The western corner of Tokyo feels nothing like the concrete sprawl of its city. First time we went was sometime early last year. After several trips, we’re slowly forming a routine. Hike for a bit, get back to Okutama station, have some fish and chips and craft beers while we chat about the mushroom ladies1. For the route that we often hike, the question is now: do we start at the lake or do we end at the lake? This weekend we decided to end at the lake.
Our day starts around 7 as we eat breakfast, make some tea, and pack some snacks. The train ride takes us a few hours. As you get further west you notice the train is full of people ready to get out of the city. Big backpacks, hiking shoes, and bouldering matts wedged between riders on the train. We get there around ten with a ~3 hour hike a head of us. The area is beautiful. Mountains and fresh air. Fall season is starting very late so the area is still incredibly green. We haven’t quite landed in the window for the fall leaves, hoping to see it this year. The trail we take has a long history. Signs along the trail talk about historical aspects of the area. Suspension bridges along the trail have wooden boards that do not inspire confidence. Old houses have stockpiles of firewood for their stoves. An abandoned railway is being reclaimed by nature.
I struggle to fall sleep while in planes or trains, but this trail has been a sleeping pill before. We haven’t done much hiking since spring, we were very aware of how sore our butts were going to be. From time to time, we slow down for a snack or to listen to some bird songs we do not recognize. But hunger began to set in half way through the hike when the protein bars ran out. We began chanting: “fish and chips, hey! fish and chips, ho!2” I also had a question on my mind that I decided to ask S at the lake. You can get tiny peeks of the lake through the trees as you go along the trail. Despite the exhaustion, an excitement still came with the teasing views of the lake.
The lake is a man made reservoir surrounded by mountains. A tourist center sits by the bus stop and the lake. We say hello to Wasapi, the wasabi mascot of Okutama, on our way to the tourist center restroom. We check the arrival times for the bus and we have perfect timing. Right as we walk towards the stop, the bus pulls in. There is nothing like ending a several hour hike and seeing your transport to hot fries and beer — wait, no! I wanted to talk first. Then she asks “Why don’t we sit by the lake and finish our snacks?” Perfect. She did not want to leave just yet either. We snack on some yokan maki, drink the last of our juice, and chat for a bit. Realize we’ve known each other almost exactly five years. Chat about the impending waddling of our sore butts as we get out of bed tomorrow. I look forward to it because it’s with her. I ask her to marry me.
We had just finished taking a break in a clearing on the hiking trail. There was a few old ladies who were also hiking along. S noticed one of them had an open backpack and called out to them. “Oh, we know. We have a bunch of shiitake mushrooms.” They then proceeded to give us shiitake mushrooms the size of my face. They did not let us say no. After debating if we should eat mushroooms from strangers, we cooked them with some butter and soy sauce. ↩︎
We didn’t see a lot of people on this trail this time. ↩︎
She said yes. ↩︎
This is also 5 seconds before the next bus arrived. My mind being absolute mush in the moment, nearly panic about catching the bus or needing to wait an hour to eat some hot fish and chips. ↩︎