Makeup and hair prep isn’t until 7:20 this morning, so we get to sleep in a bit. Good thing since Elsa had stayed up past 1:00 am Skyping and D&D adventuring with friends. Mama is not too happy about this. Breakfast is picked up at a convenience store. I get a cup of cut veggies, yogurt drink and onigiri and Elsa grabs a chocolate chip-studded melon-pan. No way my stomach could take that much sugar this morning. Still feeling a bit sick from yesterday’s soba.
We drive in our three-van caravan to Daimon-zaka, an ancient trail through enormous Sugi or Cedar trees up the mountain. The entire trail was built from hand-hewn stones carefully placed, making it quite an easy hike. The large cameras are set up to capture the scene of hikers descending through the trees, stopping to admire the view.
The shooting has to pause as groups of early-morning hikers ascend and descend the long stretch of mossy stone steps. I am seriously impressed at the age and agility of some of these intrepid hikers. Groups of elderly, jovial hikers carefully climb the ancient staircase with the help of sturdy tall staffs.
Another scene is shot with Elsa in the foreground with a beautiful sasa-leaf obento wrapping up delicious sanma sushi. We have to hold the sushi without eating it for many shots. Hard to resist, but in the end, we are allowed to devour the sanma-sushi.
We climb the rest of the trail and I stop to change shirts inside a large stump which makes a natural dressing room along the way.
More photos are taken down at the base of the climb where it begins between two “married” trees; and it is fairly easy to tell which is the female and which is the male. Nearby is a small shop and dressing room that rents out beautiful kimonos for people who want to make the pilgrimage hike dressed in traditional clothing complete with funny hats and veils to keep the insects at bay.
We climb back into the vans where boxed lunches are waiting and we have a two-hour drive to our next location near Kumanokodo, to photograph near another pilgrimage walk and later at the nearby temple. Fushiogamioji; the Bowing Down Place, one of the few holy places where women were always welcome, even if they were menstruating and considered “unclean.”
We stop near the top of a hill and take photos holding a lovely, dark green, leaf-wrapped onigiri that I am allowed to eat once all the photos have been taken. Sunny location with golden, glowing pampas grass, aster-dotted rocks and busy bees.
Niharashidaichi is our next stop where we finally get to jump into a real hike, a fast hike, up the mountain. We have to reach the photo shoot location before the sun dips too low. The camera crew tromps on ahead with everyone else right behind. They call me “monster mama” because I can keep up and do not break a sweat by the time we reach the top. Of course, I don’t have to carry the heavy camera equipment.
Beautiful view of sculpted hills and a giant torii gate in the distance. “I lift my eyes unto the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth!” (Psalm 121) The light is just right; the director declares the day a success and back down the hill we go. Into the vans and back towards the hotel, driving along a wide river where a long fast tourist powerboat (a “Jetto-Fune”) keeps pace with road traffic until we enter a long tunnel.
Elsa and I bow out of the restaurant meal so that we can catch up on work and homework in our hotel room. The support staff kindly bring us delicious salads and obentos to enjoy in our room. We have a chance to Facetime with my older daughter in California, and then to get to bed early. We will have to be at the makeup room by 5:20 am tomorrow.