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A Meizan Fit For Offspring

If you could name your newborn after one of Japan’s Hyakumeizan, which one would you choose? Tsurugi would be an obvious choice for a male, but just wouldn’t be suitable for a daughter. Such is the dilemma of meizanologists who are fascinated with mountain climbing and nature.

Fuji, Hotaka, and Ena could be considered lovely names for Japanese children, but just don’t fit kids born from multi-national parents. But wait…….there is indeed one of the Meizan that does indeed sound foreign, especially when the first two syllables are abbreviated. And low and behold, it is right here in Kansai.

So I present to you, the latest addition to the Tozan Tales family. You may call her by her Japanese name, or the fitting abbreviation ‘Eve’

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A New Year

Since the year of the Sheep is now in full swing, I’d like to take a little time to reflect over the past year as well as touch on a few goals for the upcoming year.

As you may remember, the beginning of 2014 had me sitting at mountain #70 of the Kansai 100 quest. I had made it a goal to reach #90 by the end of 2014 and almost got there. The first half of the year I was struggling to climb mountains while still undergoing my treatment for tuberculosis. If you thought hiking in the winter was taxing, imagine doing it while pumped full of antibiotics. Still, I persevered and managed to knock off 5 snow-capped peaks during the winter. It was a much better start than 2013, which found me stranded in a blizzard with mild frostbite. I took a much more conservative approach, only hitting mountains which has prior foot traffic to allow for no guesses when it came to route finding. The GPS also helped in the decision making when things were not so clear.

Once the antibiotics were finished, I slowly returned to normal and found a bit of an extra kick in my step, checking 10 peaks off the list before summer had ended. From there, the peaks became further and further isolated from Osaka, making planning a bit trickier, but managed my 15th peak (and #85 overall) by the beginning of September. I had only 5 more mountains before my goal was met, but nothing left on the list was possible without an overnight stay or relying on someone with an automobile. Instead, I knocked a few peaks off of the Kinki 100 list just for good measure. I doubt that I’ll finish the Kinki Hyakumeizan, but some of the mountains on the list looked interesting and not too difficult to access, so I took the plunge.

On October 19th, I reached peak #87 on the list, where things just kind of stopped. It was as if I was listening to a Dead C record on a locked groove and I just couldn’t move forward. Plans were made for mountain #88 but were thwarted numerous times by the weather. Finally, a clear weather window presented itself but I had come down with pneumonia and it was game over for 2014.

So now I sit at peak #87 and only 3 mountains left before I hit the magic #90, but I have loftier goals for 2015. For not only do I plan on finishing the Kansai 100, I plan on completing the Japan’s Highest Prefectural Peaks (the highest mountain in each of Japan’s 47 Prefectures). Luckily I’m already at mountain #43, so I only have the prefectures of Ibaraki, Saitama, Fukui, and Niigata left on the list, so it should be relatively easy to finish the remaining four. The 13 remaining Kansai mountains will be the most difficult, but I’ll only need to average around one mountain a month, so it should be smooth sailing. The only thing that could add fuel to my mountain fire are the responsibilities that come with becoming the caretaker of fire-breathing, pellet-dropping little monster. With the due date set for Valentine’s Day, I’ve got only a very small climbing window before being called into action.

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Conspiracy theory

The recent spike in volcanic activity throughout Japan could be attributable to a surprising culprit. In order to better understand these increased occurrences and their possible connections, further investigation is necessary.

The first sign of a seismic upheaval started earlier this year, when tremor activity increased around the active volcano Kusatsu-Shirane in central Gunma Prefecture. The activity centered around Okama lake, a blue-green crater lake of immense beauty. While volcanic activity on the 2171 meter-high peak is hardly an anomaly, the sudden spike in earthquakes directly under the mountain mass prompted the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) to raise the alert level, which prohibits visitors from encroaching within a 1 kilometer radius of the summit. The alert became effective on March 18, 2014 and has yet to be lifted.

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The second round of thermal chaos occurred just 6 months later and rather unexpectedly at that,  catching even veteran volcanologists asleep at the wheel. Just before noon on a cloudless and stunningly beautiful morning on Saturday, September 27, Mt. Ontake, a 3000 meter-high volcano straddling the Nagano-Gifu border, suddenly sprang to life, sending hikers scurrying for shelter and taking the lives of over 50 people. While steam explosions are almost impossible to pin down, there is now evidence that there was a subtle warning beforehand. Reports from NHK indicate that geologists did observe a spike in tremors on the mountain just two weeks prior to the catastrophic eruption, but the alert level was not raised to level 2. This has prompted families of victims to blame JMA for failing to adequately inform visitors to the mountain of the increased seismic activity. Such finger pointing will not change the outcome of the events, but it will almost surely cause the JMA to implement a more conservative approach to their warning systems.

