Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall colors at Mt. Gozaisho!

I`m back! Sorry for the long hiatus. I went to the doctor and it turned out I had acute bronchitis. He said it might take awhile before I feel like myself again and I was in and out of school for the past two weeks, but the worst is over. Just coughing and still pretty tired all the time. But it`s given me a lot of time to write the second book in the Treasure Traitor series, An Honest Assassin , and catch up on reading.

But this weekend, I decided some mountain air might be good for me (and I wasn`t about to miss the entire beautiful leaf season again this year), so I headed to see my sometimes host family in Komono. The mother Kazuko and I went up the gondola of Mt. Gozaisho to see the koyo, or colorful autumn leaves. What a spectacular display of gold and crimson and emerald color! See for yourself:

At the top, the leaves were mostly done for, but the cold was not as bad as we had expected (with our thermals and heavy coats, gloves, etc), so we enjoyed a pleasant walk around. Here we are together at the highest point:

There was a small shrine at the top to some random god in Guma prefecture no one had ever heard of, but in typical Japanese fashion they were all lined up to clap their hands and "make a wish." As usual I just watched, but indulged myself a little by ringing a lone gong by the shrine pond and listening to the sound vibrate through the miniature bamboo forest. It was kind of surreal. One of those "yep, I`m in Japan" moments.

Another way the Japanese like to "make a wish" is to stack the tiny prehistoric volcanic stones on top of each other. That made for some rather interesting shapes:

We took the chair lift up to the ski resort, but there wasn`t much there, as it`s only open for about two months out of the year and I`ve heard it`s pretty pathetic compared to Nagano and Hokkaido where most folks go. Though it might be perfect like a novice like me; I`ll at least check it out come ski season.

We had our bento (lunch box) overlooking the surrounding mountains:

Here`s a rock shaped like a turtle at one cliff:

And some red leaves atop another vista:

Then we took the gondola back down again. Here`s the carpet of leaves beneath us:

Here`s a video of what the gondola mechanism looks like. It`s one of the world`s longest gondolas with the largest support structure in Japan:

And here`s what they look like from a distance; beautiful in an unexpected way:

And my favorite red leaves, up close:

And that`s the famous Komono koyo! It was packed that day; everyone in Mie and Shiga prefectures it seemed was there. (There`s actually a place on top of the mountain where you can stand in both prefectures at the same time.) Good thing they have a lot of gondolas!

I`ve just got one other thing to say that`s been bothering me as I laid in bed sick. i`ve said in the past that Japan need to be a lot more internationaly minded, especially in regards to foreigners living in their country (particularily other Asians and Latin Americans) and facilitating healthy integration into their society. Well, my mother told me about something the other day that tells me my home is no better, and in some ways much worse. The vote just came up in Oklahoma for whether or not to include Spanish on road signs and doctor`s offices and other public places. It was almost unanimously voted down.

I suppose the main complaint is that Hispanic immigrants need to learn English. Fine, they do. But what about those who just arrived? I can tell you it was IMMENSELY comforting when I first came to Japan to find all the signs in English. I don`t know how many times it saved me from being completely and hopelessly lost. Just two weeks ago when I was in Nagoya, a Bolivian man ran up to me, practically in tears, because he had just arrived in Japan and was supposed to meet someone at Nagoya station but that somebody never showed up. His cell phone didn`t work in Japan. All he needed to find was a public phone. Fortunately, I and a friend (mostly my friend) were able to translate from Spanish to Japanese and get the man what he needed and thirty minutes later he met up with his Japanese friend. But what if he hadn`t found us? You read stories all the time of people getting lost in foreign countries precisely because of stuff like that.

Think of it from an economic standpoint. Are the signs not paid for by tax dollars? Are not the majority of Hispanics paying taxes? Then we should have the signs in a language they understand. Does it hurt us to have two languages on our signs like the vast majority of the world? If anything, it could help us! This is perhaps the best argument for it, I think: Having two languages on signs could improve tourism. People are a lot more likely to visit a place that is easier to travel to and in than a place that is not. Why do you think Latino and Asian tourists mostly go to L.A. and New York? Not just because they`re big cities and there is more of their own culture there. There is plenty of Hispanic, Chinese, Indian, and various other ethnic cultures in Oklahoma as well. We might get more foreign tourists if we become more foreign friendly. Having pamphlets and other materials translated into major languages is a big step in that direction. And then you need someone to translate into those languages, which provides jobs for educated people who are really struggling to find jobs now. Everyone wins!

What most people mean when they call Oklahoma a "backward state" I think is that we are resistant to change. Well, the world is changing. We can either find creative ways to maintain our historic identity, expand it to include more diverse people groups, and update ourselves in the global economy or continue to wallow in a financial and cultural crisis. Take your pick. You can not have prosperity together with stagnation.

Prayer Requests for this week: For heath! Also, I am headed for Korea this Saturday morning. One thing I plan to do is visit the largest church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church. Please pray for safe travel!

Until next time, keep praying and keep loving, no matter what the cost,
Laura Jane Popp (L. J. Popp)

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