Summer is here. I do love summer. The heat is relentless. The storms are fierce, but best of all is the freedom to wander with a camera.
This year my photo wandering partner, Tomo, and I returned to Yororukeikoku. Tomo chose to bring a TLR to capture the day.
Yororukeikoku lies deep in the heart of dog shaped Chiba prefecture. A place so unvisited at this time of year, that we passed only to other hikers on a 10 kilometer trail in over 5 hours of time.
It took a bit over 2 hours by train including the double car Kominato line. We took the train to the end of the line at Yororukeikoku station, snagged the remaining rice balls tow local summer mikans (mandarin organs) from the local conbini and made our way down the road.
The asphalt was streaming hot. The conversation bounced around until I mentioned that it would be incredible if we encounter some “real” Chiba monkeys. We both kind of laughed and kept stepping.
The winter storms had wrecked havoc on the paths, and many trails had been closed. Our first major obstacle was getting around a fallen tree. Not a big deal, but we would see other trees uprooted, and small landslides along the way.
The path criss crossed a small creek about a dozen times. Sometimes it took us a minute or two to find the path on the other side. After a rain storm, I am sure that the path would be even harder to keep track.
Lucky I had been breaking in a new pair of hiking shoes, which kept my feet dry and my ankles from twisting.
The first real rest we took about 2 hours in on the hike was an old homestead built in the 19th century. All that remained were some of the foundation’s stones, and piles of broken shells and pottery. It was a perfect place to break out some dried fruit and ice water, and just listen to the sounds of the countryside.
We got back on the train, and we began to ascend out of the valley. This is when, even though we were in the shade, the sweat began to pour from all of our pores. We reached the first ridge in the forest when sometime darted down a tree on our left. At first we both thought a raccoon, but, it scampered rather oddly, it was then we realized it was an honest to goodness Chiba monkey. My home, I had made in jest, had come true.
But we weren’t out of the valley yet and we still had to climb higher. After some strenuous moments of plodding forward we reached the top and a small paved service road. The rest was mainly down hill.
Coming out of a the forrest there were a few small farms ahead. When a small brown blur bolted across the road. Yes! We had seen another monkey. Not only one, but in the trees and bamboo on our left we could see others jumping about. I was elated! After seeing a half dozen snakes, and countless frogs, we had eyed the reclusive Chiba monkey.
They must prove problematic for the farmers, because in this part of the jungle they had fenced in their farms, I speculate to keep the monkeys out.
The road leveled out to view rice paddies to our left and right. The sun was falling and the sky was filling with some cloudy wisps. The Kazusa-Ōkubo station was ahead. We had about 40 minutes before the next train. No one was insight. This station’s area was the inspiration for the Okubo Nekobus stop in My Neighbor Totoro.
We rested. Shot our last couple of pictures, and waited for the train. The sounds of summer were mesmerizing. The chorus of cicadas, crickets, frogs, all in discordance harmony. Not a soul was around. Except, for the guy who drove up in a car, used the bathroom, then kicked up dust on his way out. That was it. We drank some cold water with paintings of Totoro to our backs and waited for the train.