No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

09 May, 2009

The Guardians of Fuji-San

Every city dweller needs to get out. Especially if you aren't from the city. Away from the cars, the masses, the pollution, the noise and the constant go of the city. Our backpacking trip in the Tanzawa Mountain Range, just an hour west of Tokyo, was a chance to fill our lungs with fresh air, get some sun on our Tokyo Gray faces and work our pathetic city bodies into the ground. We climbed rolling mountains for 2 solid days, a feat the fit Japanese accomplished in just 1.

The uphill climb never stopped. No gentle zigzagging switchbacks here--this path was all steps from top to bottom. Aching thighs and calves and this is only the beginning.

Cute little mountain huts dotted the peaks with a chance to rest your weary bones and have a cold beer or hot ramen. Sakura trees were still blooming along the high mountain ridges.

More stairs. Too bad the camera doesn't do the scenery justice. The landscapes were breathtaking--from Fuji to the sea to Tokyo.

Setting up the rain fly deemed tougher than we had imagined. Future note: 2 person tent with packs does not = 3 person tent without packs. The math doesn't work out to a restful, peaceful nights sleep. But, our illegal campsite was incredible. On one side, an unobscured view of one of the world's largest cities at night, and on the other, Mt. Fuji.

Fuji-san peaking through in the morning light.

The valleys were low and the peaks were high. It made us miss the outdoors in Oregon and Vancouver BC for Craig & Charity.
Some parts of the ridge were quite steep.

Outside of Tokyo, the Japanese marvel at foreigners doing the things they do. Echoes of "konichiwa" were all around us, with the occasional, "country doko?" (what country are you from?). I gave a shoutout to a guy wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat and he turned around, tipped his hat and bowed to me. The average age of the typical Japanese hiking the same route was probably 65. They schooled us.

This is why the Japanese finish this trip in 1 day, and we took 2.

We climbed from near sea-level to the highest peak at 1,637 meters (about 5, 370 ft). Doesn't seem like much, but it was a continual up and down to reach 5 summits. Add our backpacks and our out-of-shape bodies and it all adds up to Charity, James and me hobbling into school 2 days later.

I don't know what was going through his head here, but I imagine he can't believe what he's about to do....

He proposed! At the end of 1,000 meters of steep, downhill running, we came across a rocky river bed. Charity and Craig walked on and James popped the question on a beautiful little bridge. I was shocked! He slipped a copper rivet on my finger to test my sincerity, but when I finally said "yes," I got the real ring.

A little giddy and unable to wipe the smile off my face, we walked into a small village to catch the bus to the train station. Little did we know the bus quit running after 5 on Sundays (another fact the overzealous guidebook left out). Hitchhiking didn't work out either--can't imagine why no one wanted to pick up 4 smelly gaijin?? We walked into a small village where we found a lovely shop owner who was able to call us a taxi. She sold us cold beer and KitKats and we sipped and celebrated as we watched a local outdoor performance of a kabuki play.

And the next to best part was the great meal at a yaki-tori place near the station. Okonomiyaki, edamame, yaki-sobe and pitchers of cold beer. Kanpai!

05 May, 2009

Vegetarians in Japan

These are our vegetarian friends, Craig and Charity. They pretty much go through this game of charades every time they go to a new restaurant in Japan. Veggies and rice are easy to come by, but most foods contain something called dashi, which is a fish based broth. That and bonito flakes (dried fish flakes) are pitfalls for the Japanese vegetarian. Here they are miming the actions for a fried egg, instead of a raw one, on top of their okonomiyaki. The sad part is, all that miming didn't even work---their omelet ended up with bonito flakes on top and James and I ate it for them.

video

04 May, 2009

Delicacies

How do you even prepare these things to be eaten?Oregonians will recognize this as the long whips of seaweed found all over the beaches in Oregon.

Louis Vuitton on Discount

Signs of a serious consumer culture: you can buy high-end designer bags for $700 from a second-hand shop.