domingo, 4 de septiembre de 2011

Tokyo just wont let me go!

Well I did it. I finally left Tokyo, for a few days anyway. The ride from West Tokyo to Fuji- Yoshida (Route 493 to 138) is a pleasant 8 hour trip. The road winds along the side of a mountain river valley; crisscrossed by quaint wooden bridges, one can see the riverbed from the roadside as if looking through a glass. Wooden houses crowned with Edo-style tiled roofs dot the country side; small farms swelling with a myriad of fruits and vegatables; and a backdrop of rolling hills heavily forested in ceder, pine, and other varieties I'm unfamiliar with. The tall grass along the river is a buzz with the sound of crickets and cicidas. It was lightly drizzling when I left at 10 o'clock Tuesday morning and there was little traffic on the road. For all the bikes I saw in Tokyo, I only spotted a single cycler in the rain-drenched mountains. Just before sunset I arrived in Yamanakako-Mura, a small lakeside community just 10 km shy of Mt. Fuji's basecamp. The rain had ceased and I made my way to the water to rest and meditate on a sketch of the cloud covered horrizon. From the shore, the gold-specled scales of oversized fish gleamed in the water and black-necked ducks provided a surreal contrast with a large cruize ship buit in their image. Only a few minutes into my sketch and the rain returned in torrents. I quickly found shelter in a gazebo hidden in a wooded lakeside park. It is there I spent the night, on a picknic bench, my tent serving the duel purpose of tarp and blanket. There are two reasons I chose to sleep on benches rather than setting up my tent. First off, my tent is not waterproof. Do not shop at NorthFace! A higher price does not necessarily mean better quality, as most tents are made in the same Chinese factories. But more importantly, As I've previously noted, the Japanese are a very orderly people. Everything has a place. It is for this reason I am careful to park my bike in the designated spot. Leaning a cycle against the wall of a building is a feaux-pas. Likewise is setting up a tent in a public park. However, despite the apparent wealth in Japan, homelessness is endemic. Public parks are open 24hours and the proper place of a homeless person is on a park bench, which is where I try and pass unnoticed. So far it's worked.

The next morning I made the short ride to Fuji-Yoshida only to find that the mountain was closed to hikers this weekend until the passing of a forecast typhoon. Mt. Fuji, an active, but dormant volcano; the third tallest free standing mountain in the world, which has been the single most important pilgrimage destination for the Japanese people for almost two thousand years, is closed to trekkers after the month of October and I don't want to miss my opportunity to climb to the top and catch a glimpse of the epic sunrise from the famed 8th-station vantage point. Another weekend in Tokyo.

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