Week 4.5: Photo Essay - Climbing Mount Norikura

Welcome to a new series, the XX.5 series! So far my weekly posts have been mostly words with no pictures (check out my Instagram for daily posts). But this week I wanted to share something a little extra, with more pictures and fewer words. My most recent adventure had too many pictures to share on Instagram, plus they work better together anyhow.

On Friday, our day off, I was definitely hoping to rest. After all we had just had a great boy’s camp and all the staff was tuckered out. But Seth, my boss, was photographer for another camp which was going hiking to the top of Mount Norikura. He had an extra spot, invited me to go, and I accepted. After all, how hard can hiking with a bunch of 7th graders be?

We drove 40 minutes up the mountain to our drop off point. We had about two hours hike ahead of us to the peak. The trail was stony, but well marked, and we had an experienced guide, Mine, to take us up.

The clouds kept rolling in and out, making for some pretty spectacular views. Am I crazy for expecting an Orc to come out from the mist?

Seth was shooting the whole time. Guide Mine pictured below as well. 

As we walked up the ridge to the peak, the clouds cleared for a few minutes and we were treated to a spectacular view of the crater and the lake. The volcano has not erupted for thousands of years, however there are two volcanoes within 20 miles which have the possibility to erupt; one erupted last fall.

Finally made it to the top! All clouds so only me. 3026 meters! (9,928 feet for you English people)

On the way back down we could see the ridge we had climbed up, dividing the inside of the crater and the face of the mountain.

Once we came part way down the mountain we came on another lake, still with plenty of snow and ice! About 20 minutes before this picture I began to feel very sick. I had a stomach ache since that morning, and it had been compounded by altitude sickness. Yes, I vomited what little I had eaten, breaking my record of around 10 years of not vomiting.

Our last sight was a beautiful meadow with random boulders strewn across.

I didn't feel well for the rest of the day, but it was so worth it! 

Look for more XX.5 series coming soon!

Week 4: Complexities of being a Millennial Traveler

I skyped with my family the other night for almost two hours. It was perfect timing, right before my brother went back to college and my parents started their trip back home to Mexico. It was really nice to be “all together” again after three weeks without talking. What struck me during that time was that I have never really been homesick for everywhere. Part of it is, of course, that I have had several different homes in the past few years so pinning one down as “home” is difficult. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized what an impact technology has on my life. We have wifi here at NORTHSTAR, as does much of Japan. So at any moment during the day I can slip out my phone and check my Instagram feed, tap Facebook and see what my friends all over the world are doing. When it comes down to my use of technology, nothing changed since I left Indiana. I am physically present in Japan, yet I can mentally take myself back to Grace just be scrolling through my friends’ social media posts.

My friend Emily travelled all over Europe this summer, eventually ending up in South Korea for a semester of study abroad. It was so cool to keep up with her through her photography. She captures special moments which help you feel like you are there. And with real-time updates in any social media, you can partake of that moment almost as soon as the pictures is posted. I can mentally transport myself to any number of the places she visited, like the picture, and move on. In an instant I am back in Japan.

As a millennial traveler sometimes it is really hard to stop experiencing other’s experiences and get outside and make my own experiences. Japan has wifi everywhere which is very convenient. It also means during a meal at a restaurant you can get out your phone and stop experiencing Japan and experience Vienna or Indiana instantly. There is a beauty to our teleportation, but it makes me a little sick too. I firmly believe in experiencing the now as often as possible. Yet too many afternoons I sat in front of my computer instead of taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity I was blessed with. I encourage you to interact with others online, and open your eyes and mind to other vistas and ways of doing things. But do not get so caught up you forget to leave the house all day. Scroll through Emily’s Instagram for a few minutes, then go outside.

