I’m not one of those early risers you often meet at backpacker’s hostels. You know the kind. Keeners. Alarm set for daybreak. Chipper because they turned in early the night before. Their efficient yet loud movements through the dorm elicit grumps and groans from those less-enthusiastic. The keeners pour over detailed itineraries while drinking coffee from high-tech mugs. They stride out the door while I stumble zombie-like into the shared kitchen, fumble with the kettle, and pick sleep out of my eyes. I’m not denying my own keener status, it just takes me a while to get going in the mornings. That’s why, on my first morning at the hostel in Kawaguchiko, I was surprised to be the first one up in the dorm.

Conveniently located near the base of Mount Fuji, Kawaguchiko is a good base-camp to tackle Mr. Fuji himself, or the many day trips in the Fuji Five Lakes area. I contemplated the empty lounge as I ate my toast. In some ways it made sense. It was almost October. The tourist season is over. Mt. Fuji is technically closed. We’re the stragglers; the ones who put it off.. slept in.. missed the bus.. missed the season..

For my first day, I had a long but easy hike planned up Mount Mitsu-Toge. Figured I’d work up to Fuji, and hopefully find some hiking buddies in the meantime. But, about to head out, I met some guys from New York who were going for it. 

You’re welcome to come, one said. The first bus up leaves in 20 minutes.
Sure. Let me grab another water bottle.

When I came back, the first guy looked at my daypack and runners doubtfully. I’ll be fine, I told him. He finished lacing his hikers and swung his own expedition-sized pack onto his back. Only then did we get around to introductions.

Piotr and Adam arrived late the night before, straight off their flight from New York. They were jetlagged, running on adrenaline. We stopped at the seven-eleven so they could grab a konbini breakfast of champions to eat on the hour-long ride to the 5th station. I grabbed some onigiri for the road. We caught the bus from Kawaguchiko station. The summit was shrouded in cloud, but the ride up was clear and bright. The trees started showing their fall colours as we climbed in elevation.

We arrived at the 5th station just in time for the rain.

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chestnut reveals its hidden treasure

chestnut reveals it's hidden treasure

For several weeks now a big tree near the house has been throwing spiny pods as me whenever I pass. They litter the path and sting my toes through my sandals on early morning garbage detail. Except annoying, I didn’t know what they were. I grew up near the ocean, so to me they looked like a sort of land-urchin. This week the green pods started turning brown and splitting open to reveal the treasures contained within: chestnuts. (more…)

shell of life. The wings and exoskeleton are all that remain of this cicade The cicada’s wings and exoskeleton are all that remain.

The insects in Japan are large, but most of them aren’t so dangerous. One quickly learns to co-exist. For months the incessent meee-mee-meeee of the cicadas rang in my ears. Someone told me that they make more noise after they mate, which seems counter-intuitive to the usual cycles of nature. The cicada’s season is ending, but their ghosts remain; hard exoskeletons, and wing fragments litter the garden like fallen leaves.

The larger spider presumably ate the cicada. He spun his web outside my bedroom window several weeks ago. The elaborate lacework is almost invisible in the flat daylight, except for the corpses of insects, wound tight with silk.

web of life and death

web of life and death

The sign above a train stations bicycle parking area.

The sign above a train station's bicycle parking area.

Ōyama is an accessible day trip from Yokohama or Toyko

Entrance to Tanzawa Park.

Entrance to Tanzawa Park.

 

 

On the commuter train through Kanagawa’s expansive suburbs I wondered if there was indeed an end to the sea of houses and industry. That’s when the fellow next to me tapped my shoulder. I had asked him about directions earlier. Now he pointed out the window behind our seats, where mountains loomed up through the haze. Ōyama (which simply means “big mountain” in Japanese) is part of the Tanzawa-Ōyama Park in the Kanagawa Prefecture. It’s an accessible day trip from Tokyo or Yokohama, and definitely a good destination when the mercury gets up over 30.

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A very blurry photo, but I just wanted to brag about watching a summer fireworks display with a view of Tokyo Tower.

I lived in Montreal for 5 years and never once ate smoked meat at Schwartz’s. One summer nights the line always stretched out the door and up St-Laurent. Another time, I’d say to myself as I cycled past. here is a video dedicated to smoked meat, skateboarding, poutine and metal music… all thing that make Montreal awesome. (thanks to Fagstein for posting it first). 

even in the snow.... (taken from the an unusual day blog)

even in the snow.... (taken from the an unusual day blog)