Horror stories of the Japanese rainy season had braced me for weeks of non-stop rain, but they proved to be tall tales. By the time I walked over a pass above Karuizawa, and crossed from Nagano into Gunma Prefecture, the clouds were in tatters, and the sun had come out.
Swallows zigzagged above a small lake, dipping towards the surface for a mid-flight drink. I reciprocated with a mid-morning beer, the smoldering cone of Mount Asama behind the can, and on its label.
A common attribute of many gods, apart from longevity beyond living memory, is omniscience, which would make Google a god in Japan. But even gods lapse, and it was a sign on a tree instead of the all-knowing datacenters which led me to one of the most beautiful bathhouses on my walk, a single pool looking out on a cedar forest through a tall picture window. It was guarded by two fearsome wolves, and afterwards I walked into a raspberry dusk and up the gentle slopes of Mount Haruna, into the night, on strong feet, a dark gray shadow under the stars.