Emily Musser - @ejmuss12  

Week 3: Communal Bathing & Other Cultural Curiosities

As I mentioned in my previous post, NORTHSTAR is a very international lodge with different nationalities working together. It is easy to forget that I am actually in Japan when the way we do a lot of things seems relatively normal. Japan is undoubtedly a modern nation, but Japan’s rich history goes so far back that tradition is a staple. After all, the Japanese have had thousands of years to figure out the best way to do things. Many of the houses in Japan are built with the traditional look, high roof and creased and pointed corners. At the entrance to just about every Japanese establishment there is a step up into the house. To step up and into the house with your outside shoes still on is considered very rude and dishonorable. At first for me it was not a big deal, just a small inconvenience. I took the time to tie and untie my shoes every time I walked between my dorm and the lodge. I learned very quickly how time consuming it was to go through every action and learned to just slip on some flip flops. But wait, there is more! Every time you go into the kitchen you have to wear shoes designated to the kitchen. They are communal, Croc styles shoes shared by whoever is working in the kitchen. And then there are special shoes for the bathroom as well! I was so fed up with changing shoes all the time. Totally unnecessary. But as I thought about it I realized how nice it was to not have to worry about grit inside and know that the areas were being kept free from outside dirt. Now it comes as second nature to quickly slip shoes on and off depending on where I am.

The Japanese have a deeply seated sense of politeness. It is very important to keep the boat from rocking, and is communicated through body language, actions, and the Japanese language. The Japanese have customs for everything to be polite, down to paying for something. When I paid for my ice cream the other day I forgot that the polite thing to do is set the money on the table and allow the cashier to pick it up. Money is considered “dirty” so should not be handed. I promptly dropped the coins into the cashier’s hands without a second thought. It seems inconsequential to Westerners. The French, Americans, and Mexicans have no such customs so it seems unnecessary. But when in Japan...

Speaking of Japan, one of the most popular things to do in Japan is to visit an onsen, a hot spring. Japan is full of volcanoes making hot springs plentiful, especially up in the mountains where NORTHSTAR is located. On Monday, our day off, ten of us took a drive over the mountain to a nearby village to visit a really nice onsen. It is part of a hotel and restaurant with delicious food. Coming from the Americas where privacy is valued I knew I would have to get over some discomfort when it came to bathing like the Japanese do. At this onsen the men bathe separately from the women. There is a changing room to leave your clothes and a shower room. Everyone must shower and wash before getting into the hot spring tubs. Then you just get in and talk with people. The French guys and the full time staff had experienced an onsen before, but for me it was a totally new experience. Of course you have to get over some discomfort but it was a very enjoyable experience. I felt refreshed and very relaxed, a wonderful way to end a very busy time here in Norikura! 

Week 1 in Japan!

Week 1 in Japan!

As of this morning I have been in Japan for 1 week. It has been a really good week of acclimation to the Japanese way of life and getting used to my schedule as a whole. Over the past weekend I hung out with a kid’s camp and photographed their activities as part of my job. This included going on a hike with them, going bike riding, and zip lining! I also got started on sketching icon ideas for Northstar’s new website.

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In Japan!

Hi! This is my first official blog post and update for my Japan trip! I had quite an uneventful flight over. Since I flew west from Toledo I kept up with the daylight so time seemed to move really slowly. I'm not even sure how long it has been since I left, otherwise I would figure out how long I've gone with only three hours of sleep. I did have the idea of looking for celebrities while in LA but all the terminals are separated by buses. It was too time consuming to go everywhere so I just went back to my gate. 

The flight from LA to Tokyo was long, but I was not prepared for how boring it was! The food was ok; they fed us three times. I watched three and a half movies over the course of the 11 hour flight, none of which I'd watched before. I was particularly happy that the new Cinderella was available. Once I landed, immigration and customs went by like a breeze, much different than trying to get into Mexico. I had a little time so I did a currency exchange where I was made to fill out a bunch of paperwork. The man behind the counter took counting money very seriously. 

Now I am waiting for the taxi man to come back after picking up other passengers. In the lobby there is a TV crew with reporter interviewing a white guy (is that politically correct?). I don't want to be interviewed. 

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for me on this trip already! I so appreciate it; I know Father's already working before I even got here.

Wedding: Caleb & Dani Day

Wedding: Caleb & Dani Day

Some of you may remember my very first blog post, about the first couple I had photographed for their engagement. I could call this coming full circle as it has been just over a year since I did that shoot, and now I get to talk about their wedding! So Caleb and Dani must have had a lot of trust in me because even after their engagement pictures they asked me to shoot their wedding. And I was more than happy to say yes! 

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Warsaw City Hall Show: "Mexico"

I graduated college two weeks ago. This is fact rather than pride because it means that I have to get busy on "real life." During my senior show a couple months back, the mother of one of my friends approached me about coming to the show. The only thing she told me at that point was that she wrote for the Warsaw Times-Union and wondered if she could do an interview with me. Of course I said yes!

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