I’ve walked through the orthopedic pads in my shoes. What was once a pair of a heroic jelly supports, now resembles two disheveled clumps of grey felt and blue dr. Scholls-goop. This has prompted a reasonable priority switch: comfort over style. I’ve temporarily benched my tattered converse (conversai? Hehe just kidding) and now rely on my running shoes, almost exclusively.
Early saturday morning, I threw on my sneakers and prepared myself for the long day ahead. That’s a lie. I did not prepare well enough.
A classmate, (a Moroccan girl who’d already been studying in Japan for 3 years), recommended that I make an effort to “see some Japanese nature” before my semester ended. I was completely on board for that idea and you could even say that I was excited about the prospect; being immersed in the concrete jungle for too long can make you weary.
I committed to a two-hour train ride and finally reached the bottom of Mt. Takao, along with a small crowd of hikers. Multiple trails were laid out for prospective travelers on the giant map outside of the station, but whatever helpful description they offered was lost on me. I just started walking towards the mountain and figured that I could go for the first path I passed. (I chose “nature research” trail #6 and was later informed of course that it had been the steepest// there was also a mountain lift and paved route).
As I made my way through the woods, over make-shift wooden plank bridges and the muddy terrain, allof the wilderness preparation lessons I’d be taught over the years rapidly rolled through my head. I was not definitely dressed properly. “Should I be wearing higher socks for this? Are there even ticks in Japan?" Avoiding lyme disease was pretty much the main lesson for every school/girl scout camping trip I’d ever taken as a child. There were japanese signs posted everywhere along the narrow, increasingly elevated path and, to me, they looked like warning signs, but I could not read them. Whenever I came across a rickety bridge or broken fence, I used a time-tested safety method: let sometime else go first. If they survived, so could I.
En route to the mountain’s top, my out-of-shapeness became utterly apparently. Why did I insist on trying Okara donuts (p.s. tastes like hushpuppies) for breakfast? How was going for a hike after that a good idea? My heaving breathing was interrupted, when two of the cutest little boys passed by with the brightest greeting "konnichiwa!” I was taken aback, too focused on the task that lay ahead– wait, were they talking to me? I blurted out a response: “konnichiwa,” smiled, and continued on. This was the first of many. Each subsequent hiker that crossed my path greeted me with a similar demeanor. (not something you would encounter in such abundance with the deeper parts of the city). Although I took this mountain-journey on my own, I was not alone.
The morning hike was reminiscent of the many trips I took as a child with my family. (Or at least most of what I could remember, considering my age.) It could have easily fit in with our transcontinental history, and that one canadian island. meaning= They should have been here!
The top of the mountain was so lovely. It made up for the long train ride.