Saturday, August 17, 2013

Japanese word of the day: Sawanobori

What? Two outdoor-themed posts in one day?!?

Like the last story, this one starts with an e-mail, except this time it was from Yuri Mazuka, the organizer of the Climbing Club at the RIKEN AICS (Advanced Institute for Computational Science). I've never been to AICS (they pronounce it "ikes", as in Mike & Ikes), but it's just one Portliner stop away from CDB. She was inviting people to come along on a "sawanobori" (沢登り) event. In the e-mail (which had Japanese and English sections), she translated it "shower climbing (hiking along a mountain stream)." A hike along a mountain stream sounded like a nice idea.

We met at 8:00am at the JR Namaze station, just north of Takarazuka, and climbed through some neighborhoods to the place where the trailhead was supposed to be. As you can see, there was some healthy debate about exactly where we were going, initially.

We started off hiking on a trail, but then when we reached the river people took off their backpacks and started getting out special river shoes. Then I realized that "along" was not quite the preposition she wanted -- we were hiking in the river.

In some places, we couldn't really follow the river as well:

Fortunately, we were able to go around the obstacles.

I hadn't realized this, but Takarazuka (much like Ithaca) is gorges:

Eventually the water ran out, and we were just climbing a dry riverbed. This is when we started to realize how hot it actually was -- being knee-to-ankle deep in cold water makes the summer temperatures a lot easier to take, while it lasts.

When we reached the top, Yamamoto-san opened up his (suspiciously-large) backpack and pulled out a styrofoam cooler filled with dry ice and ice cream. No kidding. Apparently the climbing club has a budget from the RIKEN Kyosaikai (Mutual Benefit Society) and he used it to get ice cream for everybody. The only thing better than ice cream on a hot day is completely unanticipated ice cream on a hot day.

While we were hiking along the ridge, we came across this thing on top of a hill overlooking Takarazuka:
People were referring to it as a hanshaban and talking animatedly about it as if it were something really cool. I asked what on earth a hanshaban is; the Japanese answer was far above my skill level and the English answer was something along the lines of "ummm.... Han. Sha. Ban. Get it?"

I took a picture of the sign so I could google it when I got home. I'm not 100% sure, but I think this thing is a reflective (hansha = 反射) plate (ban = 板) that is used as part of a passive relay system for super-high frequency radio communications. Apparently they're used a lot in mountainous areas where it's hard to get the uninterrupted line-of-sight that you need for microwave radio relay links. This one is owned by the Hankyu rail company and apparently has something to do with transmitting signals between Takarazuka station and the neighboring stations. This explanation, alas, is far above my Japanese skill level.

After that, we hiked back down on dry ground:

We passed a little temple in the woods where Mazuka-san rang the bell for us.

There are more pictures and an incredibly detailed down-to-the-minute itinerary of the trip on the climbing club's website.

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