Conversations with the artisans and creatives safeguarding tradition and island life.
Think of the Alps and your mind might conjure up pale peaks and wooden chalets puffing merry little smoke plumes from their chimneys. It’s mid-February, or March perhaps, and there you are slotting perfectly into the winter alpine scene: whizzing down slopes, knocking powder from your boots and sipping chocolat chaud with blankets on your knees and the soft sun on your face . . .
We set off as the sun’s soft rays kissed the mountaintops, its tendrils turning the spectacular limestone cliffs golden. Birds heralded the waking day while church bells welcomed early worshippers.Having ably contended with the 534 steep stairs down to the local beach the day before, we thought a quick 1,000 step climb skywards before breakfast would be a breeze.
Mount Asahidake, the highest point of this wild island, rose up before me in a great mass of black ash and eternal snow. The volcano hasn’t erupted for 200 years but the smell of sulphur still stings the nose. I stood on the edge of Sugatami Pond, one of many lucid pools that mark this marshland, and watched as the fog thickened around the slopes. The water at my feet was like glass, without crease or wrinkle despite the rain, almost mythical . . .