Authors Note: I have decided to start a semi-regular segment chronicling my day to day life in Japan. Everything in Japan is so different when compared to the United States, so I thought I would share with my readers my various experiences of living in Japan. It will be a catch all category, covering everything from baseball games in Tokyo, to skiing in Hakuba, to rock climbing in Jogasaki. So without further ado I present the first installment of "Life In Japan" A Day Hike On Miura Peninsula
In a few days Golden Week, which is the longest vacation period for many jobs in Japan, kicks off. The Japanese take full advantage of the long vacation and travel. Finding lodging anywhere in Japan during this week is nearly impossible. If you want to brave the traffic and travel during this week you should make reservations many months in advance if not years. There are many holiday days packed into Golden Week. One of those holiday days is Tango no Sekku, or Boys Day (this year Tango no Sekku is May 5th). To commemorate the holiday the Japanese fly a koinobori banner for each one of the children in their family. A koinobori is a banner shaped like a carp. In Japanese folklore, the carp is a symbol of determination and vigor, overcoming all obstacles to swim upstream.
I decided to take advantage of the perfect spring weather today and go for a hike before the swarms of holiday crowd descend on the local trails. I chose an area called Takatori, which is located on Miura Peninsula. As I pulled into the trailhead parking lot I could see that preparations for Childrens Day were already underway. There were close to one hundred koinobori banners hung above the trailhead with many more waiting to be strung up.
As I continued up into the forest I passed by a small bonsai tree nursery. There are probably 40-50 bonsai trees sitting on tables. The curator lives in a small shack heated by a wood burning stove that sits on the edge of a small mountain stream that terminates into a nice pond. When I think of a quintessential bonsai tree nursery I think of this place. The trail quickly climbs up out of the valley and as I crest onto the ridgeline I am greeted with a cluster of Buddhist temples. They are closed right now so I press on up the trail.
Once I climbed up to the top of small mountain behind the Buddhist temples the trail followed the ridgeline and leveled out for awhile. In a few places the trail got pretty sketchy though and I had to cling to a shiny chain bolted to the rock face/trail to prevent myself from falling down the vertical hillside. The trail accesses an area with numerous large rock formation called Takatori Yama. This area is popular with rock climbers and features many rock climbing routes. Check out the area page on Mountain Project for more details.
Today I hiked into an area I had never been. In the past I had assumed that the trail went straight into a neighborhood and wasn't worth the hike. While I was right about the trail going into a neighborhood I did discover several rock faces that make it worth going just a little further on the trail. With a quick detour through a neighborhood I regained the trail and continued my exploration and came across many ancient Buddha rock art and sculptures. This area is packed with culture and history!
With the hottest part of the day approaching and with the humidity seemingly increasing by the second I set a course for home. As I made my down the trail back to my car I marveled at my first spring in Japan. The bird song in the forest was deafening at times and the flowers were in full bloom. The forest is coated in bright shades of green and the warm air is welcomed after a long, windy, and frigid winter. It is hard to believe that just a few weeks ago it was in the high 30's and sleeting. Much like the mid-Atlantic region of the US spring does not pussy foot its way in the door - it kicks the door down and screams "Honey I am HOME!". I just smile and say Where have you been? and mutter under my breath But please do not melt all the snow too fast though, I still want to go skiing...
March 3 is Hinamatsuri, or Girls Day. However, Hinamatsuri and Tango no Sekku have been lumped together and the day typically reserved for Boys Day is now called Kodomo no Hi or Childrens Day. Still, during Hinamatsuri the young ladies get dressed up in their fanciest Kimono, do up their hair and makeup and go out on the town. It is quite a sight to behold.
Written by Isaac Tait who now lives in San Diego but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter