Friday, January 19, 2007

Friends of the Earth

While Mt. Fuji didn’t make an appearance, the forests clumped around the new development offered spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, tress, rural farmingand hydro poles. Oh a poetic juxtaposition! You are never too far from 100,000+ people here. Poured concrete to hold up the mountainsides from falling onto the newly built homes was a nice touch.

Seeing the Pacific Ocean to the left and the right, I remembered I was on an island, a small one at that.

Grievances of urban sprawl aside, it was wonderful to change from city life to country life. The hike lasted 5.5hrs, but including transport and lunch I was gone from 07:00 until 19:30. Arriving at Shinagawa Station to find the group was a bit harried, and picking which hiking group was difficult. Apparently there is quite a community of hikers who travel every Sunday for day trips. Each group wears a different bandana around their necks…and then there were the long-haired US hippies who directed me to Friends of the Earth. I felt right at home.

Our guide spoke only Japanese, and for all but me, this was fine. There were 41 people participated, 12 of whom were foreigners. Of the foreigners I was the only one who didn’t speak Japanese (alas, the only tourist).

We foreigners were a good mix: the ubiquitous American hippies, genetic scientists from Russia, IT headhunters from Germany, a South African philanropist onto wifey #4 (I unapologetically eavesdropped on the saga of his love life for awhile) who incidentally makes fantastic home-made bread and Doug “the psychiatrist” from New England. The latter has spent 20 years of his life off and on in Japan and was quick to tell me that over half his clients are lawyers. Bah! I’ve heard that before. I half-expected him to hand me his card.

Most of the participants knew each other, I was certainly creating a buzz among the Japanese over lunch. I knew this because I was offered food from more people than I can count and I was introduced as “Ash-el-ee the Caan-ahdien” to many who all seemed to know I was staying with my sister...someone talked. (Their vowel sounds are very rounded, no pinched or nasal pronunciation of my name, or Canada, it makes the words sound sing-song). Until this time, I had been walking with Izumi, a sweet woman (beautiful) who seemed very anxious but determined to practice English. I have the utmost respect for that.

My new Japanese walking companions each had a story about living in Canada (mostly Vancouver or Montreal) and about how beautiful the country appeared.

I’ll take a moment to mention how the Japanese adore, revere, celebrate, colour of the Autumn leaves. Linden describes a trip she took in the Fall to some shrine because of the rumoured Fall colours. She said there were so few trees/colours that it made her realize just how exquisite Canada can be in the Fall. The explosion of firery colour is beauty indeed. A number of people mentioned “Ahhh Canada is beautiful colour” or “Canada: the Fall.” I find myself looking forward to the Fall already.

I made some new friends and heard about the active adventure clubs in the area. Wherever you are, the internet certainly makes it possible for you meet like-minded people, or so it appears. I’ve found mountain biking, road cycling, mountaineering, your run-of-the-mill adventure and hiking clubs with a few google searches. If I had all my ice-climbing gear I’d be set for next week’s trip up the ice shafts somewhere in the North, or the 100mile road-cycling day trip hmmm I didn’t bring my gear…

I’m hoping to attend just one more hike before I go. My enthusiasm has peaked Mhairi and Linden’s interest. I was assured by most participants that normally only 20-25 people attend.

To the right, this is my favourite picture. These trees in the afternoon light, absent no concrete and people (I was far ahead of the other members, so it was fairly quiet).

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