Archive for March, 2010

Jomon Sugi

March 31, 2010

South of Kyushu, on the small island of Yakushima, lies the recently commissioned UNESCO World Heritage Site, home of Jomon Sugi.

Jomon Sugi, one of the largest and  oldest cedars in Japan.  Actually, it appears that it’s not actually a cedar, but anyway, it is still a big tree, and it is located in a forest which is considered to be spiritual for the Japanese.

Emi suggested that we come here before my classes officially started because she had never been and because she found a good deal as this is not the popular season to visit the site.  Emi had also quit her job, after a year of suffering through it, and was looking forward to a chance to relax before she started her new one.

When I read about this hike, the only real informationa bout it was that it was a 10 hour hike, with the last few kilometers being quite strenuous. In a effort to add to the pool of knowledge, I’ll show some pictures. In order to start the hike, you have to get to the museum parking lot. The island has a single highway along the coast, and the museum is located just off this highway near the town of Anbo. We rode the bus “system” (can it really be a system when there is only one line?) there, so I can’t give exact directions. You could, however, rent a car, or hire a guide (who will supply a car). In any event, you’ll have to board a bus (or taxi) at the museum because they don’t allow cars beyond this point (because there is no space for parking, and the site is very popular). The bus is kind of expensive, but there isn’t much of an option because there is just no other way to ferry in the large number of daily visitors.

I have to admit that I was a little worried setting off on this trek because everyone was decked out in serious hiking gear, and I was sporting jeans. Usually I will avoid hiking in cotton (the death fabric) because once it gets wet, it will never dry, but I didn’t pack for Japan thinking that I would need to do much hiking. We were lucky because it was a beautiful sunny day, but I was told by the guides that we met that this kind of weather was basically unheard of, and that the island is officially the wettest part of Japan getting rain every day. So if you go, expect to get soaked. The fact that the other hikers were dressed to do a glacial assault, however was still off putting, and it wasn’t until I realized that many of them were wearing gaiters that it finally dawned on me that these people had never been hiking before and had prepared for this hike by cutting out a photo of a mountaineer and taking it to their local sports shop.

The actual hike starts out pretty sedated with a stroll along some railroad tracks which are of the type used for mining, not large trains. Actually, this hike is a little annoying because you have to walk down the middle of the tracks, between the rails, and this is hard on your feet as the ties are not even with the rail bed. Stepping from tie to tie is amusing, but also tiring. The upshot is that you’ll need something amusing when you start because you will be stuck behind a line of about 300 people all sauntering along in single file.

Normally, the hike would continue like this until the difficult section later up the trail. In our case, however, a tree had recently fallen across the tracks necessitating a detour up and over the affected section of track. This section quickly separated the weak from the strong, and the long trains of tourists broke up into something a bit more manageable from a hiking perspective.

The trail has two halfway points (on the way up), one for time, and the other for distance. The distance halfway point passes completely unnoticed along the tracks, which after the detour, had the added comfort of planking added between the rails. The halfway point in time occurs at the beginning of the difficult section. I took a picture of the first section, thinking that the trail would level off afterwards; it didn’t. The whole trail is a mixture of rock, mud, and roots with shored up from time to time with small logs; that is, when the trail engineers decided that they didn’t need to build a Ewok trail of stairs and platforms a few feet above the ground. I usually hold man made trails like this in disdain because it turns the experience of hiking through nature into a stroll through a theme park, but I’ll make an exception in this case considering that the terrain would be otherwise impassible except to serious hard core hikers. This part of the hike was not a stroll by any stretch of the imagination.

That having been said, I have to say that there were quite a few elderly people on the trail and, while not moving as fast as everyone, they were definitely moving along at a good clip. I hope that I’ll be in that good of shape when I’m their age. The amount of effort that this people went through to see this tree should give you an idea of how important it is to them.

