Eric Cunningham is a graduate student keeping a fascinating blog of his time in Otaki, a mountain village in Nagano with a population of just under a thousand. Recent posts include accounts of ice fishing for wakasagi, traditional roof construction in Otaki, and a neighbor’s water wheel, used to grind rice flour.
Eric’s research, as far as I can tell, focuses on the relationship between modern Japanese forestry practices and the country’s declining upland communities, seeking in part to uncover traditional approaches that might alleviate some of the problems arising from 21st century pressures on local resources. That by itself would interest some readers, but the blog also offers expansive meditations on hikes to frozen summits, including wonderful photos of alpine shrines wreathed in windblown snow, some drinking stories, and illustrated passages from Dogen’s “Mountain and Water Sutra.” Especially for readers interested in Japanese folkways, from making soba to twisting shimenawa rope from rice straw, In the Pines is a real winner. Here or from the sidebar.
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What a find! There are some foreigners who pick one town or neighborhood in Japan and cling to it like barnacles. Then there are the other kind.
Meet the other kind. From their first blog entry:
In spring 2008, two Australian writers are leaping into a very big and exceedingly ancient pond, walking the entire length of Japan, upright and erect (at least at the start), a journey of up to six months and 3,500km. Ian is hiking solo from ‘mainland’ Japan’s most easterly point (Cape Nosappu: 43, 22′ N; 145, 49′ E) to its most westerly (Kousakibana: 33, 13 N; 129, 33′ E) ; Chris is starting at the opposite end of the country, walking from the most southerly point (Cape Sata: 30, 59′ N; 130, 39′ E) to the most northerly (Cape Soya: 45, 31′N; 141, 56′ E). Though physically and psychologically demanding, their adventure will provide two intimate, ever-changing views of Japan.
This looks like it’s going to be one hell of a trip, crisscrossing each of Japan’s four main islands. Be sure to check out their About page, in which they lay out the ground rules for the project and list the twenty “Waypoints” they’re both required to pass through. They’re about a month and a half into the journey now, and as might be expected they’ve hit a few snags. Fortunately it looks like neither of them is about to give up yet. As a bonus the writing is, for the most part, excellent. Check it out here or from the sidebar.
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Here’s a blog that leaves Japan’s city streets behind in favor of a walk in the hills. “Laughing Knees” is a Japanese term for the shaky feeling in your legs after a long, steep descent. The blog’s writer calls himself Butuki, and describes himself like this:
A German/ Filipino/ African-American who grew up in Japan, it’s not really my genes that matter to me, but the timbre of place and kinship. If there is anything I would rather be doing, that would be a long walk in the hills, be it alone with my camera and sketchbook, or with a good, like-minded friend.
This is a great blog for anyone interested in outdoor Japan, and an excellent reminder of the country’s astonishing natural beauty. You can visit here or from the sidebar.
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