Before I completely forget about it and become engrossed in the myriad tasks before me, I should mention that one week before I left Japan, I visited my longtime friend Mie Ito, who now works in a lodge near Oze National Park in Japan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Oze, it is a large alpine marsh located high in a mountain range in Southwest Fukushima. It borders Gunma and Niigata ken. All you really need to know is that it is a long drive from where I lived up in the mountains.
I drove three hours up through rain to see her and the beautiful park in which Mie resides and works. In one sense I lucked out, as a week of rain preceded and quickly followed the single day I spent with Mie and her friends from the lodge. In another sense I wasn't lucky, as I missed the blooming of the park's famous flowers by about 1 week.
I arrived late in the evening and Mie's co-workers were hospitable enough to let me stay at the lodge. The next morning, Mie and I hiked through famous Oze National Park. And it was definitely worth it. The pristine unspoiled forest and mountains swept down into a waterlogged marshland meandering through the mountains. The trail, constructed of cut timber sections, wandered through the marshland, and kept our feet from getting wet. Old people and photographers flock to see Oze's blooming flowers. They all bloom approximately 1 week after you arrive (late July). Bird watchers blow their bird calls and peer through binoculars at their avian friends.
It was a wonderful hike, if kind of quiet. Both Mie and I knew this was my last hu-rah. Nevertheless, I got some beautiful pictures. I hope you like them. I managed to make a few new friends in the area also. Mie's co-workers all turned out to be wonderful people. One girl named Mayumi, happened to be the aunt of a second year student of mine at Katahira JHS! Small world I suppose.
When I first arrived back in the USA, I found that I had received a letter from Mie and another friend of hers, Takao. I hope to come back again someday.