Since I started letting my plans about this trip, people have been calling it a vacation. It never felt like that to me. I guess it’s one of those call-it-what-you-want things, but to me vacation has always signified frivolity on some level. I felt like I had some higher purpose to what I was doing. If I wanted a vacation I would have gone to Florida to lay on the beach. I wanted an experience. I wanted to meet myself.

It’s still early to do too much introspection in that regard. But Nozawaonsen is a good place for it. It’s a peaceful ghost town, a snow town but all the snow gone and just me here. I’m like a stray cat blown in from the mountains. The streets are empty but water flows through them. I slink between streams silently.

I found a shop today, searching desperately for any kind of food. I was looking for a grocery store, but I found the shop. An old man and woman were sitting inside. They welcomed me and had me way with them. It was unexpected. I picked through bamboo shoots and other vegetables, asking for their names. One strange pickled stalk was nozawana, “from Nozawa”. They called the mushrooms kinnoko, “children of the trees”. We wove wicker rings and they put them in a bag and gave them to me.

Here there are flowers everywhere. I’ve taken pictures of the prettiest ones. So many of them are unrecognizable. The frogs sing at night and the carved faces of strange gods stare from doorways. The mountains loom green and remind me of home. I feel like I can relax. Nothing to see or do. Just trees and flowers and water and sunshine. I go to the hot springs tomorrow. I probably could have gone today but I wasn’t ready.

So I guess it is a sort of vacation after all.

This may be the last time I have wifi but I will try to keep you updated. After this, if you care to follow on a map, I will be staying at a ryokan for one day. Then I will be in Shizuoka for one night. After that I will be with Miho in the Kansai area before we set off on a brief road trip south.