Mt. Bandai: June 15, 2018
The images in this photo supplement follow the events in Chapter 11 of CLIMB: Leaving Safe and Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. The captions offer “extra features”: information that didn’t make it into the book.
This decorative horse, in the lobby of my hotel near Mt. Bandai, is made in the style of traditional wooden horse carvings that originated in the Tōhōku region. The motif carried through the entire property; the onsen (volcanic hot spring bath) even had small cypress horses floating in it.
My first glimpse of Mt. Bandai, out the window of a taxi en route to my hotel. It looks far smaller, and less intimidating, in this photo.
The morning dawned misty and cool–perfect for a climb. The trailhead has no access by public transportation (at least, it didn’t in 2018) so I had to take a taxi from the hotel to the trailhead parking lot. I’d originally planned to hike back to the hotel, but fortunately the taxi driver offered to return for me later that afternoon . . . as it turned out, it was much too far to walk.
The trail up Bandai-san begins in a lush forest at the foot of the volcano. It was every bit as peaceful and otherworldly as it appears.
The trail continues on flat ground for almost two kilometers before the climb begins. On a misty morning, it’s difficult to tell you’re near a mountain at all until you reach the first incline.
The forest that covers Mt. Bandai is home to a wide variety of animals, from deer and bears to small–and not-so-small–insects. I saw this fellow hanging out on a rock at the side of the trail. Not entirely certain what he is.
I had never smelled a live volcano before my #100Summits year, and although it’s not something I’d use as an air freshener in my home, I came to appreciate, and even enjoy it. (A good thing, too, considering how many days I spent on volcanic slopes and bathing in geothermically-heated baths.) This is the entrance to the crater on Bandai-san, which collapsed on itself during the mountain’s last, violent eruption in 1888.
Mt. Bandai is famous for its views, which on clear days are supposed to be spectacular. I couldn’t get too upset about missing out on the view, however; the mist was atmospheric, too, and kept the trail comfortably cool.
The trail alternated between root-latticed earth and piles of jumbled stone. Although not too punishing, it was steeper than this photo makes it appear.
This tiny Shintō marker sits on the highest point of Mt. Bandai. The small stone directly in front of the Japanese kanji engraved on the monument is the stone I placed in honor of my mother–whose birthday was that day.
This is not the hut where I stopped for soup and souvenirs (that one lay half an hour below the summit). Despite its abandoned-looking state, this hut exists as a place for hikers to take refuge in the event of storms or other situations involving a need for emergency shelter.
At this point, I still had almost no hair under the cap, which I wore both to prevent sunburn and to keep my head from getting cold.
This soup looks simple (and it was), but I doubt I will ever taste another mushroom quite so perfect, or a soup so tasty. Eaten in the mountain hut near the summit of Mt. Bandai.
The Shintō faith recognizes the sacred nature of natural places; it’s not uncommon to find Shintō shrines on mountains and in forests, or to find that other hikers have left offerings at the altar–either natural ones, like this stone, or more traditional offerings like coins and tiny bottles of saké.
I hope you’re enjoying this “behind the scenes” photo-companion to CLIMB! Please click through and join me for Chapter 12: At Least the Frog Was Happy
* This page is part of the photo companion to CLIMB: Leaving Safe & Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. You can find the story behind these pictures (in hardback and ebook formats, and either in person or online) at your favorite local bookstore or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble (both in the U.S. and internationally).