Sunday, 22 November 2009

Five males working alone

Electricity worker high above the Kaneyama landscape

The Sika stag stepped onto the road in front of me. We both stopped. It was a fine creature, with big antlers. A moment more and it leaped off the side, crashing down through thick scrub on the steep hillside. He had his shaggy grey winter coat already, and had probably finished rutting, unless his females were nearby, or he had lost them to another male. Sometimes fights between male deer can be fatal. 

Mushroom growing

I had stopped to photograph the logs, stacked in grids to grow mushrooms by a lonely mountain road. A white K-van drove past, a man at the wheel, turned round up the road and came back. I knew that I had made him uneasy. It isn't unheard of for thieves to come in and take valuable crops of fresh Shitake mushrooms. It is unheard of for strangers to be photographing your mushroom logs for any other reason. I bowed as he came past, but it didn't work. He got out and walked pointedly into the patch, returning my 'Konichiwa' with a grunt. It is a lot of work to be taken from you.

Kaneyama elder cutting bean supports for next year

An elder was cutting saplings half way up the mountain. His van was already full of them. He was from the valley below, and was preparing supports for his beans next year. He cut them into the shape he wanted with the heavy oblong chopper that many people carry here. He was going to be ready, there was no reason to sit at home doing nothing. When his beans needed supports next spring, he would have them.

Clicking and rasping noises fell out of the air. There was a distant voice right above, where no voice should be. And then I saw him, a tiny figure attached to the mighty cables that strew the mountains carrying  power from the hydro-electricity dams to the cities. His life hung by a thread. Whatever he was doing, it would need to be done very carefully. Every now and then he moved his harness up the cable a little further, occasionally talking to the man on the ground on whom he depended. It began to rain.

I stopped under the eves of an empty holiday house past the lake, put on my remaining cycling gear and covered up the camera. It was nearly dark and too wet to photograph what I had originally intended to, but those four meetings were enough. Pressing up a long incline between dripping firs I could see a gang of men in front of me, staring up at a telephone pole. There were fifteen of them, their safety gear flashing in the light of my LEDs. They parted to let me ride through.