Tuesday, November 25, 2008

momiji at tsukuba

Located at 36° 13' 0 N, 140° 5' 60 E Tsukuba-yama at Ibaraki prefecture was chosen as the mountain for our autumn hike this year. I've been wanting to catch the fall leaves before it got colder. Striking out Takao-san, Nikko and Hakone because they would be packed with people at this time of the year, we decided that going further from Tokyo would be a better choice.

So happened there were some special events happening at the mountain shrine. Apparently that weekend was the "Shichi-go-san" (七五三 : seven-five-three) festival which was a traditional rite of passage for grrls aged three and seven, and boys aged five.

Accompanied by their family members, the kids were all dressed up in their best traditional costumes. Being so accustomed to having their pictures taken, some of them even gladly posed for me as I asked their parents' permission to take some pictures.

At the same time, there was a wedding ceremony as well. Tsukuba-yama Shrine is one of the oldest in the country, and is known as the god of business thriving, talismans and matchmaking.

We took the cable car up almost to the top. It was a relaxing ride since we would be hiking up the rest of the trail up to the 2 peaks that make up Tsukuba-yama, Nyotai-san and Jotai-san.

As the cable car slowly dragged its way up the tracks, I was glad I made it for the trip. I had almost wanted to just sleep in that Saturday and not make the 1hr+ journey. The air was clearly fresher and just seeing the greens (and reds) was soothing for the eyes.

There was already quite a crowd up there, but not as bad as I had expected. The Japanese elderly are a robust lot. Most of them put us to shame as they go for regular hikes up mountains. No wonder they are known for having the longest life-span in the world.

We took up the challenge of climbing up the peaks as well.

On the way up, we saw this frog-shaped boulder at which the Japanese were tossing coins at. Must be to wish for luck & fortune, like the Western wishing well? Later I found out that the frog had some significance at this mountain.

After about half an hour or so, we finally reached the top.

We had an almost clear view of the Kanto Plains from where we stood. This was quite worth it, and just being there made me felt all refreshed already. Seeing that the mountains make up most of the country, and are a big part of the people here, I have learnt to appreciate them and the views that come together. But still, I would give anything for a splash on the beach!

The year before, I started to appreciate autumn when Shokwan initiated the idea of a picnic and momiji at Yoyogi Park. As much of a mountain person as I am not, this year's momiji was way up in the peaks of Tsukuba. I got to see flora which I otherwise would not have elsewhere.

I wonder how autumn's like at the beach...

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