Thursday, April 30, 2015

green is my writer's valley

A couple of days ago, I foolishly asserted I could not generate stories from encounters with my fellow passengers.  What was I thinking?  Some unwitting creature always manage to wander past the bead of my elephant gun.

Take today.  We decided to get away from the big cities with a trip to Mt. Fuji and its surrounding Hakone national park.  I had no idea that Japan had wisely chosen to reserve its wild spaces.

Well, someone on our bus did.  In fact, he seemed to know everything about everything.  Remember The Pedantic Man in Midnight in Paris?  This guy would have put him to shame.

We learned that America dropped three atomic bombs on Japan.  That there are more Brazilians in Massachusetts than in Brazil.  That the United States made a huge mistake by not allying with Germany and Japan in the Second World War.  That Bowe Bergdahl should be executed along with the five released terrorists.

I was hoping he was from some English-speaking country other than The States.  I was wrong.  He is exactly the kind of guy who can give an entire nation a bad name during a single bus ride.

You might think I am being a bit churlish -- to now rip some poor guy with whom I had a conversation.  But I didn't say one word to him.  I was sitting across the bus in a row forward.  And I could not block out any of his unsolicited opinions or "factoids."  What I could not hear was our Japanese guide who was telling us what we were viewing.

I chose this particular bus excursion because I wanted to see Mount Fuji.  And this is as good as the view got.

You can barely make out its outline through the clouds.  But that was good enough for me to mark it off of the list I do not keep.

The mountain was simply too modest to show her shape.  That is, until the afternoon when the light was wrong.

That was a bit disappointing.  But the rest of the trip made up for it.

Our bus drove us up the Hakone crater -- a collapsed volcano -- to the Great Boiling Valley.  It is an aptly-named site.  The whole area is filled with sulphur vents and hot springs.  These places always look as if they could figure in a Bosch painting.

After an hour of breathing sulfuric air, we boarded a gondola for a cable trip from the summit to Lake Ashi in the crater's basin where we boarded a boat for a circuit around the lake.  That is it at the top of the essay.

Not just any boat.  It was a pirate ship.  Or, at least, a Japanese version.  Remember what I said about the Japanese ability to assimilate other cultures -- and to do it with style?  Well, imagine Captain Jack Sparrow, Versailles, and Hello Kitty all rolled into one kitschy package.

And do you know what?  It was the very essence of fun.  You might think that after a few days of cruising, the last place I would want to spend my free time was on the water.  You would be wrong.

It was a beautiful lake.  And, other than dodging our newly-acquired Pedantic Man, it was exactly what it advertised itself as being -- unadulterated fun.

Even though it took an hour and a half to get to the park, we drove through some enchanting landscape.  Such as, these fields of green tea.  And tangerine groves.

And the day was not over.  When we returned to the ship, a troupe of young Japanese drummers assembled to drum us out of town.

They were quite talented.  I shot a three-minute video that I wanted to post here.  But the internet speed is simply too slow to share it with you.  Instead, I offer up this photograph.  You can imagine the drumming.

Perhaps, I will be able to upload it when I return home to Mexico.

That is, after I figure out why the American government has spent 50 years covering up that pesky third atomic weapon we used against Japan.

Traveling is so broadening.

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