Sunday, February 09, 2003


Today went up along the western shore of the Lake toward Makino (that beautiful old village with the magnificent ancient cherry tree-lined coastal road I'll post pictures of this April when the trees blossom) but turned off before reaching there and went up into the low hills of Imazu. Our purpose was to savor the very, very first savor of spring, to be found around here at a place that was discovered by a junior high school science student only about 20 years ago, and has since been designated a Japanese natural treasure, a small (perhaps two acres) mountain bog said to be one of the finest places around for viewing such a large assemblage of Zazensou or Darumasou (Zen meditation plant, or Daruma plant, for its resemblance to a monk in meditating in a small hut) (Simplocarpus renifolius), known less spiritually in English as Skunk Cabbage.

This special variety of the plant (taxonomic suffix Schott ex Miguel) apparently sets it apart, it being somewhat rare. Still, I wasn't expecting too many Skunk Ca--I mean, Zazensou fans to show up, so you can imagine my surprise when it looked like Elvis had been spotted in the vicinity. I can't imagine Americans mobbing out into the countryside to catch a glimpse of Zazen-- I mean, Skunk Cabbage, but out in this special place it was like the Ginza on a bargain Sunday: you could hardly see the Skunk-- Zazensou for the photographers on the narrow boardwalk through the bog, which was indeed richly populated with Sku-- Zaz-- the plant, glimpsable in flashes of red and yellow over the shoulders and heads of the jostling lens wielders on the boardwalk. Few are as unyielding of natural space as are nature photographers.

As I stood there on the ridge I was very impressed with how many people can fit on a narrow boardwalk through a swamp, and was expecting someone to tumble in any minute before I ventured out myself and couldn't get any decent pictures without elbows or other lenses in them, so you can go here to get a look (with other nice photos of this area). There were elderly folks there, young folks, kids, car and busfuls of folks pulling in from as far away as Nagoya, all for a day out viewing Skunk--Zazensou, the tonguetip of Spring, which season is what it was really all about. There's nothing like the first promise of a new year, at any age.

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