Monday, February 02, 2004



Saturday night took the gondola upmountain through the downgliding mists to see the Goshinka Matsuri, held each year at this time atop Horai-san (Mountain of Heavenly Beauty is one translation), so named after the apocryphal peak whence Buddha ascended into the great hereafter. I'd seen the fireworks every year from the house, but had never gone up to see the event itself.

The Shinto festival (the Japanese mix religions with spiritual aplomb), held at one end of the ski area, involved a fire ceremony calling upon the gods to preserve nature, watch over the mountains and protect mountain lovers like the thousands of folks who were up there in the clouds taking part on skis or on foot (me), every one of them dressed for the occasion far better than yours truly, who wore merely mid-mountain clothes, as per my level of residence, and had worked up a good sweat by walking part of the way up, so arrived, in a manner of speaking, on the arctic scene in my bathing suit fresh from the beach.

I therefore spent a lot of time going from heat source to heat source in between watching thousands of skiers suddenly stop still to watch the goings-on here and there; then came the fireworks that filled the raggedly rolling mists with washes of all colors like a Whistler dream in the sky (BTW, Whistler always wanted to visit Japan; his famous Nocturne in Blue and Gold is said to have been inspired by a Hiroshige woodcut).

The entire shiveringly memorable event took but a flash-frozen hour or so, then back down through the slanting snow toward the distant lights that flickered around the edges of the dark emptiness that was the Lake in the clear night below, followed by a further walk down through warmer and warmer levels to the house in the relatively snowy tropics of the lower mountainside, nice warm woodfire waiting.

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