Hiking and Exploring

Caring for ba-chan takes more time these days..she loses track of time, conversations, thoughts, and activity so easily. One of the most difficult aspects of communicating with her is that the conversations are so normal unless you know the actual facts and details. She reported to the census interviewer that she had moved to her present home three years ago and before that she lived in Shirakata- another small neighborhood near here. Perfectly reasonable conversation, but she left out the 50 plus years she lived in the house across the street that she moved to when she married. She grew up in Shirakata and left there about 60 years ago. Her memory is a piece of tattered fabric. She remembers the strangest bits of information yet can’t hold on to key pieces of her life.

Thicket at top of Togamure

So a couple Sundays ago was a particularly tough day- I thought she had gone outside and fallen in the mud, but it was another kind of soil that she had somehow gotten covered in. I mustered all the patience and fortitude that I had and dealt with it, but needed to get away to clear my head. I hopped on my bike and rode to the base of one of the hills near here and hiked to the top and looped back down. A pleasant hour hike with a great view of Saiki eastward and westward. I am so thankful that getting away is so easy here, otherwise I would need some sort of anti-anxiety meds.

Later that week I decided to take a short hike out in Ume (where we once lived) to see a waterfall that I had heard about. There was an incredible photo on the cover of the city newsletter of the waterfall cascading down a snow-covered cliff- I really wanted to see it closeup. So I drove an hour and a half to Fujikawachi along a windy mountain road about 10 feet across. I parked the car and decided that the snow was manageable and headed up the trail. The sign said it was an hour hike to the waterfall- I always think the signs are calibrated to slow hikers and that it was probably only a 45 minute hike- wrong assumption.

I knew I was alone on the trail- no footprints in the snow and there had been no cars in the parking lot. I took the trail slowly and held on to the rail on the icy snow-covered metal walkway along the face of the cliff- there were three of those walkways. The snow got a little deeper and 20 minutes in I passed a sign

Cascading stream at trailhead

that said 50 minutes to the waterfall. I guess I was taking it too slowly. I then crossed two narrow footbridges with no railings over the stream and started feeling confident- but the snow was a bit deeper. Tape marked the trail, but it wasn’t always easy to see. I only had to turn around two times to get back on the trail before I got to a narrow ravine that required a scramble up the face. At this point-40 minutes in (sign said 40 minutes to the waterfall), I realized that the obstacles were gettingtrickier and I was less than halfway there and I had no idea what the trail was like further up. So I decided

to head back and take a hot spring bath- I was disappointed, but knew that it was the right decision.

Halfway down I noticed that there was someone coming up the trail alone. I expected another person to be right behind, but she was alone. I asked if she had hiked this trail before and whether it got more difficult closer to the waterfall. She had hiked it before and she said there were only a couple more “tricky” spots. I asked if she minded me tagging along and she agreed to lead me.  It was as if a お守り(lucky talisman) had landed on the trail.

She quietly led the way and her pace was perfect. It was so much easier with two of us looking for the marked trees. We got to the waterfall about an hour later, snapped a few photos and headed back down. We said goodbye at the parking lot and went our separate ways. I was home in time to make dinner! The waterfall was gorgeous- I hope to get up there again in late spring to see the wild rhododendrons. I’ve finally got some decent maps and hope to get in a lot more hiking this year.

I stuck to my schedule this month and it does help to give me an illusion of accomplishment. I am making a lot of progress with kanji (now up to 1530) and am having fun with the 365 Flickr challenge. It is sometimes hard to find something to take a picture of and I’m still not doing much to improve my technical ability, but I think I am getting better at composing images. It’s difficult to chose the best photo of the day and I frequently wish I had chosen a different one.

Banjyo River on February afternoon

I have been doing a few translations for a friend’s online craft shop. The store description needs some more editing, but the product descriptions are better. With experience, it will get easier and hopefully seem more natural. I wish I were a better writer.

The weather is getting warmer and the plum trees are blooming. I’m sure we’ll get one more blast of cold, but I can pack up the down jackets. Am starting to think about gardening again.

International news is overwhelming- Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and then nature struck hard in New Zealand. I feel pretty isolated here- but at least I can watch the news and understand what is going on.  In Japan, the controversy about the US base in Okinawa continues, but it seems the government is planning to move forward in spite of overwhelming opposition in Okinawa. Interesting blog post about the issue as related to tourism.

Finally watched The Cove. I can’t believe the heartlessness of the fishermen in Taiji. I plan to talk to Japanese friends about this and hear what they have to say. In the film, they say that most Japanese are unaware of this activity. However Marine Parks are really popular here and they are planning to open one just north of here in Tsukumi.

Will see a friend from Oregon next week-can’t wait! And the kids are coming in May!

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