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Moss Viewing – A Strange Yet Increasingly Popular Japanese Pastime

A lot of people walk by moss all the time, without even giving the time of day, but in Japan, they actually have this thing call moss viewing that involves going on trips to damp places and staring at moss for hours, as a means of relaxation.

According to Takeshi Ueno, a plant ecology expert at Tsuru University, the activity is particularly popular among women, because “they are rich in emotions”. “They can innocently enjoy changes in the shapes and colors of leaves, for example, so they are well-suited to moss viewing,” Ueno, who usually leads the moss viewing trips near Lake Shirakoma, added.

It all started in 2013, when Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel in Aomori Prefecture introduced a one-night program that included an observation tour of the moss colonies in a riverside forest. It was an unsuspected success, and after the Bryological Society of Japan named the area around Lake Shirakoma a ‘precious moss-covered forest’, moss-viewing became a regular affair. The event has become so popular among female travelers that it is held about eight times a year.

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Photo: Kyodo News

This surge in the number of women interested in moss viewing seems to coincide with a mountain hiking trend in Japan.“Many women admire plants and flowers as they hike, and that may have piqued interest (in moss),” said moss enthusiast Hisako Fujii, who wrote a book called Mosses, My Dear Friends.

“What I like (about mosses) is that they are surviving with toughness as they reach out for water and light,” added Mari Sugiyama, a 27-year-old career woman from Ibaraki Prefecture. “Seeing clusters of mosses living together, I can forget about our competitive society.”

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Photo: Kyodo News

The highlight of Ueno’s tour is when clusters of a variety of sunagoke moss are sprayed with mist – the leaves open out and their color transforms from brown to green. The plant expert says that it never fails to make the women cry. To fully enjoy the experience, they often get down on their hands and knees and uses magnifying glasses to get a closer look at moss.

via Kyodo News

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