Posts Tagged ‘mountain’

Monkey Jizo

2011年 5月 24日

Here’s another short book report from the same folk tale series as Mouse’s Marriage. I bought several books at the same time from the 100 yen shop. They are simply bound, but in traditional style; and on inexpensive paper, but printed to appear like traditional paper. Even Japanese friends are amazed at what can be had for 100 yen these days. Last time I promised I would include photos and – although delayed a little further – I will fulfill that.

Monkey Jizo (or さるじぞう, in Japanese) caught my attention early on. Many of the folk tales, although directed at children, are quite creepy (and I have no fondness for horror), so I found the more innocent appearance inviting. Furthermore, the title prompted all sorts of imaginative ideas about what the covers might contain, yet the story remained elusive until I read it. Let this not imply that the story is complex in anyway however, on the contrary, it is simply a fun children’s story of a moral nature.

Like so many Japanese tales, it begins with a poor old farmer. Working in his field in the mountain, he takes a break to eat mochi with kinako sprinkled on top. Wind blows kinako all over him, and without cleaning himself off, he takes a nap. Monkeys come out to investigate and mistake him for Jizo – a Boddhisatva whose likeness appears in small statues under little shelters along pathways all over Japan – presumably because the speckles of kinako make him look like stone.

According to the boss monkey’s orders, they haul him across the river to place him in a vacant Jizo shelter; however, while crossing the river some events unfold. First, the monkeys sing a silly work song about willingly wetting their willies in order to keep Jizo’s willy water-free. Even though the old man is awakened and humored, he toughs it out, stifling his laughter. Second, midway through the stream, the old man looses a smelly fart, prompting a discussion about the source of the noise and the subsequent odor. With a little help from the old man’s slyly mumbled comments amidst the confusion, it is decided that they heard a shrine bell and were smelling incense. Clearly they are carrying a true Jizo in their estimation.

After ensconcing him in the shelter they cast offerings of gold and silver coins before him. Outwaiting the monkeys, once he is alone, the old man scoops up the loot and heads home to share his tale with his wife. The greedy and nosey neighborwoman listens carefully and badgers her husband into a plan for riches. He agrees but stumbles clumsily through the process, ultimately bursting out laughing at the song mid-river. Outraged by the deception, and prone to rash action – as monkeys are known to be – they cast the man headlong into the drink. He finds his way home, tired and wet.

Reading the ending makes me wonder if Japanese tales have been toned down in the same manner as Western folktales over the recent decades. Did the original tale end in disaster for the husband of the greedy wife?


Every So Often…

2010年 9月 4日

Every so often, Mount Ranier shows it’s face; and on a rare occasion, it is completely exposed for our enjoyment. Reportedly about 120 days a year are sunny in Seattle and about 90 days a year Ranier is visible. When I took my parents-in-law to visit in August about 6 of 9 days gave us views like this. This was shot from a cruise on Elliott Bay with the Port of Seattle in the foreground and nothing but Ranier in all its glory in the background. Note the tremendous glaciers and snow pack in August, which are at all time record levels.Mount Ranier

No Escape

2009年 10月 13日

Saturday I went to Tsu Matsuri for a couple hours until my hip injury got aggravated – maybe due to the changing weather – and headed to the in-laws for a break. At the festival, I met about 20 people I know: students, teachers, school staff, regular customers at my favorite restaurants, etc. Several other friends from exchange groups and such were at known locations very close by so I could have met them as well, but was too tired. Occasionally it is fun to feel famous, but it can also be very distracting and burdensome. Sunday’s trip would surely bring me relief.

Sunday and Monday I went camping in one of the hardest to reach spots in Mie, Osugidani (大杉谷). Japanese people do things in seasons and camping is not an exception to this. Conventional wisdom says that October is too cold for camping, so people just don’t do it. One willing to face the ostracizing glances from friends, can find great solitude at remote campgrounds in October. Honestly, our main reason for choosing October was just the logistics of our busy schedules.

Initial reports were that we would be the only people in the campground; however, as we were walking through looking for tent area number 5, we heard voices. A family of four was in a bungalow adjacent to our camp. I greeted them and heard the children mumbling to each other. Next the mother asked them, “Is that someone you know?” Using Japanese grammar, which allows exclusion of ‘unneccessary’ information, they replied, “English teacher!”

We normally would take this to mean, “He is our English teacher.”; however, many kids, upon seeing a white face, say that because the only foreigners they know are English teachers. In their world it follows logically that foreigner are English teachers. So I went closer and asked which school they attend. Once I saw the daughters face, I recognized her.

