Yesterday on Bizan

I’ve been working on an essay about Bizan, the emblematic mountain of Tokushima.  Here is an excerpt:

 Although I purchased a round-trip ticket on the ropeway, I decide to hike down.  How hard could it be?  I find the shortest route on the map, one that I think will take me to my starting point, but almost immediately I wonder at the wisdom of this decision.  All morning I have been tramping up and down concrete steps and sidewalks, but this is an actual hiking trail.  The steep, narrow path is strewn with dry leaves, which may be slippery.  I don’t have a walking stick, and instead of a backpack, I’ve got this handbag hooked over my arm.  There is also the question of snakes.

Nevertheless, I begin to pick my way down the incline, imagining Moraes nearly a century ago in these same woods in his kimono.  I grab onto tree trunks and seek purchase on protruding roots and rocks.  My thighs burn with the effort.

The forest is so dense that I can’t see the city beyond.  No one is on the trail behind or ahead of me.  No one knows where I am.  It’s an odd feeling, here in this densely populated country where I am so seldom truly alone.  All I can hear is the wind in the trees, and what I take to be birds rustling the leaves as they forage for food. 

Although I’m tempted to pull out my field guide and try to identify a plant or a bird – were those gray-tailed birds that just flew past starlings or brown-eared bulbuls? – there are no stumps for sitting, no spots for rifling through my bag.  I keep going until I spot a paved road through the trees.  The trail seems to suddenly drop off to this road.

It’s a couple of meters down.  I start looking for a sturdy branch that I might be able to use to vault myself down, and then I see a businessman strolling up the road.  Maybe he’s out for his daily constitutional.  Crouched here on the side of the mountain with my Louis Vuitton bag, I suddenly feel ridiculous.  I hold myself very still and hope that he doesn’t notice me.  When he’s out of sight, I manage to scoot down without scraping myself on the rocks and I walk a ways down the road.


2 thoughts on “Yesterday on Bizan

  1. This is great, thanks for sharing it. Be sure to let us know where we can read the whole essay at some point. I like the contrast between feeling wonderful about being alone and then feeling ridiculous when the businessman walks by.

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