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.