Japan is a bit like Finland in that in both countries many trees are deciduous and, consequently, autumn in these countries brings breathtakingly unusual combinations of colours – similar to that of an anonymous mother-in-law’s wardrobe.
Kyoto is one of the most popular places for autumn leaves in Japan – a bit like Lapland is in Finland. People come from near and far to see the reds, oranges, yellows (and greens). We decided not to go to Kyoto as I love to be surrounded by the crowds as much as a swimmer loves to be surrounded by an infestation of jellyfish. Instead, we went to Minoh park, a forest on the outskirts of Osaka. On the cards were: autumn colours, possibly glimpses of monkeys running around, and a waterfall.
So a couple of days ago, my husband, our daughter and I took the train to Minoh. Our son was at school so he couldn’t join us. But I don’t feel bad that he missed it – since, how many 6-year olds would define ‘A Great Day Out’ as walking through a forest admiring the trees? Not many. This is something most people become to appreciate with age. And age is what my husband and I have – and so, we now find ourselves mesmerized by many things that we would not have given a flying rat’s ass 10 or 20 years ago. And not only age, but my husband also has patience. I am going off on one again here, but I have to say that he really is a Saint for putting up with me. I mean, although I am (of course) a wonderful wife, entertaining companion and practically like Mrs Doubtfire when it comes to childrearing, I do have my Kathy Bates in Misery moments – mostly in the mornings when instead of breaking the poor guy’s ankles, I break his balls for him deciding to make his ‘Army Green’ coffee (which tastes as wonderful as you can imagine an Army coffee would taste like) instead of my vanilla and crème brulee adaptation of an AM caffeine kick. (But seriously, what competent advertising company would brand a coffee make as ‘Army coffee’? And who the hell would buy that coffee? – other than my husband of course). In any case, the morning of our autumn leaves expedition we got up a little late. I broke his balls for making the wrong coffee and finally around 11am off we went to the train and headed to Minoh.
We got to Minoh, and as usual, before we can even get started, someone is hungry. This time it was our 3-year old daughter, but the starving person is usually my husband. When we lived in Brighton, we used to take the bus into town most Saturdays. As soon as we got off the bus, after the 15 min journey in to town from our Portslade house, we would have to go for some food because my husband was hungry. Not only do I resemble Kathy Bates in Misery but also Monica from Friends. I love planning. My husband and his urgent need to stuff his face with a £6 baguette in a coffee shop as soon our front door closes, drives me mad. I expect that adults have the ability to plan these things, but my husband with his apparent inability to live beyond the current moment makes me feel like I have 3 children, one of whom has stubble and is going slightly grey. Perhaps it would be useful to mention for those of you who don’t know us that although I often tease my husband (publicly and in private) about his memory abilities being comparable to that of a spatula or his planning abilities being comparable to those of a 3-year old I love him really. I hope this confession will curb any hate mail that was just about to start clogging up my inbox. Although, since I don’t seem to get many comments in the comment section of my blog perhaps I should welcome any potential hate-mail, given that that would confirm my suspicions that I have at least one reader – one who hates me. But a reader nevertheless.
We stopped for some udon (noodles) and my daughter was delighted to get a hello kitty themed brunch (photo below).
We then finally got going. The walk was lovely, with some old Japanese buildings, a stream, and the colourful leaves (see photos). We didn’t see any monkeys though but perhaps that was for the best. Our trip to Nara couple of weeks ago taught us that half-tame wild animals such as deer in Nara (and possibly the monkeys in Minoh) are like Putin; you give them one biscuit but they want the whole bag and assault you in the process of grabbing it from you.
Even though we didn’t see any monkeys, we did see many other people who had also decided to go and see the autumn colours in Minoh that day. It wasn’t packed but it would be fair to say that we were not the only people there. Our co-hikers consisted of at least three primary school groups, several groups and individual pensioners, and mums with their young children. Interestingly, other than us, there were no families. Or to be more precise, there were no men younger than 65 years of age there. If you are thinking that the Japanese society is somehow lop-sided whereby there are proportionally many more women than men in Japan, you are mistaken. In Japan, days off are not the norm – not necessarily even during the weekend – let alone during the week. You see, most Japanese people work at least 6 days per week – and some people have an even more demanding work pattern with practically no set days off. We have observed this workaholic lifestyle in Japan not only on that Thursday afternoon in Minoh, but also in playgrounds and parks on Saturdays and Sundays, where men are hard to come by.
We walked along a narrow paved road towards the waterfall. The walk was rather lovely. The scenery was just like I imagined Japan would look like. You know, those images that you have of countries that you haven’t visited or you don’t know very well – like pictures from postcards or geography books. There were several little shops along the way, many of which sold different types of foods (see photos).
The delicacy of Minoh is Japanese Maple leaves battered and deep fried. These were really delicious but without even having tried to calculate the fat, sugar and calorie content I could feel an extra pound of blubber being formed on my thighs. See photos (of the leaves – not my thighs).
Many people bought food from shops and had picnics along the way to the waterfall, or in the case of the couple at the bottom of the picture below, had a picnic right by the waterfall. Look at the old couple! They are so sweet! When my husband and I are old (which is not too far in the distant future) I want to be like that couple: do a day trip to see the autumn colours, have a picnic in the dry bit of the gorge and enjoy my husband’s Karl Pilkington-type humour. On second thought, perhaps that’s a tad too ambitious given that my husband’s mad marathon training have resulted in bad knees and my hourglass shaped legs (and unfortunately not body) which bend inwards at the knees are likely to mean that in 25 years’ time when my husband and I retire, we will not be able to sit at the bottom of a stream eating our battered maple leaves since there is nowhere to park our zimmer frames down there.
All in all the day trip to Minoh was great. We had some nice food. Had a 2 hour trek. Managed to take some photos of the Japanese autumn colours (see them scattered on this page). And crucially didn’t manage to forget to pick our son up from school in the afternoon.