Climbing Mt. Hiei (Kyoto, Japan)

Climbing Mt. Hiei (Kyoto, Japan)

Although my original 100 SUMMITS project involved climbing “only” the nihon hyakumeizan, a lot of Japan’s most famous, sacred, and beautiful mountains did not make the “Hundred Famous Mountains” list. Since I’m in Japan for the purpose of learning and experiencing as well as climbing, I’ve decided not to limit myself to hyakumeizan peaks. If there’s an important mountain in the area, I’ll try to climb it, too. The first of these “bonus mountains” was sacred Mt. Hiei, in Otsu (just outside Kyoto). 

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Snow on Mount Hachimantai (Hyakumeizan #5)

Snow on Mount Hachimantai (Hyakumeizan #5)

On Monday afternoon (Japan time), I climbed my fifth hyakumeizan — Mount Hachimantai, in Iwate Prefecture. The mountain sits in Towada-Hachimantai National Park, about 2 hours by bus from Morioka City. For reasons I’ll discuss in more detail in my book, 100 SUMMITS (Prometheus Books, 2020), I opted to ride the bus to the “Hachimantai Summit” visitor center, which sits only about a 45 minute hike from the mountain’s actual summit.

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Climbing Mount Hakkoda – And Conquering Fear

Climbing Mount Hakkoda – And Conquering Fear

Today’s climb of Mount Hakkoda–a volcanic range located in Aomori Prefecture, just south of Aomori City–actually involved three summits: Akake-dake, Ido-dake, and finally Ōdake (the latter being the highest peak in the Hakkoda volcano group). If you’re counting, that means I actually bagged three summits today, though for hyakumeizan purposes only Ōdake counts–and it counts as one.

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Climbing Mt. Iwaki

Climbing Mt. Iwaki

Today, I climbed Mt. Iwaki in Aomori Prefecture – my first Tohoku hyakumeizan. Tohoku is the northernmost part of Japan’s largest island, Honshu – the same island where Tokyo and Kyoto are located, but many hours’ travel to the north, via shinkansen (bullet train). It took me almost 7 hours to travel from Tokyo to Hirosaki, the closest town to Mt. Iwaki – four hours on a high-speed shinkansen, and another 2:45 on a local train. These mountains are spread all across Japan, which means I get to travel the entire length of the country while I’m climbing.

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To the Summit of Daibosatsu!

To the Summit of Daibosatsu!

With apologies for the tardy post (this week got away from me), the hyakumeizan total now stands at two! Only 98 more to go . . . Last Sunday I took a two and a half hour train ride from Tokyo to Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, in Yamanashi Prefecture, to attempt an ascent of 2,057-meter Daibosatsu. Although Kyūya Fukada’s One Hundred Mountains of Japan describes the shorter, 40-minute ascent from a nearby pass (the location of the highest bus stop where hikers can depart), I started from the mouth of the trail, more than a thousand meters lower on the mountain.

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Marking the Way on the Tokaido

This waterfall runs down a mountain and crosses the original path of the old Tokaido near Hakone. During the Edo period (1603-1868) the Tokaidō was one of five major travel roads, and one of the two most important linking the former capital city of Kyoto with the then-new capital, Edo (now called Tokyo). The Tokaidō, or “East Sea Road” roughly paralleled the southeastern coast of Honshū (Japan’s largest island). Its 53 stations, or post towns, were (and remain, to an extent) famous subjects of Japanese art and literature. I hiked a section of the old Tokaidō near Hakone last autumn, and visited again in

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Introducing … Hakone!

During my research trip last autumn, I spent several days in Hakone, a hot spring resort in the Fuji Five Lakes region of Japan. Hakone is famous for many things, including views of Mount Fuji, onsen (hot spring baths),  and the ability to enjoy “sightseeing through different modes of transportation”–including trains, cable cars, ropeways, and a ride on a pirate ship.  I went to hike a preserved section of the Tokaidō–once, a famous travel road connecting Kyoto with Edo–but added a few extra days to the trip to ensure I had time to enjoy Hakone, too. (Spoiler alert: I loved it so much I returned with my

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Dawn on the Nakasendo

(Click here to start the series of posts on the Nakasendo from the beginning.) During Japan’s medieval age, the Nakasendo was the primary northern travel route connecting Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto. The southern end of the Nakasendo tracks the course of an older travel road, the Kisoji, which connected the mountain towns of the Kiso Valley. A preserved and restored portion of the old Nakasendo/Kisoji runs through the mountains between the southernmost post towns of Magome and Tsumago. The 8.5 km (just over 5 mile) journey takes between 2 and 4 hours, and includes some breathtaking views of the Kiso Valley. On the morning I made the

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