#037 – NUKAI-DAKE
Cold but clear. We opened twenty 15 with an easy hike to the top of Nukai-dake, down Nara way. Easy on paper, anyway. Splitting headache and bursting bowel didn’t help any. Some call it Yamato-fuji or so the cabbie told us as he whisked us out of town from the station masquerading as an ice box and up to the shrine complex at the trailhead. I’d climbed the real one years before – the real Fuji I mean – and began wondering how many of those faux Fujis I’d trodden as we cruised in the heated cab. The driver told us about Takami-yama further on to the east, down the tracks, and the hoarfrost that coats the trees in the winter months there. The Missus swooned. It was on our list. We’d get there one day. He said they run up Nukai in the summer. A local footrace for the madmen living thereabouts. I didn’t want to talk/walk/run. My head was still in Australia, sitting on the verandah, suckin’ on a stubbie. I often tend to waste Januaries – school holidays never ended ’til around Australia Day at the end of the month and I still hadn’t broken the habit of kickin’ my year into gear before then. There aren’t any solid plans to address that particular situation either. But this was mid February. The year was well and truly underway. We’d been back in Japland a month. Action was required.
The Missus was in good form. Leading the way. She does yoga randomly and some kind of core rhythm thing up on You tube with a drop dead gorgeous Indian lass in tights. Onward and upward. I whimpered for respite a quarter of the way up and wandered off trail to shit in the woods. Halve my problems. Create some momentum. My head still hurt like a motherfucker. It wasn’t due to booze, I swear.
On the snow splashed summit, a wooden platform, supposedly a lookout, was roped off to save the curious from themselves. If there’s no point in knocking something down or rebuilding it the Japs’ll just rope it off. A piece of twine from the home centre is a lot cheaper than a demolition crew and nature around these parts doesn’t take long to fill the breach. The Missus paid her respects at the shrine back amongst the summit trees. I sat on a log in the sunlight, absorbing any warmth the chilly breeze didn’t blow away.
Chocolate. The pain in my head dissipated then disappeared. Chocolate always helps in such situations. DARS is good. A hundred yen and a bit from any convenience store gets you a box of twelve little rectangles of chocolate. I can open the box, break through the silver plasticky foil and devour the contents blindfolded. Like an SAS goon who can reassemble his disassembled handgun with a bag on his head. I’m that good. Black, milk or white, it comes in, DARS does. I really like the white the best. When it comes to chocolate, I’m an unabashed white supremacist. The Missus has banned the white version. Something about bleach being used. Something about turning brown chocolate white that way and how it kills you and how it’s the same shit they use it in bathrooms and I don’t know, I just sat in the corner, in my underpants, with my fingers in my ears singing la-la-la-LAAA. I’d never considered it. I just thought it was extra milky or creamy goodness they added that drowned out the brown. But then she frowns upon the milk version too. But it’s acceptable, on occasion…
We dilly-dallied on the summit in the sunshine then took to the path down into the woods on the other side of the mountain. The cold side of the mountain. Steep, way steep and coated in hard, icy snow. Cramponless, we persevered, grabbing trees like long-lost friends, so much so our armpits would hurt more than our knees the next day. We followed the yellow and red electrical tape wrapped around the thin trunks of trees. As the ground returned to horizontal we regained our confidence and with the snow behind us, followed a wooded ridge, switched back and down to a concrete road lined with head high bamboo grass and out to a grave. They say he was a poet. A long-lost bard to some long-lost Emperor. Japanese civilisation, after all, was born in these parts. Ancient Yamato. Yamato Fuji.