My alarm’s screeching startled me from a pleasant dream. To fully cement my wakefulness my wife groaned and gave me a sleepy shove, she still had a few hours to sleep before it was time for her to get up and go to work. I stumbled out of bed, flipped on the coffee maker, and climbed into the shower (there is no better way to wake up before the sun than a shower). Soon enough I found myself behind the wheel of my friends Subaru XV on a Japanese toll-road, the sun cresting over the horizon forcing me to don my sunglasses. It was a beautiful morning and the days prospects were prominent in my mind as we discussed all manner of subjects between our second languages. Soon enough we were struggling beneath our 50lb packs up an old dirt road deep in the mountains of Oze National Park. About half way into our hike we stopped to rehydrate and replenish our energy reserves on Asahi beer and chiruoshi (さるなし) aka hardy kiwis.
After our break, the ominous clouds finally delivered the contents that we hoped they would spare us.
It rained heavily for the next several hours. The rain was just a continuation of an exceptionally wet month. All hopes of having a campfire that night were extinguished by each plump rain drop that fell from the grey sky… but that did not stop us from trying anyways.
Our campsite was one of dreams. We were on the edge of a meadow a babbling brook cascading down a hillside covered in bamboo and a river not more than 10′ away with a thousand happy Iwana swimming in its depths
The rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower, bread for the eater, ‘and fish for the angler’.
Over the next three days I brought to hand over 30 Iwana with another 20 or so that gave chase to my fly or got off before I could properly “catch” them. It was by far one of the best (if not the best days) of fishing I’ve had in Japan. There wasn’t a dam in site (except at the end of the third day when we were fishing closer to ‘civilization’) and we did not see any people until the hike out (and they were biologist maintaining/monitoring deer migration routes).
The second night the rain subsided and a million stars glistened through the leaves that were dancing in the intermittent breeze. As the night drew on, the temperatures dropped to nearly freezing! As I shivered in my 0° C rated bag I reminded myself to remember the day when I was cold and needed a beanie and a jacket. After a long warm summer the first cold days are a God send.
The third day we packed up camp and headed back to the car but not before making a short detour to fish a promising tributary that yielded another dozen fish and a handful or two of yamabudo (山ぶどう) aka mountain grapes.
The genryu of Japan are absolutely beautiful and totally unique, anyone that has fished one knows it. They offer a fishing experience that is hard, if not impossible, to replicate anywhere else in the world. If you haven’t already you would be remiss not to make plans right now to visit next season – early April through late June are the best months. If you come early enough you can catch the cherry blossoms and make sure you have some soba, sashimi, and ramen too. This country is something you should experience at least once in your life.