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Archive for October, 2018

The Suzuka mountains straddle the border of Shiga and Mie Prefectures in the eastern part of the Kii Peninsula. A hiking path runs along the entire ridge, stretching nearly 90km across some surprisingly rugged terrain. Mt. Nyūdō sits just off the main ridge roughly halfway along the serrated Suzuka spine.

On clear days, Mt. Fuji is clearly visible across the eastern horizon, but unfortunately the factories lining the Suzuka basin often spew billowing clouds of smog, blanketing the region in a thick cake of haze.

Mt. Nyūdō is included as part of the Suzuka 7, a collection of seven mountains that attract scores of enthusiasts from neighboring Nagoya city looking to climb all of the peaks for good luck. Because of this, Nyūdō proves popular with hikers throughout the year, especially in the early spring when the Japanese andromeda, or asebi, flowers are in bloom. The white swatch of asebi flowers is so impressive that they were designated a living natural monument by the Japanese government back in 1962.

A sprawling field of bamboo grass lines the summit plateau, guiding hikers to the shrine torii gate directly on the summit. This gate is considered the entrance to the upper precinct of Tsubaki Ōkami Yashiro shrine, a sacred Shintō space located at the foot of the mountain. Every spring and autumn, a festival is held on the grounds, with scores of worshipers scaling the northern face of the peak to a cave just below the summit that houses the deity.

Avoiding the crowds, we opt for a late autumn ascent on the western flank under clear skies and brisk winds. The summit affords outstanding panoramic views and plenty of impressive backdrops for photos. The calendar girl is no other than alpine superstar Dewi, who is well on her way to becoming the first Indonesian female to climb the Kansai Hyakumeizan.

 

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There has already been a lot said about Mt. Chokai, the symmetrical volcano floating high above the sprawling rice fields of Sakata city in northern Yamagata Prefecture. Half of the peak itself sits in neighboring Akita Prefecture, with several routes from each side of the mountain.

The most popular route is from the west, along a well-marked path that doubles as a sacred route for devout Dewa pilgrims, who climb to the summit shrine to give offerings and catch the first rays of the rising sun.

 

My second visit to one of Tohoku’s highest peaks was also from the main route. Miguel and I planned on overnighting at the emergency hut at the trailhead but the hut was closed for renovations, despite the fact that it was peak hiking season.

This time around we opted to skip the summit in favor of a walk on the lower slopes to an idyllic volcanic lake. The photo featured in the calendar was on the descent from that short climb. The weather turned before we could reach the summit plateau so we retreated back to the trailhead and onward to Mt. Haguro.

Bus service is extremely limited and it’s only a matter of time before it will be abolished entirely. Such is the trend in this car-addicted country, a place where Toyota hold considerable power over the populace.

A third trip is certainly in the works, and this time I hope to approach from a lesser-known route to the east. That’s the beauty of a mountain of Chokai’s stature, with multiple approaches all providing their own hidden treasures.

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