Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winter wonders

Evening walk in Kuzo hamlet. One of my favorite places in Otaki. The road we walked on, my wife and I, was covered in many spots in a good 5 centimeters of ice. From the forest above us we heard the "chi chi chi" of macaques calling to their comrades that there are bigger primates about.

Only a few minutes up the road from our house a narrow valley opens enough to allow glimpses of Mt. Ontake. On this evening, clouds clung loosely about the mighty mountain, like down on a gosling. The air was dry and brought a sharpness to the winter landscape, imbuing it with a liveliness that betrayed its skeletal trees and empty fields, which might otherwise signify a scene of lifelessness. The songs of wintering birds struck out from the forest and cut through the frozen silence.
A bit further on and we caught sight of a Japanese serow and his (her?) mate. They stood silent and unmoving on patches of grass occupying the center of concrete squares arrayed to form a larger lattice-work that covered a steep road-cut to ensure stability. I was amazed at how well the serow's coats fit the altered environment. My wife had great difficulty spotting the beasts. Serows are said to have bad eyes, so the four of us stood gazing upon (or failing to gaze upon) each other for quite some time. The sound of a car engine (at leastI presume it was the sound; I myself couldn't hear it) sent the serows scrambling across the slope and into the woods. The car came past us a bit later, "their eyes may be bad, but they sure have good ears," I concluded.

Stars were appearing in the dusk as we turned around and said good night to Mt. Ontake.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Today is the first day of the new year that I've spent in Otaki; I was in Kyoto over the holidays.
Throughout the day I've marveled at the winter light as it plays across the landscape. The low and flat rays of the sun slink through deep gorges of the Otaki Valley, and leap out from ridgelines in the most amusing ways. This interplay of light and earth casts deep blue shadows down the valley, creating a landscape of interloping framents of light and dark. It's a landscape made whole by being broken apart.