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  • Writer's pictureAllan Sander

Bamboo Stick

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

A bittersweet return to MyStays Hotel at the Narita International Airport – not so much the hotel but the surrounding fields of rice laced with patches of bamboo-oak forest. I noticed the winding road that led down to my favorite haunts was barricaded and manned to disallow access. Still, I walked directly towards the security guard gesturing to continue forward but was quickly signaled that it was off limits. Bummer, I have my bamboo stick hidden back in there. Oh well, I will have to enter from the backside of the hotel.

It was late afternoon as I spent the morning roaming the grounds of the Shinshoji Temple on the southeastern side of town. Back at the hotel, I crossed thru the parking lot to reach the road heading for the hushed environs of charming garden flats. Across the street, a towering stand of bamboo – a perfect place to find a replacement!

Bamboo is one tough resource; it is used for scaffolding for crying out loud! Rummaging through the cut pieces I settle with a seven-foot rod about as thick as a broomstick. I twist off all the fibrous limbs for a better grip and maneuverability, and there you have it – my makeshift monopod.

A border wall of colorful azaleas guides me toward the distant consort of anuran activity. I revert to my childhood, exploring the vernal pools in search of these tiny songsters.

How can one not be engrossed in this tranquil setting?

A Meadow Bunting bursts into song...

...a rattling call of a Greenfinch directs my gaze into a farmer’s garden.

However, in the distance looms the raised platforms for the local rail line, powerlines prance across the landscape.

I revert to the reedbeds, here, a Bull-headed Shrike scans for potential prey.

Along the paddies’ edge, treefrogs soak up the last remaining rays of light.

I discover a recently hatched Chinese Pond Turtle ambling through the flooded field.

Before the sun drops behind the horizon, I enter a viaduct where I have an unexpected encounter - a huge House centipede was utilizing every one of its legs to clamber up the cement wall.

Unless there was some unforeseen reward in its endeavor (Other then, “To get to the other side!”), traversing this arch was the most taxing way to do so. Indifferent, I knew where I was heading, straight up the road and back to the hotel for a cold beer!

The green and yellow crowns of bamboo dance with excitement as the darkness is slowly peeled away by the rising sun. The chime of the elevator door cannot pull me away from this view until the unveiling is complete. “Now that’s how to start your day!” Off I go through the revolving doors where I find a Japanese Wagtail with a beak-full of caterpillars. It appears the winds have jostled these critters from their sanctifying boughs making it “Easy pickings!” I wish I had my stick to give me a solid foundation to shoot from - still, it doesn’t change the joy of the moment.

I venture again behind the hotel and even before I collect my bamboo stick, I pause, before me as if sprayed by a fine mist, the field glistens with tiny shards of glass.

I pick up my shaft, shake off the morning dew, and discover a lone sawfly larva delicately balanced atop an arching limb. Firmly gripping the rod with the camera braced tightly to its frame, I zoom in for a close-up. I would not have attempted such a shot without having some type of stabilization.

Fine droplets enhance a patch of early blooming wildflowers. Closer to the ground, dandelion globes harness an intricate array of interconnected stars, each one embossed with miniature droplets of dew. I have a penchant for nature’s creative design so, on my knees

I go. I cannot imagine what an outsider might be thinking, groveling as I am with this seven-foot stick protruding into the air, especially if I rise from my knees without a camera around my neck!

I promised this couple I would return to take their picture when the light was just right, so here I am. He was looking quite dapper in his suit and she with her long dress and warm coat, unfortunately her hat hung off to one side. A couple of vertical and horizontal shots and Mr. and Mrs. Scarecrow seemed quite pleased. Speaking of the devil, a Long-billed crow calls from above, leading me further down the road.

More glistening, fuzzy spheres lie scattered across the path. Some have had their crowns blown free, the resulting gap is splayed with white plumes studded with miniature shimmering pearls – a finer necklace one could not find.

Nearby, sparkling atop some older growth, a Little Blue butterfly waits for the sun’s heat to vaporize its embellishments.

A rustling across the water canal reveals a female pheasant. It stares at me briefly before slinking into the tall grass.

These berms are wide enough to drive a small truck across, per the design of the farmers. These transect the rice fields giving it that checkerboard appearance. This one parallels the Toko River, which often times hosts a lone cormorant. Today I startle a Gray heron.

Meadow (Emberiza cioides) and Black-faced (Embiriza spodocephala) buntings flush from the grasses.

I notice an individual opposite the river, scanning through a spotting scope. Too bad he is so far away; I would like to learn more about this area’s flora and fauna (Should he understand English), and I am anxious to know the story behind the construction in the area.

The tangle of vegetation has many hidden gems to be uncovered. I find some lady bugs tucked in the grasses and clambering about on the branches.

Here, too, Japanese treefrogs squat motionless, blending into their surroundings.

Below, turtles sun themselves along the river’s edge. A lone carp cuts a line through the water. It leads me to a shiny object on the bank. “Wow!” That is one of the largest Bullfrogs

I have ever seen! These were introduced

in the early 1900’s as a food source, they escaped/were released and have since, really upset the ecosystem; they basically consume anything they can swallow: invertebrates, mice, small snakes, lizards, turtles, fish, other frogs (Including their own kind) and even small birds!

Unmoved by the night's wet embrace, a caterpillar continues to satisfy its palate.

I find numerous long-horned grasshoppers warming up atop various flower heads: one hangs downward on a lance-like spike,

another is positioned atop the egg-yolk colored center of an aster.

I find an interesting leaf beetle (Sagrinae), having swollen hind legs,

rustling about atop another aster.

Other vegetation hosts numerous shield bugs, many in search of a mate.

Immediately upon reaching a tree-lined border, I find a Common Five-ring butterfly ( Ypthima baldus) amid the leaf litter.

The noise of construction equipment in the distance now becomes clearer. I reach the last patch of trees to find pure desolation. The beautiful winding road, slicing its way through the bamboo-oak forest, emerging into the verdant rice fields below, is gone!

The destruction continues beyond, up the hills and to the freeway. It appears a huge mall and more hotels will dot the landscape. I have not the heart to describe the loss in detail. Basically, it is now the end of the road, literally. Construction destruction: Forest no more. Oak cathedral, vanquished. Ancient beech, felled. Farmer’s shrines, buried. Forest road, treeless… …bamboo stick, put to rest.

Location: Narita, Japan - Chiba Prefecture

Date: April 2021

This was my last trip to Japan because of Covid-19 restrictions. I hope to return soon.

For a historical rendering of the creation and opposition of the Narita International Airport check out the following website: Sanrizuka: The Battle for Narita Airport - Unseen Japan

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