Week 9: Cool People

There are some people out there whose stories are cool and humbling all at the same time. They have done things some barely dream of doing. Sometimes they do them for themselves, sometimes for others. But they do not give up and accomplish what they set out to do. Over the past couple weeks I got to meet two very special people with cool stories.

 I met Heike Pirngruber when a bunch of us decided to climb Mt Norikura. She was just starting to take her camp down when we arrived at the hiking starting point. We said hello and thought nothing more of it. During the hike up we crossed the main road several times. At one crossing we were taking a breather when Heike comes around the bend on her bike. A little surprised, we stopped to chat for a little. Obviously not Japanese, we asked her where she was from and she said Germany. As we got acquainted we learned that she has been to 29 countries over the course of 28 months! She had cycled through mostly Eastern European and Asian countries to finally arrive in Japan, her last Asian country. I wanted to share about her because she set her mind to doing this adventure and has not looked back. There were months at a time when she could speak to no one, yet she pushed on. Her blog is very well written and I highly recommend reading it. Her writing is insightful and honest, something I have come to appreciate in Japan. Link to her blog is at the end of this post.

Photo: Abi Erickson

Photo: Abi Erickson

I met Asa Yuki, Morning Snow, while taking onsen. Ty and I had gone to the free onsen, a short walk from NORTHSTAR, after our Yarigatake hike (post about that coming this weekend!). We spent around 30 minutes relaxing our very tired muscles. We were just thinking of leaving when an older gentleman came in. He spoke to us in broken English, asking us where we were from. When we told him we were from the States and Mexico, his eyes lit up. He told us that in 1979 he spent 8 months in the US, Mexico, and Guatemala. Then, we understood him to ask us if we would take a picture with him. Confused, we started to leave. He got out with us and we went up to the road where his SUV was. To my surprise, instead of pulling out an iPad to take pictures, he had a photo album. Inside were over 50 pictures of his time in Guatemala, mostly of people and Semana Santa (Holy Week). As I was flipping through he told me his favorite place in Mexico was Oaxaca, where I’m from! It was so great. After I finished looking through his lovely photos he told me that he wants to go back to Guatemala and give the photo album as a present to the families he photographed. I think it is wonderful how he thinks about these people often and wants to give back. He is from Tokyo and was visiting Norikura for the third or fourth time. Yet he kept this photo album from 1979 in his car, to remember.

Sometimes it takes specific circumstances to meet someone, sometimes it’s a casual meeting in an onsen Either way, it is important to take advantage of the situation, you never know what cool people you might meet!

Heike Pirngruber’s English blog