Courtesy NHK

Courtesy NHK

As if the first two signs weren’t enough evidence, in late September, increased seismic activity had been detected at the Okama crater lake at Mt. Zao, sending waves of fear through the Tohoku region that the picturesque mountain were about to awaken from its long slumber. Just yesterday, on the 9th of October, researchers found that the emerald green waters of the lake had begun to turn a milky white, a possible predilection of steamier things to come. While the JMA has yet to raise the alert level, one has to hope that geologists are on high alert to even sudden changes to the frequency and depth of the tremors.

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Three significant volcanic events in a time span of only 8 months begs the question: Is there a connection between them? Geographically speaking, the verdict is a resounding not guilty, since all three mountains sit in different geographical regions, separated by kilometers of tall mountain ranges and narrow valleys. One might make the argument that Okama could be the culprit, since both Kusatsu-shirane and Zao share the same nomenclature for their scenic lakes. While Ontake is home to a duo of colorful lakes, it does not make use of the same label. Perhaps there’s an obscure mathematical connection. If we subtract the height of Mt. Fuji by the height of Mt. Ontake and double that figure, we come to the number 2127, which is only 44 less than the height of Kusatsu-shirane. See the connection? Dismissive.

One closer look at each volcano, however, reveals some striking similarities. Kusatsu-shirane and Zao both have parking lots alarmingly close to their perspective crater lakes. In fact, both peaks require a walk of less than five minutes to reach the viewpoints of their ponds. Both mountains have a resthouse serving food and both volcanoes are teeming with tourists during the busy summer months. What about Ontake? The peak is inaccessible by automobile and requires a hike of several hours to reach the crater lakes, so that rules out the connection. Yet, there is commonality between all three mountains in the form of a gondola system that whisks visitors up the steep slopes. In fact, all three mountains have renowned, world-class ski resorts, so are the gondola companies to blame for the volcanic awakenings? Surely the foundations of the concrete foundations do not go down deep enough to cause any shifts in magma movements, but perhaps the culprit lies in something much more sociological.

Could this increase in volcanic instability be caused by Mother Nature herself, exacting revenge on the developers for littering her slopes with concrete and corrugated metal? Mother nature could not be reached for comment, but sources tell us that just after the New Year’s holiday she was in, for lack of a better term, ‘a thoroughly pissed-off mood.’ Perhaps the government’s plan to build a railway on the slopes of Japan’s most sacred peak was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The proposed railway is targeted for completion in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The railway could come in conjunction with a gondola system that would ferry visitors directly to the summit of the Japan’s tallest peak. See the connection?

The latest theory is that Mother Nature lit a smoke signal at Kusatsu-shirane, but officials didn’t take the hint, so she took a more direct approach by sending ash spewing at Ontake during the height of the autumn viewing season. The government is still on track to start construction of the railway, so another warning was ushered on Mt. Zao. Could this all be leading up to a final display of her fury, with a simultaneous eruptions of both Mt. Norikura and Mt. Fuji? Time will surely tell.

 

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The Gathering III

Every year I organize a gathering of mountaineers and hiking enthusiasts from my other site. The last two events were held in Kamikochi and a report of those trips can be found here and here. Miguel and I once again put our collective heads together over a cup of coffee at Yamagata station. While Kamikochi is a very nice location, I wanted to try a different place in hopes of keeping things fresh. The only problem with Kamikochi is that it is a destination in and of itself, which means that people attending the gathering would likely have been in the area regardless of whether the event was being held or not. Holding it at a different venue meant that people would actually have to go out of their way specifically to attend, which might help limit the number of participants. As the Facebook group continues to grow (surpassing 1500 members), we could be in serious trouble if even half that number decided to join in the event. Once the caffeine kicked in we brainstormed locations until agreeing on both a location and date: Togakushi Kogen in mid-September.

