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

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An Autumn Visit to the Dragon King

An Autumn Visit to the Dragon King

On the first weekend in November, my son and I headed up to Tochigi Prefecture to hike the Ryuō-kyō (Gorge of the Dragon King). This was my third hike through the gorge, but the first time for my son, and I hoped we’d timed it correctly for autumn foliage. As you’ll see, it didn’t disappoint:

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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.

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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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Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Nature Study Course (Part 1 of 2)

Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Nature Study Course (Part 1 of 2)

South of Cape Kadowaki, the Jogasaki Picnical Hiking Course becomes the Jogasaki Nature Study Course. There’s no significant difference in the nature of the trail itself–the Nature Study Course is longer, and has a few more posted signs describing the natural features of the Jogasaki Coast, but aside from the extra length, the Nature Study Course isn’t really any more difficult than the Picnical. The first time I hiked Jogasaki, hiked both courses in a single afternoon–and I did the same this May, so this virtual hike picks up where the Picnical left off–just south of Cape Kadowaki. I’m splitting

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Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Picnical Course

Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Picnical Course

The Izu Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo. The northeast portion of the peninsula is called the Jogasaki Coast (城ヶ崎海岸 – Jogasaki Kaigan), and it’s home to a pair of excellent hiking courses that run through portions of the Izu Peninsula Geopark. It’s a great hike at any time of year, but particularly in the summer, when the coastal breeze helps mitigate the heat and humidity.

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