I found a collection of posts about my hikes in the Japan Alps that I had originally posted on another blog site a couple of years before coming to wordpress. Here’s an amusing anecdote from my traverse of Warusawadake/Akaishidake in the Minami Alps in the summer of 2008.
At the Arakawa-Nakadake shelter I decided to spend the night there. I had that bus ticket thing I needed to use up and since there was no tent site, the weather was looking like it could bring a thundershower, and I might have a good view first thing in the morning, I chose to stay there.
I met a guy who was originally from England, had worked in Sydney, Australia for a company there for a couple of years, was then transferred to the company’s Tokyo branch and had been living in Tokyo for the last four years. He was doing what I had only dreamed of doing – he was crossing from the Japan Sea to the Pacific Ocean on foot by following the ranges of the Alps. I rarely speak to other foreigners in Japan and so here was a chance for me to find out what someone else was up to. He was a decent and pleasant person to talk to though he was not staying and planned to hit the trail again soon.
Inside the shelter was a Japanese man who was there with his son who looked about 12. The man spoke some English and came out red-faced from the beers he had been drinking and wearing a big friendly smile. He had been talking to the Englishman and now saw his chance to join the conversation of two native English speakers.
Japanese man (to me) – Where are you from?
Me – I’m from Canada.
JM – Oh, Canada! I envy you. Yes. Skiing, Swimming. Simultaneous.
Me – Skiing and swimming simultaneously? I don’t think that’s possible.
JM – Yes, skiing, swimming. Simultaneous in Canada.
Me – I think that’s water-skiing.
Englishman – (laughs)
JM – Water-ski? You?
Me – No, I just climb mountains. (back to my conversation with EM) So, do you ever post any photos on the Net?
EM – Well, I have a Web site I modified since I first made it 25 years ago when the Web was young…
JM – Twenty-five years?!
Me – Cool. (noticing his bear bell) Have you ever seen any bears in Japan?
EM – Yes, actually. I saw one a couple of weeks ago when I was staying at a lodge near Asahi Dake…
JM – Bear? In Canada you have big bear! Grizzly! Too many grizzly in Canada.
EM – (ignoring the man) Yes, I was having lunch and I heard a sound in the bushes outside. I thought someone was coming so I called out, ‘hello, hello,’ and then this big, furry thing came bounding past the hut and leapt into the bushes. I think it was a bear. I only really saw the backside as it ran into the bush. I’m not sure because I have only seen photos on the front of a bear – you know, you usually don’t see photos of the backside.
Me – (laughing with him) Right.
JM – Your pack is America. Made in America. Osprey. American company.
EM – Oh, uh, yes, right.
Me – Your jacket is Canadian though. How is it?
EM – Yes, actually, it’s very good.
JM – Canada? Your jacket, Canada?
Me – Yes. Apteryx. It’s a Vancouver-based company, I think.
JM – Vancouver. Skiing, swimming. Simultaneous.
The Englishman was being very polite but clearly getting annoyed by the constant interruptions. We exchanged email addresses and soon he was off.
Later I was looking at the scenery wondering if the clouds would let any views show through when I passed the red-faced smiling man again. He was talking with a woman and another man. When he saw me he spoke.
“Are you happy I am here?”
I wanted to say, ‘actually no, I find you a little annoying,’ but I think he hadn’t phrased his question properly.
Me – Do you mean, ‘am I happy to be here?’
JM – Yes. Do you understand what I say?
Me – Yes. I am happy to be here.
JM – We are family. (gesturing to the others)
Me – (looking confused, knowing they were not his family) Oh, I see. We are all mountain people, so we are family.
The woman next to me had remained silent but she nodded like she understood what I had said. The man looked confused now. The smile dropped from his eyes but remained on his face.
JM – You see bear in Canada?
Me – Yes, I have seen a black bear three times but never a grizzly.
JM – You see grizzly? Too many grizzly in Canada.
Me – No, I saw a black bear. They are smaller, like a very big dog.
JM – Big dog?
Me – Yes. I saw them all from the roadside. They were beside the highway.
JM – Really? Was the bear your family?
I could not understand what he was getting at. I just looked at him and said, “How many beers have you had to drink?” The woman beside me laughed. The man, still smiling, answered, “Two.”
Me – No, of course the bear was not my family.
JM – Do you understand what I am saying?
The story ends here. And a photo from Arakawa-Higashidake looking to Arakawa-Nakadake is here.