Reaching the end was actually anticlimactic, in a way. Emi and I had just started up from a snack break when we spotted some people from our bus. “Oh no! They were on our bus and they are already on their way back!” sighed Emi, who felt that she was making really slow progress (despite passing a lot of slower groups). However, the end was right around the corner, literally, and still nowhere near the ridge-line, for, in my imagination, this tree stood commanding a view as majestic as the tree itself. It doesn’t, the tree is part way up the side of a small valley-canyon. Don’t get me wrong, the tree is impressive, and I’m glad I made the journey.

The return trip took as long as it did to get there. This was because Emi was tired and the trail had not gotten any easier since our journey up it. This meant more breaks and a lot more careful foot placement, which I was fine with; an ankle sprain at this point would have meant hiking in the dark. We made good time on the rail section, which made up for the care during the return trek.

To my hard core hiking friends, I’ll say that doing this as a high speed hike would have been frustrating as there are so many people to pass, and even if you got ahead of them, you’d have to face them all again, head-on, on the return trip. With no people, the hike might be reduced by a few hours, but I don’t think that there is any time when there are no people.

Over all the hike was beautiful and rewarding. The 20km was tiring, but do-able. This was a total success for Emi’s first real hike, and I think was positive enough to mean that we will have more in our future.

Look forward to next time when I talk about driving on the wrong side of the road.

Ack! Locked out of my own blog.

March 31, 2010

Ops! I managed to lock myself out of my own blog. Well, I forgot my password, but that meant that while I was away on Yakushima island (By the way, that’s redundant since “shima” means island), I wasn’t able to post any content.  Now that I’m back at my laptop, I am/was able to look up my password, so look forward to my next post!

Packing

March 15, 2010

It’s a strange feeling to pack up everything in your apartment.  The feeling is a little stranger when you are putting everything into storage so that you can move to another country.  I find myself stuck between sorting through the five years of junk I’ve accumulated and facing the uncompleted projects, knowing that there are only a few I can get done before I leave in 10 days.

I’ve packed a box of stuff I want to take with me.  The box is way too big.  How do you pack for a year?  According to the airline, I’m limited to two bags at 50 lbs each, for a total of 100 lbs*.  Not that it matters, I don’t think that I’ll have room for that much stuff in the apartment.  I wish I had a scale.  If I did, I’d know how close I already am, and if I can add more, or if it’s time to cut back.

The mountain of boxes is growing out of control.  Before today I figured that a 5×5 storage bin would be enough space, now I’m not so sure.  It might work…  I hate having to worry about this stuff.  Meanwhile, I’m about 80% packed.  Of course the last 20% is the worst; everything is either necessary for daily life, or requires sorting.  I’ve taken to dumping whole shelves into boxes.  It will be hell sorting later, but at least I will have time in the future.  Of course, I try to avoid this as much as possible because otherwise it will be really hard to find stuff when I’m unpacking.  I can see it now:  Where is the wireless print server?  Oh!  Of course, with the CD collection!  That makes sense.

I have a few projects I’m trying to rush through.  I gave up repairing my multimeter, that one will have to wait, but I am working on getting my new laptop running.  I guess if you are not a geek, you only have to pack in the physical world, but if you are switching to another computer, suddenly you have to think about the data you want to bring with you.  Will it be enough to only bring some of it?  What if I need other bits?  Maybe I should bring the hard disk from my desktop…

The laptop project has taken way too much time.  The good news is that it now runs Ubuntu (Linux), Mac OS Snow Leopard, and Windows 7.  I (just now) finally ironed out what was going wrong with Windows 7, so my project is now at an end.  That only took two weeks!!!  In the end it turned out to be a problem with the partition type.  Doh!  That was a whole week spent on just that problem!  With this done I can concentrate on getting my data squared away.

Oh well, it’s nearly midnight, so it’s time to go to bed.  I plan on making regular updates, so stay tuned.

*It’s more complex than this, I can actually go up to 140 lbs for an additional $100, at $50 per bag over 50lbs.  There are also limits on the dimensions of the bags, but I’m not too worried about these.