A little over a week ago, I went with my friend, Kelly, and a small tour group to Mt Nyukasa aka Fujimi Panorama. The Panorama promised was not in the cards, however, as the temperature was slightly low and the humidity slightly high resulting in lovely, low clouds. When we rolled up to the base area, we found the usual Japanese hikers in either afternoon walk gear (i.e. corron shirts and slacks or jeans) or serious hiking/mountaineering gear. As a change of human scenery, at this mountain they also ran a ski area in the winter and a pretty gnarly downhill mountain bike course in the summer. Regrettably, I don’t have any pictures of those guys because by the time they were off the mountain and covered with mud, the rain was coming down in buckets and there was no way I could get my gear out without soaking it. At times, I’m funny about that. I’ll be better prepared next time.

But I digress. The whole published aim of the trip was a little flower called the Lily of the Valley that was supposedly in bloom. We rode a gondola up the ski hill, passing over several switchbacks of the mountainbike trail and up into the trees and clouds to reach the first vestiges of it. Turns out the only Lily of the Valley that were ready and in bloom were the neatly cultivated rows in rather new looking beds near the beginning of the trail. The structured bit out of the way, we wandered along the trail into the woods and the clouds began to clear a bit. Well, crap. OK, I do love the woods in Japan, but woods are woods and there weren’t many inspiring spots until we emerged into a high mountain meadow. The clouds had raised to a proper, peak scraping level and showed off a world that felt remarkably like the mountain meadows in Colorado that I trekked through back in the day. The Japanese aspen aren’t a perfect substitute for my quaking leaves from home, but they’ll do in a pinch! We walked through the meadow via a well worn causeway and learned that the meadow was in actuality a former, or “old” marsh.

From there, we headed up the peak of Mt. Nyukasa, a short but intense hike and broke for lunch at the summit. It was there that I saw for the first time the neat interaction between Japanese Larch trees and rain/heavy mist. The little clusters of needles make such neat, tidy cups that hold actually quite large drops of water. Pretty cool and not something I’d seen before. After lunch and water laden trees, we headed back by the old marsh and down a paved road to one that was still every bit the wetlands. The white trunks of the Japanese aspen (or maybe some sort of birch) made another appearance and drew a lovely bit of contrast with the darker greens all around. The path was again along a causeway that kept our feet dry, but the rain was just starting as the clouds descended again just when we re-emerged onto the pavement.

At this point, the clouds really started intruding on the trees and the whole forest took on a very creepy, very haunted ambiance that I was really enjoying. I made several more images coming through the mist as we hiked back through the original meadow and emerged from the forest at the gondola station. At this point, satisfied with the forest photos that I had made, I put my gear away hoping to keep it from getting too wet, potentially causing problems. By the time we got off the gondola at the base, the rain was seriously pouring down and rather soaked, I was ready for my discounted ice cream (rhubarb and vanilla) and ready to get out of the wet. All in all a very nice trip and I am very happy with how the weather turned out. If it had been sunny, you can bet it would have been too hazy to enjoy a panoramic view, so bring on the weather!