New Year’s Eve on Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山) (2021)

New Year’s Eve on Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山) (2021)

In December 2018, I established a new, personal New Year’s Eve tradition: I climb a mountain. In Japan (as elsewhere) New Year’s Eve is a time for personal reflection, and I reflect on myself, my year, and the world around me better on a mountain trail than just about anywhere else. The New Year’s Eve climb is also my way of expressing my hope that I’ll keep moving forward (and upward) and keep returning to the mountains in the coming year. This year, I chose to go back to the proverbial “scene of the crime”–the site of my original, 2018

Read more

Hiking Mt. Muine (Sapporo, Hokkaido)[#140]

Hiking Mt. Muine (Sapporo, Hokkaido)[#140]

Last September, I headed up to southern Hokkaido for a week of traveling and mountain climbing with my friend Ido. He knows Hokkaido far better than I do, so when he was extra excited about our climb of Mt. Muine, near Sapporo, I knew to expect something special . . . and as you’ll see, Muine delivered.

Read more

On Crying-Bug Mountain (Nakimushiyama) [No. 144-146]

On Crying-Bug Mountain (Nakimushiyama) [No. 144-146]

On October 24, I headed north to Nikkō, in Tochigi Prefecture, to hike a new-to-me trail that included Nakimushiyama (鳴虫山), an 1,103-meter mountain not far from Nikkō station. The route went up and over three smaller peaks, too, and though much of the trail is surrounded by trees, there were a few spots with beautiful views as well.

Read more

Hiking–and Riding–on Daishiyama at Kinosaki Onsen

Hiking–and Riding–on Daishiyama at Kinosaki Onsen

To celebrate my 50th birthday in July (2021), I headed five hours southwest to Kinosaki Onsen, a famous onsen (volcanic hot spring) town in Hyogo Prefecture. In addition to some of the best hot spring baths in Japan, Kinosaki is famous for the Japanese white storks that live and nest in the area (there’s a preserve within bicycling or walking distance of the onsen town)–and the large white birds also lend their name to the Stork Express, the train that runs between Osaka and Kinosaki Onsen Station. Although the “nature” portion of the hike wouldn’t start until I reached the

Read more

CHAPTER 29: Lake Akan & Meakan

CHAPTER 29: Lake Akan & Meakan

Although I originally planned for Hokkaido Nature Tours to provide me with only transport and guides for the climbs of Hokkaido’s hyakumeizan peaks, the company’s founder, Ido Gabay, constructed my itinerary in a way that not only maximized my chances of success (an important consideration, given my aggressive timeframe) but transformed the necessary “rest and travel days” into opportunities to experience much more of Hokkaido than I dared to hope for.

Read more

CHAPTER 28: Takuto & Tomuraushi

CHAPTER 28: Takuto & Tomuraushi

September 13-14, 2018 This photo supplement tracks the events in CLIMB: Leaving Safe and Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. The captions offer “extra features” that didn’t make it into the book. Due to straining my knee on Tokachidake, I ended up canceling the next day’s scheduled climb of Poroshiri–which meant I absolutely would not be able to complete all 100 Hyakumeizan peaks in a single year. I’d already decided to shift the goalpost, however, and climb 100 historically and culturally important/sacred mountains instead, so the loss meant less to me than it otherwise would have. After a rest day, which

Read more

CHAPTER 27: Tokachidake

CHAPTER 27: Tokachidake

September 11, 2018 This photo supplement tracks the events in CLIMB: Leaving Safe and Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. The captions offer “extra features” that didn’t make it into the book. On the morning of September 11, my Hokkaido Nature Tours guide (who I’d christened the Yamabushi) and I drove approximately 200 kilometers from Sapporo to Daisetsuzan National Park in Central Hokkaido–home to some of the tallest mountains in Hokkaido, including our target for the day: 2,077-meter Tokachidake (Mt. Tokachi). What look like “normal” cumulus clouds in the photo above are actually clouds of smoke and steam rising from the

Read more