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I set out the day before the event on an early morning Limited Express train that barreled through the Kiso valley en route to Nagano city. The cloudless sky and incredible visibility meant that the Kita Alps escorted me through the urban sprawl of Matsumoto to the highlands of Hijiri Kogen, teeming with farmers trying to finish up the rice harvest before the onset of typhoon season. At the crest of the gentle rise the train glides past Obasute station to the secluded valley in which the Olympic host is so securely nestled. Legend has it that in feudal times of strife and famine, families used to abandon their infirmed elderly on the slopes of this mountain. Hard to fathom that an area with a tarnished past could be home to such breathtaking vistas.

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At Nagano station, I meandered through a giant maze of construction scaffolding on the way to bus stop number seven, where a bus shuttled me to Togakushi campground shortly past four in the afternoon. The cloud had already swallowed the surrounding mountains while I explored the vast grasslands of the camping area in search of a suitable place to set up base camp. Nestled at the end of the grounds near the bungalows sat a semi-secluded area with a surprisingly nice kitchen area and plenty of room for guests. Being an auto campground, I wanted to reserve an area where cars wouldn’t be able to park, since it detracts from the nature aspect of our outdoor experience. Fortunately it was an eerily quiet Friday evening, with only a handful of other campers dotted across the sprawling park. I knew that would all change the following day.

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The mountain drifted in and out of foggy consciousness as dusk set in. I cooked up a two-course meal of Vietnamese pho and carbonara pasta as the evening glow fizzled out. Tucking into my grub, I spotted two pairs of eyes glowing at the edge of my camp. Mistaking it for a feral cat, I turned on the headlamp, where, to my great surprise, a juvenile anagram (Japanese badger) waddled lazily into my front yard in search of nourishment. I watched for several minutes as the animal eventually found the bed of an adjacent stream more worthy of its attention. I’ve come across plenty of tanuki and several foxes, but badgers were a first.

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I hit the hay at the criminal hour of 8pm, hoping to somehow make it through the long night with at least a few hours of shut-eye. Between the barking of deer, the caws of the crows, and the screeches from wild owl, it was a fitful one, but once the first glows of light wafted into the tent at 5 in the morning, I felt somewhat refreshed. A hearty breakfast of leftover bread and oatmeal was prepared while I stared up at the wall of cloud still clinging heavily to the surrounding mountains. I had the option of an easier ascent up Mt. Iizuna, or the 5-star clambering up the cliffs of Togakushi. Fortunately the decision was made much easier when the first text message arrived just before 5:30. Paul and Rie were on the way and wanted to know which peak I had in mind for the morning. Togakushi had always been high on my radar, and having unexpected companionship sealed the deal.

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They arrived just as I was polishing off the grub and set up their tents in the area adjacent to my shelter. We were cautious not to leave too much space lest a car camper should intrude. As we were catching up and discussing the day’s plans, Yuta from Osaka showed up with a companion. They were planning to climb Mt. Takazuma and possibly Togakushi on the return if time permitted. It was barely past 6 in the morning and we already had a clan.

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The three of us set off on the climb (detailed in a forthcoming post) and made it back safely sometime before 2pm. Rie really wanted a hot spring bath, while Paul and I were absolutely famished. When given the choice between a meal and a bath, I always let the stomach do the talking, so we settled into one of the outdoor seats at Cafe Fleurir, an amazing place run by a husband-and-wife team. We split a pizza while each ordering a bowl of yaki curry, which is cooked in a similar way to gratin but there’s curry and rice in the ceramic cooking pot. The owner came out with his telescope and showed us the knife-edge ridge that got our hearts pumping earlier in the day. We looked for hikers but couldn’t find any at such a late hour in the day.

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After lunch, we literally crawled back into camp, our stomachs about to burst from the caloric overload. Naresh and family were already settled into their cabin, so after a quick change of clothes we all got to work preparing the meal before we lost the light of the sun. The first stop was the campground registration area, where we rented cooking pots and bought wood for the campfire. The next step was firing up the grill, and our resident pyrotechnician Yuta went right to work. Rie assisted in making guacamole as Naresh’s talented wife Seema made the vegetarian taco fillings. Of course, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so Paul chimed in with our first-ever Hiking in Japan slack line.

