Monday, August 6, 2012

Nagano

In this world
we walk on the roof of hell,
gazing at flowers.
- Issa, Japanese poet



First off, congrats to Galen Rupp, the best American distance runner...ever?

Second, It's hard to write about Nagano, mostly because I'm not there now. The beauty and majesty of the place is truly breathtaking.

I went to beautiful Hakuba, Nagano last week and had a memorable time. I went with two other AET's (Austin Powell and Brad Collier) and Keiko, my Japanese teacher from the class I am taking at church. We stayed at a really nice lodge the first night (Monday), owned by a man from the Netherlands named Albert Kikstra and his Japanese wife. If any of you come to visit I would most definitely take you here. Albert, the owner, is a serious mountain biker and he's in the perfect spot for the sport. The place definitely had a European vibe which was really peaceful.


the family room/lobby, sweet bike, huh?


Nagano held the 2000 winter olympics and it was one of the first events that put Japan on the map for my warped and underdeveloped brain. On Monday afternoon we were able to see the olympic ski jump in Nagano. It gave me a new appreciation for the sport.

On the up and up with Keiko


Craziness


Anyways, on Tuesday morning we woke up early, ate a great breakfast at the lodge and started hiking by about 7:30. The hike was beautiful. At one point we had to put on crampons to get us up the mountain.























Even though the hike was really difficult, most of the other hikers were retired. The Japanese work really hard when they are younger but when they are get older and retire they are more active in general than Americans (personally I wish they would spend more time with their family and friends). People in Japan are really nice but they are especially happy and kind on the mountain. Countless times we would ask them if we could take their picture for them and they would say, "it's good, but can you get in the picture?' They also liked to randomly ask where we were from, I got really pretty good at saying, "America is where I came from". The conversation usually started to crash from there, at least it would crash into smiles right?

It was a long hike up and we got to the top in the late afternoon.



Austin is against world peace

the lodge on the top of the mountain: a lot more money and a lot more Japanese in the quarters and way inferior sleeping compared to the first lodge but definitely worth it


That night we stayed at a lodge with a few hundred other Japanese. Near the top I met a family of three, a mother, the sister named Aya and the brother named Kensuke. It was fun practicing my "Japanese" with them. It's humbling to realize pretty much every Japanese adult knows more English than I know of their language. Learning the language is quite the challenge but can be fun. Especially on this hike.

At the top with Aya and Austin


That night all the Japanese were asleep by 9:00 pm to wake up at 4 am to watch the sunrise. It's funny, the Japanese are more geared up than a rich, fat American road biker. All the Japanese had their headlamps on going up to the very top to see the sunrise. It was a perfectly clear morning, which Albert Kikstra from the bed and Breakfast told us is extremely rare. Here's the scene, my camera doesn't do it justice. The top of the mountain is about 9,000 feet high.



Gazing at the Sunrise with my new friend Aya

The next day's hike down was even longer as we took a different route. After being up since 3:40 am I was in a pretty hacked off mood honestly for a few hours up through lunchtime, I wisely stayed to myself (it was rough sleeping as my legs were burned pretty badly, it was a little hot and occasionally one of our fellow Japanese comrades would snore or talk in their sleep, such as one older man who shouted, "what the hell!"in Japanese mid sleep hahaha).

This is probably the best description of me at this point. I didn't realize my camera was on myspace-high-schooler-girl-in-front-of-the-mirror mode but this will due in terms of the description and hey you want the real experience, right?




After getting started again things were good. Those who know me really well, know starting can be the hardest part for me. After three more hours of descending down the mountain we finished.

...this isn't the finish, but I liked this picture haha


That evening, after hiking since about 5 am and finishing at about 3:30, we celebrated our masochistic ways with a lot of pizza and some wine (in honor of the Trott family)

This one's for you Mr. Trott!

It was a great trip, it has only made me want to go back and it's made it hard to get back into the routine, but Nagano will always have a fond place in my heart.