Dispatch № 14: In the Mist

Mt Mitake, Tokyo Prefecture

35°47’20.709″N, 139°9’20.0124″E

Normally, this road would be busy with weekend visitors, but today it feels as if we have the mountain nearly to ourselves. For this, I can thank the weather.

The canopy of the forest is dense and the understory only sparsely populated with smaller plants. Even on a sunny day, this place would be fairly dark. And on this day, thick cloud has encased the mountain, filling the space between the trees with a heavy fog that eats up light and sound. It is a murky, dimly lit world where trees recede into an indistinct distance and the forest is holding its breath.

Halfway up the mountain road, we stop to take a rest. We are surrounded by cedar trees large enough that we’d need a third person if we wanted to put our arms all the way around the trunks.

On the top of this mountain, there is a shrine that’s been there for centuries and has a history much older than the buildings themselves. It’s one of the rare place where they practice futomani, an ancient form of divination. Thought to go back to the Jomon period, it involves heating the shoulder blade of a stag until it cracks, and reading the lines thus created.

Farther down the mountain, there are neither ancient shrines nor burnt stag bones. There are only the massive trees, the road, and the two of us, feeling tiny amongst towering cedars, cloaked in silence.