Shiiba, Miyazaki

Map of Miyazaki with author’s route across the valleys of Shiiba highlighted. πŸ—Ί Open map in GaiaGPS β†’

The blossoms of a flowering cherry tree whose trunk is covered thickly with lichen.

A red bridge in the forest catches the morning light.

An abandoned porn magazine in the bushes.

A closer view of the same bridge, implying that the author is about to cross it.

The spillway of an enormous black concrete dam in a thickly forested, very steep valley. πŸ“ Upper Shiiba Dam, Miyazaki

A bench for doing bench presses made of a slab of wood and two beer crates.

Motorcycles cross a bridge in the mountains.

A tiny yellow excavator in a parking lot.

Looking out over tea bushes in the back yard of a house at a village and the hills beyond it. πŸ“ Shiiba, Miyazaki

A grove a very tall cedars.

A red Shinto shrine is dwarfed by the trunk of an enormous cedar.

The author stands by the trunk of the same cedar, and is also dwarfed by it. πŸ“ Yamura Cedar, Shiiba, Miyazaki

In the inner valleys of Shiiba, where some of the Heike are said to have scattered, is a small grove of cedars, and towering above them is Yamura Cedar. It is of such a vastly different size and timescale than a human that it’s hard to think of it as a creature with a finite lifespan. It is a gentle god, its bark smooth and soft, its canopy scatters the harsh Kyushu sun, and it will probably stand there forever.

A manhole cover with the crest of the Taira clan, a butterfly, famous from early medieval Japanese history.

Looking out on a forested hillside in the late afternoon light. πŸ“ Shiiba, Miyazaki

Branches of a huge Japanese cypress tree.

A vertical panorama of the same tree.

The middle section of the tree, which is impossible to fit into the frame of the camera. πŸ“ Ōkubo Cypress, Shiiba, Miyazaki

Two Japanese men sit in camping chairs by a truck and enjoy large glasses of beer.

A man holds a handful of freshly picked mountain herbs into the camera.

The author holds one of the plants.

A basket of mountain herbs and wild shiitake mushrooms.

Two men by a cabin, one of them relaxing with a cigarette, the other frying vegetables on a gas burner.

A man in a flight jacket and glasses turns small fish wrapped in aluminium foil on a grill.

One of the fish, a Japanese trout, unwrapped on a paper plate.

The author with a large group of men sitting around a huge grill with a lot of food, all of them clearly enjoying themselves. πŸ“ Shiiba, Miyazaki

For two days, as I walked between towering cliffsides, along clear mountain streams, and among kaleidoscopes of wildflowers, I had a powerful feeling of being back in Kurdistan, where I had walked the year before. And when I met a group of tenkara fishermen from Ōita β€” who invited me for a four-hour picnic of tempura-fried mountain herbs, grilled shiitake mushrooms, freshly caught trout, and wild boar belly β€” and went to bed in their log cabin, the feeling was complete.

A box of tiny flies used for tenkara, Japanese-style fly-fishing, fits in a single hand.

One of the flies in the palm of the author’s left hand, looking very small.

The author holds a painted landing net in his left hand. πŸ“ Shiiba, Miyazaki

The landing nets used by the tenkara fishermen are objects of stunning beauty.

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.