Feeling comfortable and part of Nature--Walking in the dark by Jun Nakano

岩戸山から夜明け前.jpgJun Nakano has been enjoying walking in the dark for 15 years, sometimes with family and friends and sometimes alone. He has walked around Tokyo and more than 1,000 other places all over Japan. He walked through both towns and forests. Nakano told us about his experiences in the darkness: "I feel part of Nature in the utter darkness. It's surprisingly easy. It's scary--I feel swallowed by the darkness and melted into the surroundings. It's also comfortable, however, being part of the darkness. I have published many books on how attractive walking in the dark is. Sometimes I guide walking tours in the dark.

"It was 15 years ago in my 30's when I started being attracted by the darkness. I liked mountain hikes and I would enjoy them often. One day my wife and I went hiking and we missed the last train by mistake. While patiently waiting for the first train at Takao Station at around midnight, I came up with an idea of climbing nearby Kusato Mountain. The utter darkness was really scary but it was very new to me. While walking, the day was gradually breaking. It was as if the scenery in a black-and-white film suddenly changed into a color film. It was like a bright red flower appeared. I was overwhelmed and couldn't find words to describe it. I have never forgotten the sensation. I started walking in the dark to enjoy the complete darkness. Not many mountain hikers start to enjoy the night-walk. They just do it to wait for daybreak.

"I find something new whenever I tour a town, a mountain or a beach. In the summer of 2009, I walked through a forest in Hachijojima Island for three nights. I was extremely impressed. In the forest of "lighting mushroom", I found small fungi among fallen leaves on the ground. They were about to shine--but yet in the middle of "light" and "dark"--they showed a mysterious and illusionary world of subtleness. It was only a one-hour flight from Tokyo, but the island had an incomparable world of beauty in the darkness because there were no lights from town.

"Nowadays, most cities in Japan are lit up with numerous electric lights at night. I think towns in Tokyo are too bright. People's experiences in the dreadful darkness of air-raid shelters during World War II have influenced their thinking. Their strong will of "Future should be bright" has sustained economic high growth after the war, but it became excessive. So, I don't want to say "More darkness" to the generations who experienced the past war. However, Tokyo should use fewer lights in the future."

Nakano's book, "Walking at Night in Tokyo" (in Japanese) introduces night sceneries as well as his viewpoints. He says postscript in the book, "Night changes not only the scenery but also us. If you experience the darkness, you will start to see things more intensely. Our senses will sharpen in the darkness--we can experience more things with our five senses that might be easily overlooked in the daylight.

About 1,000 people so far have joined Nakano's night walking tour, with more expected to join in the years to come.

(Taeko Ohno)

December 11, 2009