A friend of mine, who earlier scrapped her plan to visit Takayama because she luckily got a ticket to Arashi’s concert, felt enough guilt to arrange for another trip to Takayama soon after, and that’s what brought us to the Okuhida area, where we had the good luck to meet a really nice Japanese couple.
Probably in their late fifties or early sixties, they were traveling in Okuhida when we met them at Fukuchi Onsen. At that time we were mesmerized by the breathtaking views of emerald green frozen ice spikes there, they stopped their car by the side, apparently hoping to take a few shots of that spectacular view as well. After taking a few photos for one another, we were about to split ways and head down to a morning market when the man took out two small objects and handed them to us. It was a key chain in the shape of a frog (I actually think it looks more like a butterfly, but this is not the point), with a number written on one side, and the Japanese phrase `Buji kaeru’, which means ‘returning safe and sound’, on the other. This message is associated with a frog because in Japanese, the pronunciation of ‘frog’ is the same as that of ‘return’.
Then the man told us the lovely story behind the frog key chain, which he hand-made one by one, 300 in total. At the very beginning, there was no plan at all to make so many, and he just made one as a lucky charm for himself when he ventured out of his home. One day after hiking with his wife, the lucky charm was no where to be seen. It was not like he had lost his wallet or something, so he made no attempt to look for it. After a few months, when he went hiking at the same place again. he found the key chain being hung on a branch: the frog returns safely. It was that symbolic reappearance of the frog that prompted him to make 300 of them, which he has given to people he met on the way, hoping they would all return safely. I was the 292th, and I returned home safe and sound. It doesn’t matter the key chain doesn’t look like a frog. It is the feelings of care for other people it contains that counts.
The couple was kind enough to offer to drive us to Shin-hotaka where we could take the ropeway up to see the mountains. On the way, they even took the trouble to take us to a few extra spots to take some really lovely pictures. And the lady found a good spot for us to have a snow dive without bleeding our nose. They were so friendly and fun-loving! They did not go up with us, but we saw them waving to us from below when we were going up. I feel really thankful to have been blessed with so many lovely encounters here, and I will never forget this, and I hope there is more to come. And undoubtedly I will bring this frog along for every hike from now on!