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After slacking, it was time to get down to business and make tacos. The grill was fired up, and Naresh’s children Prakhar and Pranita (and family friend Shrimal) made sure our tortillas were grilled to perfection. Toshi strolled into camp next, fresh from his ascent of Mt. Togakushi. We actually passed by him on the ridge, as he was doing the hike in reverse, something he did not recommend. The next member to join the party was David, who had just come down from Mt. Iizuna. Just before we were about to tuck into dinner, a car pulled up and a young man asked if this was the Hiking in Japan event. Kohei from Shizuoka has joined the celebration. He was new to Hiking in Japan but we welcomed him like family, and his fried chicken and beer were most welcome.

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As if things could not get any better, just as we were losing the last light of the day, a black sport-utility vehicle pulled into camp, a car which I definitely recognized from a hike in Hokkaido last month. It was Grace the Yamaholic making a cameo appearance. She could not stay for the camp event as she had plans to climb Yakeyama the following day, but she had come straight from the top of Mt. Kurohime to join us for a short time. Of course she brought some of her famous carrot cake with chocolate frosting.

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There was plenty of food to go around for all of us, and as the temperature dropped we all huddled around the glowing campfire for stories and conversation. Sometime during the evening, Paul, Kohei, Yuta and I decided to wander north of the campsite through the cow pastures in search of firewood. We eventually found some tree branches and brought them back to camp. On the way back, we spotted a man with a large tripod and high-quality camera taking night shots. It turned out to be Naresh’s son Prakhar, whose passion for photography and good music had us all impressed.

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Naresh prepared dessert, which consisted of David’s Belgian chocolate along with an improvised take on S’mores: we’d forgotten to get graham crackers so substituted Saltines in their place.  A sweet and salty version of America’s favorite campground snack if you will. They did the trick but next year we’re definitely not going to forget the graham crackers.

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The next day dawned clear, and I roused Paul out of bed so we could capture the first rays of the day glowing off of Mt. Togakushi. It was a decision neither of us would regret. After, Kohei, Rie, Yuta, Paul, and I drove to Kagami ike (mirror pond) to capture the reflection of Mt. Togakushi in the still waters.

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Back at camp, David had already departed on his early morning ascent of Mt. Takazuma (and Togakushi as well), so we didn’t get to say goodbye to him. We ate leftover tacos for breakfast, which had us absolutely stuffed. Toshi headed back to Matsumoto after he took an early morning stroll while Naresh and his family headed out on a day hike to the shrine and mirror pond. Yuta and Kohei set off for Mt. Togakushi, so soon it was just Rie, Paul, and I packing up the last remnants of camp. We left a little thank-you note and gift for Naresh to thank him for all of the hard work he put into the event.

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Rie drove Paul and I back to Nagoya, where we were already thinking about Gathering #4 next year, which we all agreed should be held at Togakushi again. There are still several peaks in the area neither of us had climbed, so any excuse to get back to one of Nagano’s best hiking areas is most welcome.

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There were several people whose presence was dearly missed. Co-organizers Viviana and Miguel both ended up getting sick and could not attend. Kaoru and Michal both had dates with their lovers (oops, I mean mountains!), and Tomomi was in China on a business trip. And if there’s anyone else i neglected to mention then my sincerest apologies. The Ontake eruption and the start of a busy semester have both preoccupied my thoughts.

 

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When I received word of my mother’s cancer diagnosis earlier this morning, I should have just cut my losses and rolled back over to sleep.

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Instead, after a quick breakfast of leftovers and a last minute confirmation of the weather radar, I boarded a train bound for the outskirts of Kyoto city for another peak on the Kansai 100. Knock this one out and I only had to focus my attention on the unscaled summits in the remaining prefectures of Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama.  Overcast skies stretched out over the stagnant rice fields of Kameoka city. Scores of tourists lined up on an adjacent platform to board the Sagano Torokko that meanders around the banks of the Hozu river en route to Arashiyama. On the near bank of said river, groups of students sporting life vests queued for space in the rubber rafts that offer an endorphin-laced alternative to the clickity-clack of the rails. My train continued north, hugging the bank of a smaller tributary before reaching the sleepy village of Wachi, one of the entry points for the thatched hamlet of Miyama-cho that lies a dozen kilometers due east. I disembarked, passing through the lone ticket gate in search of nourishment. It didn’t take long, as the local Fureai center housed in the train station building offered simple meals and a place to kill time before the 12:15pm bus. I took a table in the center of the multi-purpose facility, among rows of secondhand clothing and a makeshift display of local produce and convenience store snacks of dubious quality. Along the back wall a collection of nondescript photographs depicting rural agricultural life brought a sense of importance to an otherwise forgettable place. Outside, colorful banners hung gallantly in the stifling air. “Did you come here for the festival?”, quipped an bright-eyed customer from the counter, obviously eager to share his excitement for what was probably the highlight of the year for the denizens of Wachi. “Actually, I came to climb a mountain,” I replied, curling my lower lip ever so slightly in an attempt to show my disappointment for skipping their festive hootenanny.

