Upper Suwa, Nagano β†’ πŸŒ‹ Mount Kirigamine β†’ Mochizuki, Nagano

Map of Nagano with author’s route from Upper Suwa to Mochizuki highlighted. πŸ—Ί Open map in GaiaGPS β†’

A pair of sunglasses and a siphon coffee pot on an outside table.

Looking out over an azalea-filled meadow at a mountainous landscape, with Mount Fuji in the center.

Children climb a trail on a plateau with mountains on the horizon.

Another look on the same landscape. πŸ“ Kirigamine Plateau, Nagano

β€œOne would have said that it was theoretically impossible to combine so many types of mountain,” Aleister Crowley wrote of Concordia, the great confluence of glaciers in the Karakoram, and when the forest thinned out and I walked into the azalea fields of the Kirigamine Plateau, I was reminded of Concordia, and I stood mute with wonder.

Under a chalk-blue sky, the snow-capped ranges of Central Japan surrounded me from every direction, and Fuji rose in the center like a pearl; a peerless, Platonic ideal of a volcano. Children swarmed and giggled, and on the southern horizon, the first clouds of the rainy season began to thicken.

The only way to go was down.

A view of Lake Shirakaba and Mount Tateshina from a mountain trail. πŸŒ‹ Mount Tateshina

A thick undergrowth of bracken in a pine forest.

A mountain road shows tire marks indicating drifting-style car races.

A Chinook military helicopter in the sky. πŸ“ Tateshina, Nagano

Almost complete isolation from world news, combined with repeated overflights by a Chinook military helicopter, makes for strange thoughts on a quiet afternoon in the highland forests of Mount Tateshina.

A large yellow Lego duck stands in the forest.

An undergrowth of salmon-colored azaleas in a birch forest. πŸ“ Tateshina, Nagano

Subtropical forests are like botanical gardens designed by deranged Victorian aristocrats, where plants from different climates are deliberately planted next to each other. On the middle slopes of Mount Tateshina, the forest is first a Russian forest of sparkling white birch and radiant green undergrowth, then salmon-colored azaleas appear between the trees, and one suddenly wishes for an opium pipe and a boat ticket to India.

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.