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It took me a few minutes to identify the intoxicating scent that was, frankly, intoxicating.  It was tea olive, or osmanthus, first encountered when we lived in Athens, Georgia.  It took me several days to figure out where it was coming from, because it’s an unremarkable shrub with a tiny flower with an extremely powerful fragrance.  The unexpected fall sweetness seems to say pay attention, soon the landscape will wither and you won’t be la dee da-ing through it.  You’re here for a special and brief time.

I rediscovered osmanthus while I was in Japan many autumns ago.  Here it was again, almost shouting that spring will come again and life is very sweet.


Yesterday, we strolled a small part of the oldest road in Japan.  Suddenly my nose was twitching again.  I soon discovered osmanthus, doing its thing, once again.  Now that I know what to look for, it wasn’t long before I found the source of the fragrance.  Bring it on!  Japan’s shrub has a yellow-orange flower rather than the white ones I originally discovered in Georgia.  The shrubs are more pervasive here as well, so that the scent can surround and seem to follow you.

Finding the trail, enjoying the scent.

After three hours of train rides and walks we finally found what we were looking for: The Yamanobe no michi trail !  Once again we had misjudged the amount of time it would take for us to find it.  I never could have found it on my own. My husband is generally undaunted by such challenges.

The online description was accurate in that the trail seemed far removed from the 21st century, but getting to it, was a bit complicated. Once we found it, the setting was dreamy, complete with scented air.

The rice harvest is now about half complete. Being out in the country in autumn, we were surrounded by rice fields and many persimmon orchards.  The recent rains have made the countryside lush and very green.


The entrance gate to Chokakuji Temple, established 824AD

We investigated the  ancient Chokakuji Temple just off the trail. The pathway up to the temple was lined with late blooming wild flowers.  A smiling monk ushered us into the small temple garden, and I gasped at the profusion and abundance in this small enchanting space.  It was unlike any other temple garden I’ve seen.  Deliberate design or a result of some neglect, I’m not sure, but you had to praise Mother Earth for her lush abundance, breathe deeply and attempt to take it all in.

Nature left to its own devices is  breathtaking in its vitality!



As usual, I slow to a snail’s pace when an environment in Japan catches my attention.  My husband breezes through these spaces at a more vigorous space, urging me to hurry up, because we “don’t have much time.”  I vacillate between wanting to tell him to get lost and awareness that he speaks the truth!  I reluctantly pick up the pace.

The countryside idyll

The trail leading from the temple became a dirt path flanked by rice fields and pomegranite orchards.  I pictured myself living in this gentle paradise, probably in an old farmhouse, brought up to date, of course.  My reverie was interrupted as the path incline grew steeper.  I reminded myself that approaching age 80 with chronic asthma meant that some daydreams were just plain ridiculous.  My immediate goal was to get to the top of the moderate sized hill, so I could then easily coast down the other side.

Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.