My morning began in a outdoor onsen in the shadow of Japan’s Yatsugatake mountains. There are worse ways you can start the day. Even the worrying spectacle of a fellow wearing nothing but business socks brushing his hair in front of the mirror in the locker room couldn’t dampen my spirits as I left the hot spring and set out to explore.
I’m on holiday and enjoying beer and bathing in Yamanashi. The air is beautifully fresh and tasteless, there is a delightful chill to the morning sunshine, and the highest peaks of the surrounding mountains still have small caps of snow. My wife and I weren’t sure where we would go after our bath this morning but headed out in the car and found ourselves climbing higher and higher as we chose to follow signs for a lake called Shibireko. The road was steep and winding but with every turn we were offered stunning vistas of mountains and valleys. Broccoli greens were interspersed with the lighter, brighter, yellowy hues of new leaves which perfectly exemplified the color the Japanese call kimidori. Here and there wild wisteria added a splash of purple, and above it all was a cloudless blue.
Eventually we reached a car park and unpacked our picnic box. A path climbing higher warned of bears, the one pointing downwards indicated the lake. We headed downwards. It was a short walk and presently we found ourselves sitting under a pink tree, in front of a quite beautiful small lake. Bungalows and campsites, barbecue areas and a couple of garish swan boats attested to visitors, but today we had the lake almost entirely to ourselves. A couple of lonely fishermen and a solitary camper were our only companions.
A narrow path allows you to walk around the lake, between the water on one side and the forested hills rising steeply to the other. We sat for a while and watched tiny fish in the shallows. There was not a sound. Just us and the water and the trees. I watched the gentle ripples and felt as though we were the first people to discover this lake. That is not easy in Japan. Today, however, was perfect and I was reminded that sometimes life here is wonderful.