The “Fuji” of Gunma Prefecture

The “Fuji” of Gunma Prefecture

Mt. Fuji’s iconic shape is so beloved in Japan that other stratovolcanoes that share the “classic cone” configuration are often nicknamed in homage to the famous peak. Mt. Haruna rises 1,390 meters high, towering over the shores of Lake Haruna (Harunako) in Gunma Prefecture, about 4 hours from Tokyo. (A little less than 3 hours by shinkansen and local train from Tokyo station, followed by a 90-minute bus ride from Takasaki Station to Harunako) At first glance, if you didn’t know what you were looking at, you might even mistake Harunafuji for the real thing. In addition to its Fuji

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New Year Fireworks at Fuji Five Lakes

New Year Fireworks at Fuji Five Lakes

I tend to plan my travel fairly thoroughly, but always leave enough flexibility in my plans to enjoy the unexpected opportunities that happen frequently here in Japan. Last week, I traveled to the Fuji Five Lakes region, near Mt. Fuji, to continue my climbs for the 100 Summits project. While on the train to Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi), I saw a flyer advertising New Year fireworks–a common celebratory event here in Japan. To my surprise, the flyer said the final night of fireworks was that very night–and since my ryokan (traditional inn) was located near the lake, I hoped I would be able to

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A Visit to Solamachi Skytree Christmas Market

A Visit to Solamachi Skytree Christmas Market

Tokyo has a variety of holiday-themed options, from spectacular illuminations to Bavarian Christmas markets. One of my favorites takes place throughout the month of December in the fourth floor courtyard at Solamachi Skytree Center (Access: Hanzomon or Asakusa line to Oshiage Station, and exit to Skytree Center). I’m spending the next few weeks in Tokyo, hoping my ankle heals from the recent sprain-or-tendonitis that struck shortly before my 100-km trek along the Kumano Kodo (more on that in the weeks to come) – but it’s a good time to heal. You see, although most Japanese people practice Shintō, Buddhism, or both, Japan loves

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Almost-Halfway 100 Summits Update!

Almost-Halfway 100 Summits Update!

I’ve been climbing my way through the autumn, and simultaneously working on the next Hiro Hattori mystery (tentatively titled Ghost of the Bamboo Grove), and it occurred to me that I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging updates. Whoops . . . The summit count currently stands at 43 – a respectable almost-halfway total, though the coming snow will present some challenges moving forward.

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Torikabuto and Takanosu

Torikabuto and Takanosu

Yesterday saw the addition of three more peaks to my #100Summits list, thanks to a traverse of two peaks and a gondola-assisted climb of a third in the Hakone area. While I’ll give more details about the later two climbs in the weeks to come, today I’m sharing a little about the first, which also involved research for my next Hiro Hattori mystery (the first one to involve a ghost).

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Mt. Tomuraushi – and Pikachu!

Mt. Tomuraushi – and Pikachu!

My third and longest climb in Hokkaido was the first on my 100 Summits quest that I almost failed to complete. But it wasn’t pain or exhaustion that almost cost me the summit. On Tomuraushi, as always, time proved my worst enemy. My guide Takuto and I began our hike at 7:40 am at the trailhead near Tomuraushi Onsen, where we’d spent the night. If you read the sign, you’ll notice the peak lies 9.2km from the trailhead – and they’re not an easy nine kilometers, either. The hike begins with a lovely walk through pristine forest. It has some

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