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

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Jogasaki Coast Nature Study Course Hike (Part 2 of 2)

(Click to see Part 1 of this two-part virtual hike.) I love the Jogasaki Nature Study Course, both for its beauty and for its easy accessibility from Tokyo. When I’ve gone, it was also significantly less crowded than the Picnical Course, which is a significant point in its favor. After leaving the “hidden cove” (pictured above, and where I left off at the end of Part 1) I headed back to the trail, which followed the shore, alternating between the open coast and the forest that grows almost to the edges of the cliffs. Statues of Jizō, like the one

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Fear and Triumph on Mount Yotei

Fear and Triumph on Mount Yotei

Two weeks ago tonight I arrived in Hokkaido, just two days after a massive earthquake rocked Japan’s northernmost island, killing over two dozen people, knocking out power, and interrupting public transportation. I considered cancelling my trip–which I’d had planned for almost a year–but the guides at Hokkaido Nature Tours said we were good to go . . . and go we went. My first guide, nicknamed Yamabushi (the Japanese word for a mountain ascetic) met me in Sapporo and drove me to Niseko, where we arrived just in time for a couple of afternoon adventures (more on that in a later post)

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Hiking Kōbōyama (Part 2)

Hiking Kōbōyama (Part 2)

Last week’s high-temperature, high-humidity hike in Kanagawa Prefecture took me to the summits of three more peaks: Sangenyama, Gongenyama, and Kōbōyama. (For the story and photos from the first two peaks, click here.) The trail from Gongenyama’s summit down the ridge toward Kōbōyama starts off a highly civilized set of stairs with trees on either side. At the foot of the stairs, a short section of trail leads to a parking lot where people who prefer to drive to the summit, rather than hiking, can leave their vehicles for the 15-minute stair-walk to Gongenyama.

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Koyasan! A Return To The Scene Of The Crime

Tomorrow morning (July 3 in Japan, though it’s only dawning July 2 in the U.S. now) I’m traveling to Koyasan (Mount Koya), in Wakayama Prefecture — one of Japan’s most sacred peaks and the setting for my newest Hiro Hattori mystery, Trial on Mount Koya, which releases July 3. As part of my ongoing project to climb 100 of Japan’s most famous peaks in a single year, I’ll be climbing and hiking on and around Mount Koya on July 3 and 4, to celebrate the release of this new novel.

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Remembering The 47 Rōnin

Remembering The 47 Rōnin

On December 14, 1702, the 47 loyal retainers of Asano Naganori, lord of Ako, avenged his death by killing another samurai, a court official named Kira Yoshinaka–whose behavior caused their lord’s death almost a year before. The event, which became known as the “Ako Incident” (赤穂事件 Akō jiken) remains an influential part of Japanese culture and history. Under the title Chūshingura, the Ako Incident has been fictionalized in numerous Japanese plays, films, and other works of art – and the story has also inspired Western works in multiple genres.

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Tank Tuesday: Feeding Time at Kyoto Aquarium

One of my first stops in Japan last summer was the Kyoto Aquarium. (This might surprise some people, but those who know me also know that I’m a sucker for well-kept aquariums and exotic fish.) Like many large aquariums around the world, Kyoto features an enormous “deep sea” exhibit featuring many species of fish, including sharks and rays, along with sea turtles, corals, and invertebrate life. We arrived at feeding time, and I loved snapping shots of the diver feeding the various species — none of whom seemed frightened by his presence. While I love to watch aquatic species moving around at any time,

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