Saturday, July 6, 2013

Can Not Go Buying Black Eggs Shop

Mt. Hakone forest (May 30, 2012)

Mt. Hakone last recorded eruption was over 800 years ago, but the area still shows an impressive array of active volcanism. From the Owakudani ropeway station there are a number of paths leading to observation points near the fumaroles. We could see quite a crowd of tourists across the valley, overlooking over a particularly active vent. We decided to go there, as it seemed to be just a short walk. Well. Maybe not so short. After half an hour we were still climbing a steep mountain trail, deeply embedded in a lush forest. While the area around the sulfuric vents looked like the wasteland of Mordor, the sides of the volcano were more like the forest of Fangorn. There were plenty of large trees with a beautiful brown polished bark. Even the undergrowth and the grasses growing below the trees was beautiful with leaves in an endless variety of greens, red and white stripes. Lichens and mosses with bright red tips were covering the ground and the tree barks, thriving in the green light seeping from the thick canopy. Clearly we were not on our way to the fumarole observatory!

The trail was however not deserted by any means, as plenty of people in full hiking gear and heavy photographic equipment were climbing with us. So we kept going convinced that the trail must have been going somewhere interesting. After an hour or so of steep climbing, however, the end wasn't in sight. As we were about to turn around, an old couple that saw us stopping asked in a very excited way if we had already photographed the flowers. Flowers? Which flowers??? They told us that we were very fortunate, because this was the right time of the year to see a rare mountain flower growing exclusively in the area. There were people coming from all over Japan to see this flower! Well, I wish I could tell you the name of the plant, but I have spent the best part of an hour without succeeding to find it on the internet. Google may have failed me this time, but I can still show you one of my pictures of the flower, posted here on the right. A photo worth more than an hour climbing on the steep slopes of a volcano! It was only once we got back at the ropeway station that we solved the mystery of our lost path to the fumarole overlook. We had somehow missed a very obvious sign, posted on the side of the trail, which suddenly made a lot of sense: "Mountain -- climbing only. Can not go buying black eggs shop". I guess they had a lot of tourists getting lost on the mountain trail while they were trying to get to the gift shop to buy the famous Owakudani black eggs!

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