I woke up at dawn to an empty room, the bedrolls spread out on the tatami floor nearly still warm. Morning pressed lightly on the paper-covered doors, turning them blue, as if frosted windows on a snowy winter’s day.
My friends had left before sunrise, for Osaka and Kyoto. For the next two days, I must walk alone through the forest.
I finished packing, hauled the fat orange pack onto my back, gripped tight my trekking pole, slid open the door, and started towards the mountains.