Summer Clouds

The abnormal summer that we had inevitably is leaving its footprints behind, but nevertheless the fall colors are beginning to appear. I think it was at the beginning of September when I looked out of our office window and saw the sky covered with scaly cirrocumulus clouds---a harbinger of autumn. The small size of the clouds was impressive. Despite the heat, under the influence of the air stream, the high clouds near the stratosphere were changing their appearance. Even though we have had subtropical conditions, the cycle of nature is repeating itself and weaving its way through the four seasons.

I love the summer clouds. When I point my digital camera at the landscape, I suddenly find myself focusing my composition on the blue sky and white clouds. The cumulonimbus thunderclouds, which seem to reach as far as the stratosphere, are especially exciting. They give me the illusion that I am being watched by a giant in the sky. Very likely the scene in Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke hime (Princess Mononoke) in which the god that controls nature, incarnated as a deer, looks down on nature from the heavens above comes from an image of a cumulonimbus cloud.

Summer clouds consist mainly of cumuli, puffy clouds with a flat base and pointed top that pile up horizontally and vertically. They are formed by the rising air current when moisture from the land and sea evaporates and moisture from mountains and trees warms and turns into vapor. Unlike the high clouds of autumn and winter, they do not stay at one point but move with time. The combination of the blue sky behind them, the green mountains and countryside, and the sparkling rays of the sun surely bring back memories of childhood.

At the end of August I went from Norikura-dake to Kamikochi. It was fine weather on that day, and the view from the window of the train from Shinjuku to Matsumoto was indeed a feast of cumulonimbus clouds that reached a climax at Norikura-dake. The huge thundercloud that I saw as the Chuo line train passed Yatsuga-take was overwhelming, but the clouds hanging over the 3,000-meter peaks made a powerful impression on me too. The blue sky, the sun’s rays, the color of the clouds, the color of the mountains . . . The majestic appearance of the Japan Alps was inspiring and mysterious in a different way from my hometown in Kyushu.

The Tatamidaira car park is situated 2,702 meters above sea level and is the highest in Japan. Visitors can get up to that point quite quickly by bus or taxi. I went by taxi and then took a stroll on a nearby hill to admire the dicentra and other wild flowers. But for some reason, I did not feel well.

After returning home, next morning my blood pressure was in the upper 150s. Usually it is in the 120s or 130s, so I was shocked. Suspecting the reason, I did a Google search for “altitude sickness and blood pressure” and realized that I was indeed suffering from altitude sickness. The doctor cautioned me, telling me the cause was my sudden ascent by car to a height of over 2,000 meters, but he added that I would recover with time and needed no treatment. I was relieved when I finally did get over it. My trip had given me an opportunity to see the summer clouds---and something else to remember as well.

As the colors of autumn begin to appear, the summer clouds and thunderclouds that I photographed are transforming into cumuli and gradually shrinking.

Hot summer memories, blue skies, white clouds, green mountains . . . Autumn is approaching. For someone like me who loves summer, “My dreams returned into the blue, white, and green of summer.”