2nd in series JAPAN: MAPLES AND MT.FUIJI
Two well-known parts of the Japanese culture are the maples and their sacred mountain, Mt. Fuiji. (Also spelled Fuji) Those who have reached the top of this mountain know well the effort to climb 12,388 feet to the summit.
Fuiji is a volcano and has erupted 18 times. The last eruption was in 1707. Hopefully for those hiking as a pilgrim to a sacred spot or a tourist to the area, this is not a day to make history. The most popular trail for many is the Kawaguchiko Trail. Take your climbing stick, or Kongo-tsue, as called in Japanese. It will be a long, hard climb! For some, it is expected that at least once in a life time, this journey will be made. Perhaps that is why one may see…or be passed by an older lady who has forgotten about her arthritis and is making the journey. One writer spoke of seeing such an old woman who slept next to a door of a hut with no mat or pillow, since this hike is over several days. He saw her again on up the trail as he went down. She continued to go on with only sandals on her feet. She was probably hoping for a viewing from the top of Mt. Fiji at sunrise, which is called “gorging“. This is a spiritual journey. It has only been since 1872 that women were allowed to set foot on the mountain because it was believed that they may anger the female deity. Only monks or priests were given permission to climb. Shrines were built near the summit in the 1100’s . Stations and lodges sprang up around 1430. The north side of the mountain is the most popular.
Well, are you ready for your cup of “midzu-no-sakazuki”? This was a drink of water that was a pledge of those who may be separated by death on the hazardous climb in earlier years. Not that it is the most dangerous mountain to climb, but improvements have been made in recent years and there are medicines for altitude sickness, not to mention hiking boots and equipment.
One may also see the Japanese word “Abunai”, meaning Danger, if rocks begin to fall. Do not expect to stay clean on your hike, as the gritty red and black volcanic pumice gets in one’s ears, nose, scalp and teeth. The air grows thin and oxygen is often needed by some. From this spectacular summit one can view thirteen Japanese prefectures. My husband and I decided the climb was not for us since he’ll have knee surgery soon. I thought this was a wonderful excuse! We believed looking at the beautiful red maples with Fuji in the background was just fine.
Speaking of Japanese maples, the word “momiji” has two meanings. The first is “baby hands” and the other is “becomes crimson leaves“. Tradition has it that if a young child or baby is passed through the branches of the maple tree, there will be health and longevity. The maple has been cultured intensively for over 300 years and is a specialty to those who love exotic trees. Some stand 20 feet tall and the same width around. Known as acer palmatum atropurpureum, by its scientific name, it is a popular choice for ornamental gardens.
To those here in the United States that have not visited our National Arboretum in Washington, D. C. , it is a must see! The Nippon Bonsai Association gave the people of the United States a Bicentennial present in 1976 of 53 bonsai trees and 6 viewing stones. Many of these are extremely old. More to come on this in the slide show below.
Our travels in Japan may be over, but the memories are fresh of the beauty of a nation and its people. ( Stay tuned for BOYER WRITES’ continued series. The next will be on the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Gardens. ) However, the next writing will be a belated veteran’s Day tribute to our WWII veterans. On our way back from Japan, we were able to talk to men in their eighties and nineties going to Washington to see the WWII Memorial; some for the first time and probably their last. These are men and women who gave so much during this time of our history. It is also amazing that in just a few years the country of Japan has risen from the ashes to be the great, free and democratic nation that they are today. For a number of years, the Japanese government has taken U.S. teachers on a fully paid scholarship (Fulbright Memorial Scholarship) to various areas of Japan to visit schools and learn of their culture. I was privileged to be able to be a part of that trip and thank the Japanese government for the privilege. BOYER WRITES by N. Boyer Slide presentation below. Turn on the sound.
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