In 2012, an old Japanese man asked me if I wanted to go hiking.
I eagerly said yes.
First he took me to the top of Mt Ryozen.
It was my first time climbing that mountain.
I really enjoyed it.
The painting below was done from a photograph taken on this climb.
Another time he took me to a nature park.
This park had a long walk by a stream.
I never did any paintings from that trip
But it was a very beautiful place.
The old man told me that he used to bring his children here when they were young.
He told me that it had been a very popular place then.
When we visited there was almost nobody there.
And there were signs, such as the neglected rotten wooden posts of the fence by the stream, that not many people come to this place anymore.
What a shame.
The next time he took me to Kuju mountain.
I’ve climbed this mountain before with my family.
But this time he took me on a different route.
We went up the ridge of a mountain next to Kuju mountain.
There were big jagged rocks rising up out of the ridge of the mountain.
It was spectacular.
I did the painting above of this scene.
I don’t know when I painted this picture but I climbed this mountain in 2012.
So I think that I must have done it around that period.
I’m surprised that I even tried to paint such a scene.
Because at that time I was still learning watercolor painting.
And this is a very difficult scene to paint.
At first I wasn’t happy with this painting.
Luckily I didn’t throw it away.
And a few years later, by chance, I came across it again.
I was organizing my paintings.
I have many paintings and I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the amount.
And I was throwing away the paintings I disliked.
That is when I found this painting.
I looked at it and was surprised to discover that I now liked it.
I was also happy with it because I find countryside scenes very difficult to paint.
City scenes are much easier.
And my countryside paintings are normally failures.
But to return to the story.
Despite his age this old man was fitter than me.
And he climbed up the mountain very quickly.
I would lag behind him a little.
After the climb we came back down to the car park.
Here, my friend saw a foreigner and said to me: Don’t you want to talk to him?
Japanese people always think that foreigners desperately want to talk with other foreigners.
However most foreigners are rather cold towards one another in Japan.
I’ve sometimes said “Hi” to a foreigner and received a cold and formal “Hello” or just been ignored.
And so I said no.
He was surprised. And I got the impression that he thought I wasn’t a friendly person.
Anyway he kept insisting and so I said “hi” to this foreigner and we had a brief chat.
He was actually a very pleasant person.
Next to the car park was a gift shop, a restaurant and a spa.
We were aching a lot and really felt like getting into a hot tub.
So we paid and went up to the spa on the second floor.
I was so happy to be getting into a hot bath.
However, when I put my foot in the water I instantly pulled it out again.
It was boiling hot.
My foot was bright red.
The old man, like most old Japanese men, was a tough person.
And despite my reaction he tried to get in.
But even he was shocked.
And he quickly got out.
That’s when I knew the water really was too hot.
We went downstairs and told a member of staff who apologized.
She told us that somebody had made a mistake.
Somebody had forgotten to turn on the cold tap.
She told us that if we waited then they could cool it down.
But it would take more than 30 minutes.
So we gave up on the spa.
After that we got in his car and he took me to a large field very nearby.
This field was full of trees.
It was a very beautiful place.
And then he surprised me by telling me that he owned the field.
I was very impressed.
After that we went home.
That was the last climbing trip we had together.
I don’t know why.
I would have liked to have gone on more climbing trips.
But at least I got the chance to go on a few.
And for that I am very grateful.
So I wrote this story in 2021 from memory.
I was able to date the story from a blurry photo of Ryozen mountain.
The photo was dated 2012.
I’m pretty sure that all these trips happened in the same year.
The blurry photo came from a memory card for a digital camera.
I had downloaded the image from the memory card to my computer.
This was lucky because all the images on that card later disappeared.
Never trust memory cards.
This old man had some very interesting stories to tell about growing up in Taiwan as a young boy.
This was probably when Japan still had an Empire and controlled that land.
Old people have some very interesting stories to tell.
I remember when I first came to Japan an old man on the bus started telling me that he was a pilot in World War 2.
He told me that an American pilot had shot down his plane.
And how he had to jump out of his plane and parachute down to the ground.
I’ll never forget how he said all this with a look of cheerfulness.
It was almost as though he was recounting a fond memory.
In 2021 I had another go at painting the first picture.
Here is a video of me doing the painting.