Yesterday, I went to see the azaleas blooming on Katsuragi Mountain. I will have a Facebook Album uploaded soon as well with more photos of today’s adventure. After setting out, 4 train changes and a bus ride put me at the base of the mountain in 3 hours. Most of the places I like to go are not close to Osaka, so the key is to wake up really really early on my day off….. Apparently I like pain. Since I’ll be posting on trips I take while in Japan, there is one important rule of thumb to be aware of: Never trust the scale of Japanese Maps!!!! They often embellish the size of an area or shorten the visual length of a trail. In this case, the azalea area is about 10 times too big and the trail on the right-hand side is not straight, but about a 5 kilometer arc.
I took the cable car to the top because I have common sense. I’m not saying I wouldn’t or couldn’t hike to the top; I climbed two mountains on Miyajima last summer and will climb Mt. Fuji this summer. The cable car on Mt. Misen on Miyajima was out of service : ). I wanted more time to take photos and take a leisurely walk down the mountain on my day off. The ride to the top yielded a new friend. I was smirking at the couple behind me having a worried conversation in Japanese about whether they had the “right gear” and a man next to me caught me. He said “I’m a sherpa in my home country of Nepal”. Now smirking himself, “1000 meters altitude is a hill”.
One of my favorite aspects of Japanese culture is the need to be “prepared” for an outing; somehow REI (an American Outdoor Store) bombed in Japan. I have no idea why. Whether it’s a beginner’s mountain bike singles weekend or a friendly golf game, many Japanese go to town on the “proper” apparel, gear, private instruction, etc. before such a minor event. Many of the day hikers i saw may not be mountaineers, but they were sure as hell going to look good and act like they were for the Kodak Moments. Keep in mind I left out the photos of old men with canes and mothers with double strollers….. Another interesting cultural phenomenon here is being offered assistance for no reason just so somebody can practice their English on you. It’s always the same set of questions, but I humor them.
Even though I was a week late for “prime viewing”, the flower show did not disappoint.
Somebody will ask what the trunks look like so here you go. The average shrub was about 10 feet tall and 16 feet wide.
After I finished documenting this wonderful event, I went to one of the 3 restaurants near the summit. I mean, after summiting, you need to have a hot meal and recouperate right? With no roads, everything is brought up by the cable car. I’ve found that the Japanese will put a ramen shack on a cliff face if there’s any possibility someone might be kept from a convenient meal. I passed on the $40 sushi set and went for the yakisoba, two onigiri, and a green tea latte. I love Japan : ).
The hike down promised to be a long one as it followed a few ridges then looped back to the cable car site at the bottom. I never pass up a chance to walk through the forests here in Japan. The last third was not for the faint of heart but most of the trip was easy. Katsuragi-san’s forests consist Primarily of hardwoods. Clethera barbinervis (under-used for bonsai) being dominant with a pretty even showing of Oaks, Fagus japonica, and Stewartia pseudocamellia (also under-used). I’m really into trees with exfoliating bark, so this was a real treat. The feeling was often that of an earth-tone paint fight : ). Acer palmatum and Pinus densiflora were rare, but the ones I saw were impressive. I also passed areas of exclusively Chamaecyparis obtusa. The hardwoods dominated the areas with plenty of available water, while the hinoki conquered the drier sites. The forest floor was covered with Amorphophallus, at least 10 different types of ferns, and an assortment of plants I had never seen before. Anyone who know me well would assume I confiscated a few of the plants, but I was a good boy. The Japanese park service may want to avoid putting signs right next to the rarest plants though; makes them easy to find……
This last photo shows the cable car house at the top of Katsuragi-san. I am about half-way down at this point.
Thanks for reading and please bear with me as I learn how to use this program. The next post will be about poodles and manicures for sure. This one took priority : ).