Thursday, August 17, 2006
It seemed like a good idea. Most of the people I trained for teaching with would all meet up during Obon week. We had a few days off, why not spend them together. Someone had suggested hiking in the Japanese Alps. Since I was already planning on hiking there on my own, I was so totally down. Down like a clown even.
I got there a day early and kicked it with Lacey, who's place we would be sleeping at in Toyama. Lacey has made a few friends in town, and we were invited to a barbecue. I got stuffed on yakitori, mabodofu (spicy tofu), and yakisoba. I have a new friend, though I don't remember his name. He had a big Japanese style tattoo down his arm, like me, so we became tattoo buddies. He spoke very little English, but he asked me if I like "Snow". I thought for a second, turned to him, and in unison we both started singing "Informer". It was super.
Anyways, hiking. Mt. Tateyama is one of the sacred mountains in Japan. For this we will call it Tateyama-san. To climb a sacred mountain can mean a lot to some, and nothing to others. It meant quite a bit to me I think.
The climb is difficult. A typical mountain path takes you about halfway up. Following this is a straight up climb to the top. Almost literally a "climb". My lankiness helped in this, and I was soon at the top. Yes, you are greeted by a massive gift shop and vending machines. I bought a patch to add to my collection. You can wait in a line and then go to a small shrine at the tip-top and watch a short shinto chant. The views were epic. All was good.
Continueing on, we walked along the ridges of the alps to the camp ground. It was a hard hike, much harder than the guidebooks we had read lead you to believe. The trail was not as well maintained as those back in the states. By the time we got to the camping area, most of the people I hiked with were pretty miserable. This was many people's first time ever hiking or camping. Roughing it, running into problems, and dealing with them as they come seems second nature to me, but I can see how this would be shitty for some. As a whole, we had greatly under prepared for this hike. No one had enough warm clothes. Many people didn't have sleeping bags. Myself, I hadn't had time to get a good sleeping mat, so I slept on rock. My sleeping bag was inherited from a former teacher (left in the apartment actually), so it didn't really fit or keep me warm. The tent I bought for $25 from the cheap store in Kawagoe worked ok, but it was kinda heavy compared to what I have back home.
The next day we woke up and got out of there. At the end we were greeted with a natural spring. Ice cold water so rich with minerals that when you dipped you hands in, they felt like they had been coated with baby powder. I filled my water pouch with a few liters to take back to my fellow teachers at school for a present. You are supposed to always buy presents for people when you go away. It's this lame Japanese thing. Every area has special things to get. And it's all WAY overpriced. Tateyama had some milk chocolate covered almonds called "Kiss from a Star" or some shit. Like $10 for 4 little packets of candy almonds. I think me bringing my co workers water from the base of a sacred mountain is more thoughtful, but who knows. I may accidentally insult them. Fuck it, they're getting the water. And you are getting some photos. Enjoy:
Shrine at the top of Tateyama-san.
Monk who did the little ceremony at the shrine
Almost 10k feet. I love my hokey puck sized watch!
"I fell asleep amid the flowers
for a couple of hours
on a beautiful day"