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As I tucked into my tepid, rubbery udon noodles, the weather outside took a sudden and drastic turn for the worse. Sheets of rain pelted the pavement outside as a rumbling rose from an unknown source in the distance. “Oh, they must be setting up for the festival”, I silently muttered to myself, hoping that optimism would prevail. In the minutes leading up to the bus departure time the lightning drew alarmingly close, hitting the peak just opposite the station and sending a loud crackle that sent the feral cats scrambling for shelter. 12:15 came and went with no sign of the bus. Perhaps it wasn’t running because of the festival? I checked the train times and found to my great relief that a coach was departing for Kyoto at 12:30. Perhaps I’d have better luck further south.

The train rolled through the torrent, stopping to pick up drenched passengers en route to the cultural center of Japan. My first thought was to alight at Hozukyo station and head up Mt. Atago, but I quickly abandoned that option upon viewing the small lake that had settled upon the train platform. Maybe this was a good time to cut my losses and head back to Osaka to catch up on lost sleep? At Kyoto station, I changed platforms only to find that my train was running 85 minutes behind schedule. Fortunately there are two other train lines that could take me home, so I bade farewell to JR and tried my luck on the subway. Now that I was officially in Kyoto, it would have been a waste to head straight back without visiting a few of my regular haunts, so at Marutamachi station, I headed above ground, cutting a bee line through the Imperial Palace grounds before strolling along an unusually quiet Imadegawa street. At Demachiyanagi, I could have easily boarded an Osaka-bound train, but as timing would have it, I still had 10 minutes to spare if I wanted to partake of Falafel Garden’s scrumptious lunch menu. I took a table upstairs, between a trio of gossiping housewives and a baker’s dozen of young, single, and very attractive women assembled together for what appeared to be some kind of reunion. The estrogen wafting through the air was palpable, as I did everything I could to subdue my sinister thoughts. The falafel really hit the spot and the arabic coffee send a near-lethal injection of caffeine through my boiling veins. I needed some fresh air.

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Once on the street, it became apparent that the rain was letting up and the weather was improving. Gazing down Imadegawa street towards the east, the bald scar of Mt. Daimonji stood tall among the mist-lathered hills. In the dreary haze, the Chinese character for Dai that sits in the open field had somehow transformed itself into a gigantic maneki-neko, beckoning me to draw closer. This arabic coffee was strong indeed.

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Past rows of snug cafes and quiet boutiques I strolled, skirting the outer edge of the mildew-staining concrete fortress of Kyoto University before chasing the tail end of the Tetsugaku no Michi which escorted me to the gates of Ginkakuji. I turned left, tracing the outline of the Silver Pavilion’s barbed-wire gate as it gave way to a dilapidated forest road that rose to the upper terminus of the foothills. From there, a path the width of a 4-lane highway guided me through a deciduous forest shimmering in the late afternoon dew. As I drew closer to the summit, the skies reprised their role as plot foiler as the track quickly filled with runoff. By the time I reached the giant beckoning cat I was wetter than a dish rag, but quickly found solace under a covered pavilion housing the local Buddhist deity. Clouds rolled below me like tumbleweed in a dry desert and I tried to make out the landmarks of Kyoto city directly below. Sweat flowed from all pores in the immense humidity that makes a summer stroll in the ancient capital so notorious. I looked out over the city, lost in a sort of deep, focused reverie that can only be brought on by the heavy news of life’s mortality.

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After gathering my courage and strength, I followed the darkened ash of the concrete pylons to the tree line and climbed through thick mist to the high point of Mt. Daimonji. The only indication that I was on the true summit was a small hand-painted signboard: in fair weather the unobstructed views of Yamashina are the tell-tale indication. The rain continued in droves as I retreated back into the foothills, popping back out into the shuttered streets sometime after 6pm. The rain had not only driven the tourists away, but had given the shopkeepers a timely excuse to end their workday early. I, too, was in search of an end to my workday, and found refuge in the dungeons of Demachiyanagi station, finally boarding that Osaka-bound train that I really should have taken several hours earlier.

