Friday, January 18, 2013

Japan: Takaosan, 高尾山

          Somewhere around 7 am my phone's buzzing rouses me into foggy awareness. Stumbling in the early morning light I force myself to mow down a banana and scramble into excessive layers of warming clothes; no time for coffee. Rushing out to the reliable taxi post I'm catapulted forward as Fuji stands stoic in the distance. His snow-capped head glistens.

    Rendezvous and then we're off; close to two hours aboard trains. 舞浜駅から東京駅まで、東京駅から新宿駅まで、新宿から高尾山口まで。

     Maihama to Tokyo, Tokyo to Shinjuku, Shinjuku to the mouth of Takao mountain, i.e. 高尾山口。

    Takaosan is a thickly wooded mountain, one of many in the area, that has been turned into a "Quasi-National Park"; a bit of a touristy nature-getaway for the natives and foreigners alike. From various points along the clearly marked hiking trails Tokyo is vaguely visible on the horizon; mainly distinguishable due to the Sky Tree's prominent skyward protrusion; the iconoclastic feat of architecture. The ease of access and natural beauty easily explain the appeal.

     The hiking is not the most strenuous I've ever encountered but growing up in Southern Nevada, I had ample opportunity to escape into the desert and hazard my way through ominous caverns, scramble over boulders and edge my way along steep, gravel-coated mountains dodging cacti and perilous slides into oblivion.

     The areas open for highly-travelled public venture are quite commodified; there are food stands every so many yards or so, souvenir shops galore, a small monkey zoo, many restaurants and more. It's Japanese culture made accessible. There are regional specialties; special noodles, soaps, monster-themed goods and ice cream or beer readily available. It's nature-light! You can look out at the forest and enjoy the view, but there are always other people around and reminders of civilization in every aspect of the experience.

     This is also a glorious environment to engage in the ever amusing hobby of people watching. From the elderly couples slowly, doggedly edging their ways upwards to the young couples on dates and hordes of school children in brightly colored hats skipping 2-by-2 along the trails. People bring their bento lunches and have picnics all over and the inherent appreciation of nature is evident.
     Perhaps the park was more crowded than usual due to the abundance of fall foliage; seasonality is a beloved concept to the Japanese. I feel the same; I love the changing winds, the colors, the weather. Life flows on, within you and without you, after all...

    It's all ever so very zen.

     Yeah, welcome to Japan.

    The peak. The crowds. The kids shouting "Yaaa-hooooo" at the tops of their lungs in chorus; things I tried to crop out of my visual representations of the experience. Despite the fact I chose to live in the Tokyo metropolitan area, technically the largest city on Earth, I will always adore nature in it's grand minimization of the human being. Perspective is crucial and in all reality we are all very small, fragile little beings inhabiting this rock cruising through space. The grandeur of existence is breath-takingly beautiful and humbling. A necessary slap to any excessive hubris we may develop while careening through the world of people. 


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