Zao Quasi National Park is about 3-4 hours South of where I live. It is a really famous place to go visit in the Fall because of how beautiful the area becomes from the changing leaves on the trees. The first time I went this Fall(back in October) was a bit of a flop. It had already snowed. It was still a cool experience because I have never been in wind that insane before. It felt like the earth was sneezing on me every now and then. When it sneezed; I was whipped with ice and rain and could barely move from the pressure going against me. It was intense. I imagine I will never attempt to summit Mt. Everest, but I feel if the winds are stronger than this(and I imagine they would be) - then I would probably just be blown right off the mountain. I really think a three year old would just be blown off. It was crazy!
You know you're getting close the Mount Zao when you pass through this red torii that cars just drive through. Pretty cool!
Even though we couldn't see the beautiful fall colors due to the crazy snow, wind and ice...at the base of the mountain, it was still fall. We got to play in fields of flowers nearly as tall as I am. It felt like a nature-lover's heaven. It was so gorgeous.
A few weeks later, one of my adult students from last year wanted to go, too. I accepted her invite and off I went again! Our first stop was to this awesome onsen in the picture below! It was outdoors and the water was so naturally clear and smelling of sulfur. This is by far one of my favorite onsen I've ever been to in Japan. It's called the Zao Onsen Dairotemburo....and Lonely planet calls is "staggeringly beautiful." Which to say, it an understatement.
A group shop at this famous onsen below. The girl I am standing next to, named Alex is who now lives where I was living last year.
The picture below is what we went to go see when it was filled with snow and fog. A stunning view!
And the picture below is the reason nearly all people go to the summit of Mt. Zao. This amazing lake is called Okama or a Volcanic Crater Lake. The water is just fantastically blue! A group shot below with the Sakurai -san's, Mrs. Sakurai being my old student from last year!
Both times I went, we stopped to see these pretty waterfalls!
This area is also famous for soba in the fall season. On both trips, we had famous soba from the prefecture next to mine...called Yamagata Ken. Soba is a thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served chilled in the summer with a dipping sauce or hot in the fall and winter season. Of course, I had it hot since it is getting cold here! My favorite kind is served with mountain vegetables. Delicious! To see pictures from the snowy trip, click here
One of my favorite people in the whole world sent me a birthday package. It came about two weeks ago. His box that he sent it in was decorated - he always had decorated boxes around dorm room holding items. One of the decorations is a suggestion of a way to live. It's famous, I believe. I love it and am going to post it here.
Desiderata Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser person than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however, humble it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is, many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortunes. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the tress and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you now, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.