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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Climbing Mount Daisen – Hyakumeizan #13

Climbing Mount Daisen – Hyakumeizan #13

Yesterday (Saturday, June 30) I traveled from Tokyo to Mount Daisen – a distance of almost 750 km – to prepare for this morning’s climb of Mount Daisen. It rained all afternoon, but the weather forecast suggested a two-day clear weather window approaching, and I wanted to be in position when it arrived. I spent the night at a lovely, welcoming temple – Sanraku-so – which sits immediately adjacent to Daisen-ji, at the base of Mount Daisen. Although I fell asleep listening to the wind howl around the temple, I awoke to a spectacular sunrise/moonset that promised a beautiful climbing day.

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Mount Omine – and Tenkawa Gorge – Hyakumeizan #10

Mount Omine – and Tenkawa Gorge – Hyakumeizan #10

After my rainy climb of Mount Ibuki, I hopped a train to Kyoto, and then an hour south to Nara Prefecture (the home of the ancient capital city of Nara, but also many even more ancient historical sites – as well as mountains). The following morning, I traveled even farther south, to  Dorogawa Onsen (an onsen is a Japanese hot spring resort) and Omine-san, one of Japan’s most sacred peaks. It remains so sacred, in fact, that women are not allowed to climb it.

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Mount Ibuki – Hyakumeizan #9

Mount Ibuki – Hyakumeizan #9

This morning, I braved the rain in Nagahama (just north of Kyoto) to attempt a climb of my ninth hyakumeizan, Ibukiyama (Mount Ibuki: 伊吹山). At 1,377 meters, Ibukiyama is the highest mountain in Shiga Prefecture, and one of four hyakumeizan in the Kanto region. The climb started inauspiciously – with pouring rain – and my first sight of the mountain towering high above the surrounding plain gave me more than a little pause. Even so, I was already on the bus to the trailhead, and my research suggested the mountain would not be too difficult to climb in the rain.

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Zao, Kumano, Jizo, and the Sixth of the Hundred Summits

Zao, Kumano, Jizo, and the Sixth of the Hundred Summits

On Tuesday, I completed my sixth hyakumeizan – 1,841-meter Mt. Zaō in Yamagata Prefecture. As a complex volcano, Zaō-san has many peaks, the highest of which is actually Kumano-dake (hence the name on the summit sign in the photo). As the most active volcano in the Tohoku region of northern Honshu, Zao continually emits volcanic gases (and the summit smells of sulfur).

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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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…And Back Again – The Descent From Mount Akagi

…And Back Again – The Descent From Mount Akagi

On Monday, I shared some photos and highlights from my 100 Summits climb of Mount Akagi (Akagi-yama) in Gunma Prefecture. Today, I’m sharing the trip back down. Smart mountaineers all know that “the summit is only halfway there” – to climb a mountain successfully, you also need to descend from the summit safely. Since I left the summit at 12:50pm, and wanted to catch the 16:00 (4pm) bus to Maebashi, I decided to hike Akagi as a loop and descend via the shorter trail that leads directly down from the summit to the shore of Lake Ono.

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