rays of sunshine warm our wind-thumped backs.

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The windy summit…
you walk over, slide the hood
over my shaven head
……………………………. Branko

On their return from Bunagatake peak, the ‘shifters’ tell us of a 360-degree vista which included the vast blue expanse of Lake Biwa. They have even witnessed the celebrity, Youki Tanaka, summitting, together with a camera crew, no. 184 of the 200 Famous Mounts he is running up.

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The descent–often the more perilous part of tackling a mountain–shows us the world in a rather different light.

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A bending cedar
creaks like a rusty door:
and I’d thought that trees
couldn’t speak!
……………………………. Branko

We notice photos of a hiker gone missing a week or two ago pinned here and there along the trail. He’s probably in his late fifties, and his face looks grim. What on earth could have happened to him?

To an uprooted tree
still clinging onto
its root-trapped stones,
Halloween breeze
……………………………. Tito

Apart from minor slips, the descent goes smoothly… and, one by one, all of us reach the valley floor in one piece. As the sun sinks behind the western mountain ridge, the temperature suddenly drops. At Chizuru’s recommendation, we drive off to a restaurant in Katata: an opportunity to revitalize and share some of the day’s haiku.

On the way back home, winding along the pitch-black mountain roads, some of us remember ghost stories. Just ask Kazue. She will surely tell you a spine-chilling one!