Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friends of the Earth Part II

Sunday January 29 Linden and I managed to organize ourselves to attend a Friends of the Earth hike. This hike was up over a forested ridge to the Mitsukama waterfalls and then down a forest road to the Tama river gorge and Okutama station. Mitsukama water falls would have been beautifully frozen if the weather had been colder at the base.

We experienced a quite difficult hike over loose stones and extremely steep slopes. As the day lengthene
d both Linden and I were realizing that one wrong step and we'd have very sore twisted ankles (or worse, a tumble over the side). Linden had been leading the thirty or so members along with her bounding energy but we both slowed a bit after the first three hours -- our muscles became quite chilled over lunch.

What we did not count on was just how strict the temperature was going t
o drop when we reached the summit. There were small patches of snow in many places and our packed salad immediately looked cold and unappetizing. Even my trusty chocolate covered almonds were of no comfort. Chocolate doesn't taste as good when it is frozen.

At the end of the hike we visited an onsen, a public bath, and reflected on the cold day from the comfort of the hot springs in which we were content to soak. The onsen is a truly unique experience. Men and women are separated into respective common spaces for bathing and relaxing. Typically in Japan, men are far more pampered in onsens than women. Our side was quite relaxing all the same. The water was fragranted with organge peels (contained in a mesh bag) and soft classical music played. Linden and I chose to sit in the outdoor onsen. Surrounded by forested mountains, a mix of Japanese and foreign women all bathing, it seemed oddly natural - yet there is nothing to compare this to in Canada.

Our meal upstairs was delicious and we engaged in energetic conversation with the Japanese women about gender issues in Japan and odd foreigner things (in particular why every foreign male has a Japanese girlfriend). It was quite fun.

The male pictured is Richared, our guide. He has taught environmental studies for 27 years at a University in Tokyo. He is quite a character. The group was mostly foreigners this time. Nonetheless, Lind and I were asked to pose for pictures with the Japanese men on the trip. I've come to realize this week that no matter the setting (see final blog for details) youth always gets attention.

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