The expression on Hiromi’s face tells the story, exhausted and questioning: Why did I ever marry this crazy gaijin? We have been moving steadily upward for the last hour, following a path through the dense forest. Ahead, through the trees, we can make out the bare summit of Kunimidake, the prefecture’s tallest mountain and the physical heart of one of Japan’s unique “lost” places: Gokanosho.
Ten minutes later and we are standing on the peak. Around us grey clouds swirl through the moss-clad trees, the occasional break revealing a landscape of compact hills and tight river valleys. Alongside us a small wooden shrine adds to the eerie atmosphere.
“It’s beautiful,” murmurs Hiromi.
I nod in agreement.
“And not a vending machine or any concrete in sight.”
My partner, smiling now, reaches across and grasps my hand. I feel the warmth of her palm as drops of rain pepper our faces.
“I want to stay here forever,” Hiromi whispers, “but I think we need to start moving.”
We return to the path that brought us to the summit, while, around us, the lost world of Gokanosho shape-shifts through the montain mist.