Dreaming of Mountains…

Dreaming of Mountains…

With the Coronavirus closing down all of the trails (and almost everything else) in Japan for the last two months, I’ve missed seeing spring burst through the mountains. I’ve missed the cherry blossoms. The irises, the azaleas And the start of the hydrangeas (many of which are still in bloom). I am aware that I am fortunate, that flowers and mountains are the things I miss the most. Many people have suffered, and are suffering far more than I–and it saddens me daily to think about the condition of the world right now (for many reasons, coronavirus being only one).

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Riding the Haruna Ropeway

Japan has many mountains, and many ropeways (often called “gondolas” in the States). While some go all the way to the top of mountains, others–like the Haruna Ropeway in Gunma Prefecture–carry visitors only most of the way to the top. On the day I visited (February 23, 2019), windchill dropped the temperature well below freezing–so cold that my fingers went numb in the seconds it took to remove my gloves and snap even a single photo. I have seldom been so glad that, in Japan, a ropeway-assisted “climb” still counts as climbing the relevant mountain. (As one Japanese climber told

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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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