On entering Senjogahara marsh you are welcomed by a life-sized rendition of an Asian black bear. I imagine the wordless roar depicted by the artist would've sounded something like "Yum!" had it been voiced. In order to avoid a similar encounter, you are advised to carry a 'bear bell'. Apparently, it's a great deterrent as Asian black bears don't like the sound. I find this hard to believe. It sounds like a dinner bell and its constant chiming is bloody annoying. The bear's more likely to kill you for some peace and quiet. Nevertheless, I endeavoured to trust the advice and strapped it to my pack.
My first impression of Senjogahara marsh was that it's not very marsh-like. We arrived shortly after the winter snow had receded and the land was very dead and dry. My second impression was that I needed a bigger camera lens. In 20 minutes we had passed no less than three fellow explorers lugging huge telescopic barrels (the size of a mid to large child) over their shoulders. Maybe they doubled as a weapon in a bear attack?
The undergrowth was covered in little yellow-green plants. Rugged, desperate-looking trees sprouted forth ahead of us endlessly, filling the horizon. Winter had clearly done them no favours. Wander south and you will meet a stream, which quickly dissolves into rapids and tumbles into a fall. Pockets of evergreen foliage light up the banks, helping envision the green that summer must bring.
Once you near the outskirts of the dense woodland the little yellow-green plants recede. In their wake lies a hay-like spread of straw-like grass. The woods turn barren and tree-topped. Scorched mountains rise up. The place has the impression of a desert. Clouds cast the only shadows and huge crows play as vultures on leafless branches. Taking a closer look, clues as to what is to come appear. In brown puddles, frogs and toads wriggle themselves into a muddy blanket. Tucking themselves in, they wait for the rain.
Words & Photography: Scott Norris (@radventuresofficial) // spring 2015