More Than a Concrete Jungle
16.11.2012 - 26.11.2012
This past week, my eyes were opened to the fact that Japan is much more than a concrete jungle of lights and high-rise buildings.
For the first time, I was able to head west to Okutama, a mountainous region on the west side of Tokyo Prefecture. Unlike the city, Okutma is covered with forest and greenery. The abundance of nature makes it a beautiful place to visit in the fall.
Not too far from Okutama is Heirinji Zen Temple in Saitama, where I was blown away by the beauty of autumn in Japan.
The purpose for my being in that area was to visit a kindergarten and to give a HIPPO presentation along with other HIPPO members. Among them was a younger gentleman nicknamed Tango, whom I hadn't met before. Tango and I got along very well, and he invited me on a hike, along with his friend, the next day.
Tango's family owns a very quaint Soba restaurant in Okutama. The surrounding mountains and nature really give it a traditional Japanese feel.
The three of us used this restaurant as the starting point for our trek.
The map below diagrams our hike. We climbed up three mountains in total; Mt. Nokogiri [1109 meters], Mt. Odake [1267 meters], and Mt. Mitake [929 meters]. The journey took around seven hours to complete.
Immediately after setting out, we were greeted by a monstrous flight of stairs. We could barely see the top from where we stood at the bottom. I am sitting in the middle of the staircase in the photo below. Can you see me?
Once we reached the top, we were greeted by a pretty shrine...
...as well as a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and village below.
Our ascent was far from over. At one point, the pathway was cut off by a rock which had to be scaled in order to continue.
However, the view from the top was well worth it.
We kept hiking until we arrived at the summit of Mt. Nokogiri. But it wasn't until the summit of Mt. Odake that we reached the pinnacle of our journey. The top of Mt. Odake yielded a wondrous view of Mt. Fuji from 1267 meters above sea level.
Mt. Fuji up close and personal
Mt. Fuji in monochrome
By this time, stomachs began growling. We took out a gas stove, a rice pot, rice, and three packages of curry. Time to eat - nomad style.
Mmmm. Rice and liver. REAL man food.
Next we began our descent from Mt. Odake to Mt. Mitake. The decent immersed us in some of the most marvelous pieces of nature I had ever seen in my life. I am not a fan of taking nature pictures because I don't believe that photos of nature do any justice to the nature itself. However, in this place, we could not contain ourselves a shot photos of EVERYTHING that we laid our eyeballs upon.
Along the way, we were able to catch glimpses of Tokyo way down below.
Living in Tokyo and working in Shibuya everyday, I had begun to view Japan as a land of never-ending people and skyscrapers. It was hard to believe that the nature I had just experienced was part of the same country. The difference between the two Japans in astounding.
After finishing our hike, we were exhausted. After nearly seven hours of climbing mountains, we were ready to settle down, eat some ramen, and rest!