Chapter 3: Cherry Blossoms and Liver Spots*

Chapter 3: Cherry Blossoms and Liver Spots*

(March – May 2018)* I started chemotherapy two days after returning from my Christmas trip to Tokyo. That sleepy smile in the photo above is a combination of traveling and the massive dose of Benadryl I received before the infusion. Jaime (left) and Vickie (right) made my chemo treatments as easy, and as fun, as chemotherapy could possibly be. They were happy, loving, and friendly to everyone, and I will treasure their friendship always. You read that correctly. (That isn’t a COVID mask – it’s what an immunocompromised cancer patient wears to try to stay safe in public). My mother,

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Chapter 1: Victory–And Misery–On Misen*

Mountain: Mt. Misen (弥山), Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan (The short caption directly beneath each photo matches the text in CLIMB.) My first view of Miyajima: (original photo taken in June 2015). The Otorii is visible at center left, and the mountain rising just to the left of center is Mt. Misen. Historically, the entire island was considered sacred ground. The first Otorii was built before the tenth century; the existing gate dates to 1875. The Ōtorii (great torii) measures 24 meters wide and rises 16 meters high (measured from the sand on which it sits). Torii are sacred Shintō gates that

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Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls, in Upper Nikkō (Tochigi Prefecture, Japan) consistently ranks among the most beautiful waterfalls in Japan, if not the world. The 97-meter, bridal-veil style fall was created when ancient lava flows from nearby Mt. Nantai diverted the flow of the Daiya River. While most of the water cascades down the face of the lava flow, some of the water filters through the porous rock and emerges near the base of the primary fall, creating more than a dozen smaller waterfalls near the base of the primary falls. Kegon Falls is open to the public, and accessed via an elevator

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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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