One day in June, a group of 17 people, mostly women wearing colorful outfits, got together at a scenic lakeside area at the foot of Mount Kita-Yatsugatake in Nagano Prefecture.

Instead of using binoculars to look at the panorama around them, these people were gazing downward with the aid of a loupe, sometimes crawling around on their hands and knees. They were captivated by the colonies of moss growing in the area, known as a "green carpet."

The key to moss viewing is lowering the body to the same level as the mosses, said Takeshi Ueno, a 44-year-old plant ecology expert at Tsuru University who was leading this moss observation expedition near Lake Shirakoma.