Today is a special entry of the Forest & Water Snowshoe Blog! Because we had some American visitors today, we thought it would be fun to provide an English installment of our blog, just in case anyone out there is interested! Our tour today was led by Nori, our head guide and the founder of Forest & Water. Accompanying us were Alex and Brian, both from the United States. In the front row in the picture below is Lindsay, a student from the US visiting Minakami, with her host mother. Since our tour was for Americans, we switched to English for the afternoon! This is a picture of the group just before we started tackling the course.
You can see the rest of our afternoon adventure on the next page!
The pine below is known as "The Immovable Pine," and has some local
mythology surrounding it. Particularly strange about it is that instead
of just two needles together, this species has bundles of five needles.
Upon learning this, Brian suggested several different possibilities of
myths that could be applied to the tree. We came up with stories
connecting to the human hand and to supernatural trees in general. After
all, what makes a tree "Immovable?"
We made our trek up to the peak at a neat pace. This course only goes up
911 meters, but there is quite a great view from the top. As we got
nearer and nearer to the summit, the sun came out even more and the sky
became clearer. We really saw a wide range of weather this afternoon,
but I would have to say we timed the good weather perfectly with
reaching the top. We could see for miles around; surveying the area, we
watched Junior High School students cross-country skiing in the
distance, a hidden mountain neighborhood, and the distant mountains of
Niigata. As you can tell from this photo, the snow was pretty deep at
the top. Judging by the torii gate and the signpost, it was just over
six feet deep here! We took the opportunity to take an 80s Japanese idol
photo! Written vertically on the signpost is the name of the mountain:
This is a photo of Alex and Brian in front of The Dragon's Cave. In a
phenomenon Minakami's caves are known for, ice stalagmites have formed
and are reaching toward the ceiling of the cave. This being about
halfway down the mountain, we had already traveled quite a distance, but
Alex and Brian were ready to go at every turn and were tearing up the
course. Here at Forest & Water, those customers who come prepared to
enjoy themselves always seem to!
If the hike up is difficult, the way down is fun! After a tea break, we
found a new way to take down that was coated in perfectly soft snow.
Sinking into it and sliding with every step makes you feel like you're
walking on a cloud. We puncuated our descent with sliding down the
softer slopes -- today's conditions were just right for sliding and we
all had a blast. Some of the tracks were slick and the braver ones among
our group worked up some seriously high speeds rocketing down. It sort
of makes your hard work climbing up look more significant.
We really enjoyed sharing Minakami with our American guests! We spent
time with them discussing the area and its good points, and everyone had
suggestions as to what makes Minakami appealing. One positive area that
we all agreed upon was the availability of excellent outdoor resources
like the rivers and the mountains and the outdoor companies that operate
here. Most of our non-Japanese visitors enjoy themselves here with
extreme and outdoor sports and then kick back in the town's onsen. It's a
recipe for a great vacation! In the meantime, it's just a matter of
getting the word out; so thank you all for reading, and we look forward
to seeing you in Minakami soon!