Mount Ibuki – Hyakumeizan #9

Mount Ibuki – Hyakumeizan #9

This morning, I braved the rain in Nagahama (just north of Kyoto) to attempt a climb of my ninth hyakumeizan, Ibukiyama (Mount Ibuki: 伊吹山). At 1,377 meters, Ibukiyama is the highest mountain in Shiga Prefecture, and one of four hyakumeizan in the Kanto region. The climb started inauspiciously – with pouring rain – and my first sight of the mountain towering high above the surrounding plain gave me more than a little pause. Even so, I was already on the bus to the trailhead, and my research suggested the mountain would not be too difficult to climb in the rain.

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The Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine

The Hydrangea Festival at Hakusan Shrine

As I wait for the snow to melt on the hyakumeizan peaks, I’m also visiting sites of interest and festivals (matsuri) taking place around Japan. Flowers are a particularly important part of Japanese culture, and Bunkyo City, in Tokyo, celebrates five major flower festivals every year. Last weekend (June 9-10) was the Ajisai (Hydrangea) matsuri, celebrating the spectacular hydrangeas that bloom in Tokyo–and across Japan–each June.

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Zao, Kumano, Jizo, and the Sixth of the Hundred Summits

Zao, Kumano, Jizo, and the Sixth of the Hundred Summits

On Tuesday, I completed my sixth hyakumeizan – 1,841-meter Mt. Zaō in Yamagata Prefecture. As a complex volcano, Zaō-san has many peaks, the highest of which is actually Kumano-dake (hence the name on the summit sign in the photo). As the most active volcano in the Tohoku region of northern Honshu, Zao continually emits volcanic gases (and the summit smells of sulfur).

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Snow on Mount Hachimantai (Hyakumeizan #5)

Snow on Mount Hachimantai (Hyakumeizan #5)

On Monday afternoon (Japan time), I climbed my fifth hyakumeizan — Mount Hachimantai, in Iwate Prefecture. The mountain sits in Towada-Hachimantai National Park, about 2 hours by bus from Morioka City. For reasons I’ll discuss in more detail in my book, 100 SUMMITS (Prometheus Books, 2020), I opted to ride the bus to the “Hachimantai Summit” visitor center, which sits only about a 45 minute hike from the mountain’s actual summit.

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Climbing Mount Hakkoda – And Conquering Fear

Climbing Mount Hakkoda – And Conquering Fear

Today’s climb of Mount Hakkoda–a volcanic range located in Aomori Prefecture, just south of Aomori City–actually involved three summits: Akake-dake, Ido-dake, and finally Ōdake (the latter being the highest peak in the Hakkoda volcano group). If you’re counting, that means I actually bagged three summits today, though for hyakumeizan purposes only Ōdake counts–and it counts as one.

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Climbing Mt. Iwaki

Climbing Mt. Iwaki

Today, I climbed Mt. Iwaki in Aomori Prefecture – my first Tohoku hyakumeizan. Tohoku is the northernmost part of Japan’s largest island, Honshu – the same island where Tokyo and Kyoto are located, but many hours’ travel to the north, via shinkansen (bullet train). It took me almost 7 hours to travel from Tokyo to Hirosaki, the closest town to Mt. Iwaki – four hours on a high-speed shinkansen, and another 2:45 on a local train. These mountains are spread all across Japan, which means I get to travel the entire length of the country while I’m climbing.

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To the Summit of Daibosatsu!

To the Summit of Daibosatsu!

With apologies for the tardy post (this week got away from me), the hyakumeizan total now stands at two! Only 98 more to go . . . Last Sunday I took a two and a half hour train ride from Tokyo to Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, in Yamanashi Prefecture, to attempt an ascent of 2,057-meter Daibosatsu. Although Kyūya Fukada’s One Hundred Mountains of Japan describes the shorter, 40-minute ascent from a nearby pass (the location of the highest bus stop where hikers can depart), I started from the mouth of the trail, more than a thousand meters lower on the mountain.

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Akagi Jinja – Lake Onuma’s Guardian Shrine

Akagi Jinja – Lake Onuma’s Guardian Shrine

Akagi Jinja (shrine) sits on the shore of Lake Onuma, not far from the trailhead that leads to the peaks of nearby Mt. Akagi. (The mountain, a stratovolcano, has numerous summits – three of which I summited last weekend as part of my hyakumeizan climb.) The shrine dates to at least the 14th century, and has subsidiary shrines across Japan.

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…And Back Again – The Descent From Mount Akagi

…And Back Again – The Descent From Mount Akagi

On Monday, I shared some photos and highlights from my 100 Summits climb of Mount Akagi (Akagi-yama) in Gunma Prefecture. Today, I’m sharing the trip back down. Smart mountaineers all know that “the summit is only halfway there” – to climb a mountain successfully, you also need to descend from the summit safely. Since I left the summit at 12:50pm, and wanted to catch the 16:00 (4pm) bus to Maebashi, I decided to hike Akagi as a loop and descend via the shorter trail that leads directly down from the summit to the shore of Lake Ono.

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To the Summit of Mt. Akagi!

To the Summit of Mt. Akagi!

Yesterday (May 20, 2018) I climbed my first hyakumeizan peak – Mt. Akagi, in Gunma Prefecture. While many of the details will have to wait for the book (100 SUMMITS is under contract with Prometheus Books, for release in 2020) I’ll be sharing photo essays about my climbs, and some fun details about the mountains, here on the blog in the months to come.

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