Moss grows into a popular leisure activity in Japan
Japan Times -- Aug 06
As Kaori Shibo bends her head down and peers at a log through a magnifying glass, she emits a delighted gasp. The object of her adoration? Moss.

With her face almost close enough to kiss the fallen tree, she shouts out, “Oh, this baby’s sporophyte is breaking out! I’ve never seen this before.” Shibo, 41, and around 20 other people on the same hike in a forest in northern Yatsugatake, Nagano Prefecture, are part of a growing community in Japan obsessed with plants known as bryophytes, which comprises moss, liverworts and hornworts.

“When you stare at a tiny piece of green, you find a vast world expanding from there,” explains fellow enthusiast Masami Miyazaki, 42. “It’s like a micro universe.”

The group is exploring the forest just days into Japan’s rainy season, perfect weather for an expedition to spot some of the many bryophytes and lichens that coat the forest’s trees and rocks.

According Masanobu Higuchi, Japan’s leading bryology expert and the hike’s leader, more than 500 varieties can be observed in the Yatsugatake Mountain Range alone. The area his group is trekking through, which surrounds Shirakoma Lake and spreads across the northern Yatsugatake Mountain Range, has become a popular spot for micro-plant enthusiasts.

“I am infatuated by moss not just because of their pretty shapes and colors,” Shibo says. “I am fascinated by the fact that you can find them anywhere around you but never realize how magnificent they are.”

In recent years, moss enthusiasts have increased in number in Japan, with tour hikes catering to those eager to spot different varieties, and shops selling the plants in terrariums to display in homes. The Northern Yatsugatake Moss Association began organizing its moss viewing hikes in 2011, and attracted around 40 people over that year. This year, demand outstripped the number of spots available with 140 people obtaining tickets to the association’s hikes, which are held each month from May until October.

News source: Japan Times
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