Indeed there is no escape! Fortunately, we mostly kept to ourselves, occasionally sharing short conversations. With proper Japanese manners, the mother apologized for intruding on our get-away when they left. Of course we also politely responded, “That was not the case at all.”

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 10

2008年 9月 30日

The last in this series of things I noticed while scouting out trailheads and hiking up Kyou ga Mine at the end of August. It’s amazing how much beauty, amusement, and joy can come in such a short period of time.

One of the trailhead roads is significantly less than 2 meters wide and runs almost 3 kilometers up a steep winding slope. Part of the way there is a sharp drop into a stream on one side. If I met a car coming the opposite direction, I’m not sure how to handle that situation. This trail is rarely used, for obvious reasons, so the foliage was also hanging in a bit. When I was about halfway up, I encountered a tree that had fallen across the trail. I had passed an open dirt patch several meters back and considered navigating back to attempt to turn around; however, in a very Teddy Roosevelt-like moment, I decided I must continue to the very end. I was wearing bath slippers and shorts, and the rain was coming down hard, but I managed to muscle the tree off into the undergrowth. There was plenty of clean rainwater running through, so I could clean my hands. OK, the tree wasn’t that big, but I still felt manly.

Coming out of the mountains I had another amusing event. The atmospheric conditions changed sharply and the windows fogged up. I tried the trick I learned in Houston: air conditioning through the defroster vent will clear up a window in seconds. Unfortunately, no matter how much A/C I pumped out the window just got worse. Finally I realized the windows had fogged up on the outside; how peculiar is that? I rolled down the side windows, turned on the wipers, and all was good in the world.

This has been fun remembering all the fun and interesting stuff from the hike. I hope it was good for you, too.

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 9

2008年 9月 30日

Continuing thread of little images from my hike the end of August.

At the summit I met a man who has worked with several of my colleagues. During our conversation, it came out that he is also interested in old handwritten Japanese like me. The next day he dropped off a bunch of documents to study, but I’m having trouble finding the time. What an interesting person to run into atop a mountain.

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 8

2008年 9月 29日

Another little story from my August 31st hike.

Truly, it seems that I can’t go anywhere without meeting someone I know. As I was enjoying the fresh air at the summit two people wearing sandogasa came up the backside of the mountain. One of them called out my name. It was the owner of an izakaya near the train station. Her shop is called mine (峰), named after the mountain she loves to climb, kyou ga mine (経ヶ峰), so I guess my chances of running into her there are high.

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 7

2008年 9月 29日

Well, this one isn’t exactly “beautiful”, but it was eye-opening. Here’s another story from my hike at the end of August.

Talking with my new friend at the summit, I looked down the north side of the mountain because I heard someone speaking a combination of English and Japanese. There are a few heavy picnic tables near the summit and one was occupied by a ham operator. Let me edit that: a naked ham operator. I’m assuming his clothes got too sweaty on the hike and he was airing them out; or perhaps he was just ensuring he had the table to himself. To be completely accurate, he was only ‘mostly’ naked – wearing tiny black bikini briefs.

My pack was loaded with three large onigiri so I could study for several hours at the top of the mountain. I sought out a different place to sit. You know what they say: it takes all kinds.

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 6

2008年 9月 27日

Next image in my series of observations from my August 31st hike.

Summiting the mountain, I was a bit sweaty and tired. Doffing my pack, I enjoyed the refreshing breeze and conversation with a fellow climber. Two multicolored butterflies appeared from nowhere and spent a little of their short life, providing me with a lively dance. Perhaps I was a big fragrant by then and they mistook me for a flower. Now, I’m wondering why I don’t climb more often.

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 5

2008年 9月 27日

One more thing I noticed while scaling a nearby mountain at the end of August.

Once I cleared the treeline, I found myself amongst bamboo shrubs – called sasa – and wild grasses. Grasshoppers found this ideal terrain, which is not surprising but their coloring made me crouch down and watch them play a bit. I called these guys Desert Storm grasshoppers because they had multiple shades of khaki and brown, making them look like miniature foot soldiers heading for the Fertile Crescent.

Beautiful Sitings Along the Trail 4

2008年 9月 26日

Whimsical and out of place: another observation on my hike at the end of August.

Rapidly climbing toward the highest peak in the vicinity, I was surprised to hit a bend in the trail and see a crab watching me. Like a sentry, he was perched on a high stone which was an excellent vantage point. I wondered to myself, what a crab was doing near a stream in the mountains, and was also curious about his five legs.

Recently I learned about seven armed octopii, so perhaps a five legged crab is not so odd. Also, I read up on cavernicolous freshwater crabs, which has taken a bit of the magic out of my siting. (But not all of it.)