A few hours away from central Tokyo, I am in Mitake-san.
A Japanese monk in Thai Plum Village once told me that the moment he was back in Tokyo, he got sick due to the communal negative energy. Whenever I see commuters on the train and whenever I leave Tokyo for a short break, I remember him. You can read the stress, anxiety, and boredom on the faces of the people on the train. More than the commute itself, that heavy feeling makes you tired.
What was instantly refreshing was the smell of cedar and pine trees. It was intoxicating.
Once the day-trippers took the last cable car, the trails were empty for doing a walking meditation.
In the morning, around 4:20 am, I woke up to catch the sunrise at Musashi Mitake Shrine (武蔵御嶽神社). The shrine's history dates back to the first century B.C., which makes it 2,000 years old! The shrine's guardian deity is a wolf due to the historical connection. A white wolf had helped Emperor Keiko to find his way back after he was attacked by a demon and lost his path in the mountain.
There is another symbol of longevity on the way back: A 1,000-year-old Japanese zelkova tree. It is on a slope, which doesn't look so supportive of a big tree, but somehow there it is, surviving all those natural disasters of 10 centuries.
And a nice surprise was a shy but curious tanuki checking me out as I went down the stairs of the shrine. We had a nice encounter, and I was happy to start my day with a nice greeting from a cute animal.
The land has its legends and stories. It reminds us again how usual our lives in big cities are. Those concrete jungles and crowds don't provide us with any meaningful experiences and resources for well-being. Thus, we all keep searching and consuming.
Trees, birds, tanuki, insects, the smell, the legends are just a few hours away.