#021 – YOKOO-YAMA
It was my first time in Suma. A seaside suburb in the out in western reaches of Kobe where the waters of Osaka Bay lap at the pale sands, having negotiated the series of concrete embankments placed some hundred yards off shore.
There used to be a beach festival there each summer and it could be that there still is. I’ve lost all touch with my hedonistic past, mild as it was, and pretty much that of anyone else. I’m well out of the loop. A bit of a hermit hidden away in a little corner of Kyoto. I’d heard it was a bit of a blast, that beachside shindig, but had never made it out there back in the day. A strip of sand full of horny young things. Suntans and swimsuits and all that jazz. An colleague of mine back then would venture out and return to work with stories tainted and distorted by booze. And when I heard a friend of his had her vagina tainted and distorted by some wild infection after bathing in the garbage clogged waters of Suma I think any curiosity was snaffled.
Everything looked cleaner than I expected that late September afternoon as we (The Missus, The Kid and I) strolled the sands of Suma Beach, though Awaji Island, Kansai’s southwestern frontier, was lost in a stagnant haze. Barely a soul sunbathed and no one swam, save for a black Labrador I presumed was that colour before it had jumped into the uninviting waters.
But it was mountains rather than the seaside we’d come for – or rather one peak in particular. Yokoo-yama, a three hundred metre baby of our KINKAN Challenge. It’s one of the high points of a small line of hills hanging off the end of the more imposing Rokko Range, a line of mountains we’d wandered over the year before, that sandwiches the city of Kobe into a strip of dirt between it and the sea.
The crowds had spurned the beaches and headed for the hills, too. All manner of hiker was up there trekking through the attractive environs of the ambitiously named Suma Alps. You had your soloists and socialists, and by the latter I mean the ones that hike in mobs of twenty or more rather than of any perceived political persuasion (though I dare suggest you’d have to be somewhat commie to hike like that). The Yama-girls were out and so were those who looked as though they’d taken a wrong turn when heading for the mall. A photographer obviously on assignment somewhere way out of his comfort zone, dripped with sweat that saturated his white business shirt. A fat man in his sixties, clad in too little lycra, bared too much suntanned flesh beneath his chinaman’s hat, a pair of weights strapped to each hand.
‘Come one. Come all,’ or so it seemed, was the call that had gone out that day.
Locals have been known to take the ‘Alps’ monicker one step further and have given Yokoo-yama the alternative title of Kobe-yari or the Spear of Kobe. Any comparisons to the Yari of the North Alps and you’d be stretching it, though. But then, that ‘real’ Yari, I’ve read, has been slapped with the title of the Matterhorn of Japan and so from there one gets to a point where it’s hard to spot where all this stretching begins and ends. And then there’s the Fujis that dot the Japanese landscape. Some faithful replicas, others dodgy imposters. Surely each prefecture has its one or two faux Fuji-sans, but anyway, that’s talk for another day and, you know, if there are enough of them, maybe even a challenge for another day too.
Yokoo’s conquest complete we fled the crowds, still heading for the hills well beyond lunch time and made for the beach, found an empty hotel and slapped down some coins on a little side counter for a soft cream each. There’d been a sting in September’s tail and by the end of the day we were feeling it.