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The day wasn’t a total loss, however. Hiking in the rain really is soothing and a bit like being baptized: you reaffirm your faith in humanity while paying homage to the power of mother nature. Even though Mt. Chōrō has eluded capture, it provides an opportunity for more careful planning and perhaps a word with the bus company so that future visits are not wasted.

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The North Island

As another summer of heat and humidity descends upon the main island, I once again seek refuge in the upper corners of the country.

In addition to knocking off a few peaks, I promised to schedule in a couple of immobile days in an effort to get some writing and editing projects off the back burner and into the oven. The stationary front hovering over the Tohoku area is offering more than enough excuses to substitute the trekking pole for the quill and paper.

In the meantime, I offer a taste of what attracts me to Ezo year after year:

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Hyakumeipan

Back in October, I found myself on the losing end of a battle with a respiratory ailment. The culprit turned out to be none other than the notorious mycobacterium tuberculosis. The verdict was guilty and I was sentenced to seven weeks of isolation in a TB ward here in Osaka. With so much free time on my hands and an abundance of white bread that made an unwelcome appearance on my breakfast plate, I set out to render all of Japan’s venerable Hyakumeizan in bleached flour form. I called my new invention the Hyakumeipan: the profile of all of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountain sculpted out of my morning toast.

While I did not get to complete all of the mountains, my daily posts were a hit with both active and closet mountaineers alike. Below you’ll find some of the highlights from my time spent in hospital dreaming of Japan’s esteemed peaks:

Snow-capped Fuji

Snow-capped Fuji

Mt. Yufu

Mt. Yufu

Mt. Kuro

Mt. Kuro

Tsurugidake

Tsurugidake

Mt. Rishiri

Mt. Rishiri

Utsukushi-ga-hara

Utsukushi-ga-hara

Sakurajima

Sakurajima

Mt. Ibuki

Mt. Ibuki

Mt. Meakan & Akan-fuji

Mt. Meakan & Akan-fuji

Mt. Yari

Mt. Yari

Fuji above the clouds

Fuji above the clouds

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Conquering the fear

When you have a winter mountaineering accident and come to terms with your own mortality, it’s a humbling and frightening experience. As much as I learned from last winter’s debacle, I knew the that the best way to overcome my fear of winter mountaineering was to get back up on that white horse and face the music.

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This winter I have something in my arsenal that I failed to carry with me the previous year: a GPS. This is by far the single most important equipment I have bought and it has saved me at least a half a dozen times when I encountered poorly-signposted terrain. I carry this thing with me on every outing and have learned how to utilize it to my advantage.

The other thing that I carry with me is knowledge of conditions. In the days before a planned outing, I scour the archives of Yamareco in search of recent trip reports. Web cams have also kept me abreast of current snow depths and I have also been wiser in my choice of mountains. This year I decided to only go for peaks that others have already visited.

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With the recent winter hiking boom, it means mountains that would usually never see any traffic are suddenly having visitors in the ‘off season’. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t needed to blaze my own trail.

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The other thing I rely on is companionship. I decided to avoid hiking alone during the snow season. It only makes sense to have a friend along to help in the decision-making and to share in the memories.

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Next winter I will still approach snow-capped peaks with the same conservative philosophy: there’s no point in heading head-first into an alpine blizzard. I have winter ascents of both Mt. Asama and Mt. Tateshina under my belt, and that’s enough to keep me satisfied for a lifetime. I don’t need eternal glory.

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What I do need, however, is a supportive life partner that continues to support my endeavors. Kanako is much more at ease when I err on the side of safety.

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Step Outside

Czech-born, Osaka-based alpinist Michal Vojta is a relative newcomer to Japan’s volatile mountaineering scene, but he’s already making a name for himself through his awe-inspiring videos and appetizing blog.

His latest creation is a video summarizing his feats from 2013, and provides an excellent introduction to the wonderful scenery of Japan’s backcountry for those who have not had the opportunity to visit yet. May this provide some inspiration to ‘step outside’ your usual comfort zone and explore a new peak.

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The Northern Island – A break

It’s been a while since I last posted. I don’t really have any excuses except for the unbearable humidity of summer. I’ve come to Hokkaido to clear my head and hopefully get some more writing done. In the meantime, allow yourself to live vicariously through this photo:

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