November 30, 2008
I came to call it, “Iwaidou, the hidden Buddhist temple of Chichibu forest,” for hiking through the forest toward it, the temple appears all of a sudden, and appears before one’s eyes to have been dropped in from the heavens, rather than built by the hands of simple men. Iwaidou is preceded by an equally startling “treehouse prayer wheel temple,” as I named it. On this late November afternoon, Aya and I had all of this pretty much to ourselves, which made for a very tranquil, escapist pilgrimage in an autumn forest.
October 16, 2008
I have a new favorite prefecture in Japan. It’s Nagano. My favorite prefecture used to be Yamanashi, but the nature in Nagano feels deeper. The forests feel older in Nagano, the air seems clearer, and the peace is more established. The mountains are larger, and the sky spans wide over all—deep blue during the day, pink tinged at dusk, and deep black spotted with stars at night. This is the setting in which Aya and I undertook a 9-hour hike up to the 2899m summit of Akadake.
July 11, 2008
Aya and I went on our first backpacking trip with all the new ultralight gear we bought together. We took a special express train from Shinjuku all the way to Kawaguchiko station in Yamanashi Prefecture. From there we took a bus to the Saiko Lake area. All travel went very smoothly and was organized by Aya. She found us a great ticket package to include the train and all buses. Around the Saiko Lake area is very large and you have to take the local sight-seeing bus. The schedule for that bus is pretty good, allowing one to string together a lot of sites in one day.