Thursday, 18 October 2012

Nagano Mountains and the Japanese Alps

The Canadian Rockies are awe inspiring and austere, while the Japanese mountains tend to be breathtakingly beautiful covered with a variety of trees and other vegetation with higher elevations of multi-hued rock topped by snow covered peaks in the case of the highest mountains. We could see many beautiful mountains from the end of the street in Omachi where Norio-san and Kuniko-san live. Kuniko-san pointed out a mountain that she had climbed. It was a 6 hour ordeal one way on paths only goats should use and which she says she will not be repeating.
The Japanese Alps of Nagano were home to the 1998 Winter Olympics. Yayoi and I experienced our first Japanese winter together in 1997-1998, but left for Canada January 8 just prior to the start of the Olympics. Kuniko-san took us to see the site of the ski jumping venue near the community of Hakuba. Watching the younger generation practice on artificial carpeting was quite impressive when seen close up. We had previously seen the Sapporo ski jumping site during our Hokkaido visit of mid summer 2012. Observing the mountains wherever we travelled it appeared at times as though half of them had carved ski slopes on their surfaces.
The Nagano mountains are the home of the world famous hot spring macaque monkeys or "saru". They have taken control of the hot spring pool and tourists are relegated to the role of observers and photographers. Nagano prefecture has more "Onsen" or hot spring baths than any other prefecture. Twice on the weekend we were treated to the experience of soaking ones troubles away in hot spring water. On October 14, 2012 we went to one with a beautiful outdoor bath surrounded by rocks, trees, mountains and sky. It operates throughout the year. It was not hot so one could relax, but the indoor baths were so hot I could tolerate only a very brief exposure. The mountains are also home to "shika" or Japanese deer as well as wild boars or "inoshishi". We observed farmers attempting to fence out these animals and I wonder with how much success.
Yayoi and I are living on the Kanto plain which is quite flat and we cannot see mountains or the ocean, both of which we feel are two of the most attractive aspects of Japan.

Click on Nagano Mountains to see photographs on Picasa.

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