November/December 2007

Here some pictures of this year's autumn in Japan. 紅葉 (kouyou = autumn colours) are spectacular and 紅葉狩り (momijigari = autumn colour hunting) seems a national sport, though slightly less famous than 花見 (hanami = cherry blossom watching).

For all you linguists out there, note that the first 2 kanji of kouyou and momijigari are the same, but the reading changes from chinese to japanese style now it is combined with a japanese verb. The verb karu, meaning to hunt, with conjugation kari to make a noun, becomes gari (only a matter of adding " in japanese) when it is the 2nd part in a combined word.


17 Nov. - It had been a long time without any hiking for me and the nice weather and prospect of kouyou made me decide to get out there and climb 三つ峠山 (mitsutouge-yama = the 3 ridges mountain). I took a special holiday express train which, unfortunately, was too long to fit to the platform of my destination station, meaning that the doors of the last 3 cars didn't open (they didn't explain that in clear language) and the 30sec stop didn't allow me to get off in time... So I had to wait 40min at the next station, get a slow train back and finally arrived 1 hour later at 11 at mitsutouge-station. By that time it became more or less clear to me that the JR train leaving from shinjuku changed to a private railway line halfway, and that this is porbably the only private railway line in the whole of east japan where you cannot use the suica/passmo chipcard to pay (meaning you have to buy some special ticket for the "private railway" part of the whole trip. Anyway, I got so fed up with all and staff had not been helpfull at all, that I just handed in my seat reservation ticket and quickly started my hike (I was already 1h late, so I would have to walk a bit faster...).

After walking into the valley for almost an hour, I got to a special sightseeing road along the river, covered with japanse maple trees, at the high-point of turning colour!

The whole hike would be about 1100m climbing and take some 6-7 hours, it would start getting dark around 16.30, being dark at 17.00. Although I normally walk faster than indicated (indicated time generally includes rests for me) and it was nice cool weather, being 1hr late already didn't leave much time to rest en enjoy the scene, but I allowed some time for taking a hell of a lot of pictures :-) (By the way, I had brought my head light as a precaution, in case I wouldn't make it out of the forest before dark.)

After a long climb I got to the 88 buddha statues (they say, I didn't count). I didnt get the story of why they are there, but it looked interesting anyway.

Around 3 I finally arrived at the first of the 3 ridges. The Mitsutouge-Yama itself is on the right, but considering time (it would take me 30min to climb and get back) and the limited added value in terms of views (Mt. Fuji had been more or less obscured by clouds most of the time) I decided to just start descending (via the other 2 ridges).

The path down towards kawaguchiko (via ropeway) was mostly descending very gentle, allowing me to make some more speed. As usual, in the evening it cleared up quite a bit and I got some nice views of Mt. Fuji, although most of the hike is through the forest.

By the time I got to the ropeway station around 5 it had really become dark. If I would have needed to walk any longer, I definately would have had to use my light, but luckily I was just in time to catch the last service down (17.15) saving me another hour walking. The mountain station of the ropeway gave a really nice view of Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji by night.

The day after my hike, we went to Shousenkyou, which is a very narrow valley famous for its characteristic rocks and nice autumn colours. It was nice, but quite touristic unfortunately.

Yesterday, december 9th, I had a free sunday (as in, nothing planned to do) so I took my bicycle to go around and see some late kouyou around here. Although this year autumn is late and Tokyo is always relatively late, most of the colours are gone by now (like cherry and most of the maple) but the ginko trees are still bright yellow and great to see. The Bunkyo Civic Center (my city hall) has a free observatory at the 25th floor, so I got a good view on this nice day (but not clear enough to see Mt. Fuji yet...) The park is the botanical garden of the university of Tokyo.

As it still looked quite nice from the Civic Center and as I have free access as a Tokyo University student, I decided to go to the botanical gaden.