Sunday, May 9, 2010

Katakuri / Spring is here!

Everyone agrees that it has been a long, hard winter, and Okuizumo was certainly no exception. We even had snow in the second week of April. But it seems that FINALLY spring is really here, and we can all go outside to play again.

Last week was Golden Week, and my favorite guy Motohide came to visit me. His purpose in coming to Japan was 1. To eat as much sushi as possible and 2. To propose to me. I teased him about which was higher on the list, especially after seeing his consumption of Kaitensushi. One day he ate 21 plates and the next 22. Man, that boy is a sushi killer.

Anyway, fish aside, we had a lot of fun and took Hiroshima and Shimane by storm. We saw everything- from the beaches to the mountains. In fact, the Fukudas invited us to go mountain climbing. Now it is slightly ironic that people constantly surrounded by mountains and always driving through, over, and around them are such gluttons for punishment that they want to CLIMB them as well, but who am I to judge? Moto and I agreed, and we four set our sights on Mt. Sentzu 船通山which is probably the most badass mountain ever. Why? Well for starters, according to legend when the storm god Susanoo was expelled from heaven he came down this mountain. They also say the base of this mountain is where he defeated the eight headed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi. And legends aside, on the peak of the mountain blooms a very special and beautiful flower known as the Katakuri, which only blooms one week every two years. So we were pretty stoked to climb.

Although the mountain is "only" 1.1 kilometers high (less than a mile) the winding path to the top was probably four or five kilometers long, and it was vertical most of the way. Mr. Fukuda-san is a mountain climbing machine. He volunteers in some sort of forest protection club and therefore climbs regularly. He started us out at a pace that, while walking horizontally seemed painfully slow, but as we climbed higher and higher started to feel pretty sprightly. Mrs. Fukuda-san probably only climbs once a year or so and was happy to walk slowly and enjoy the scenery. Mr. Fukuda-san pointed out many cool flowers and plants that are indigenous to the area, so we got to take some breathers. We also met a motley crew of friendly mountain climbing folks around the way- everyone from little kids to grandparents over seventy. My favorite was a ballsy couple- the man was smoking a cigarette and wearing sandals and the woman was wearing pumps. Still, it was our first time, and the climb took two hours, so we were a little tired for sure.

But the view at the top took my breath away

the fields of katakuri are one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen

they greeted us with their natural beauty like little prizes once we reached the peak

It was truly amazing. The feilds of katakuri were roped off so people wouldn't step on them. They are really precious flowers- they can only survive in high altitudes with special soil. Although they only bloom every two years, the seeds stay alive in hibernation in the years they don't bloom. As a result, many of these flowers are over nine years old (at least their seeds are).

Many families and groups of friends were gathered at the top, picnicking and enjoying the flowers. Some people even brought little butane stoves so they could make cup ramen and miso soup. Mrs. Fukuda-san packed us onigiri (rice balls sometimes with fish or vegetable inside- kind of like Japan's version of a sandwich) and tea. We took a nap in the sun and awoke refreshed, sunburnt, slightly aching, and very happy.
They warned me beforehand that going down is actually harder than going up, but I didn't realize how true that was until my legs started shaking like jelly from the descent. But it was great fun, and I can't wait to go again.


  1. Reminds me of my climb up Mt. Sanbe! Jelly legs all the way down.

    Congratulations on the proposal! <3

  2. congrats lovely!! It's beyond time you found someone who loves you for your wonderfulness:)