A Visit to Solamachi Skytree Christmas Market

A Visit to Solamachi Skytree Christmas Market

Tokyo has a variety of holiday-themed options, from spectacular illuminations to Bavarian Christmas markets. One of my favorites takes place throughout the month of December in the fourth floor courtyard at Solamachi Skytree Center (Access: Hanzomon or Asakusa line to Oshiage Station, and exit to Skytree Center). I’m spending the next few weeks in Tokyo, hoping my ankle heals from the recent sprain-or-tendonitis that struck shortly before my 100-km trek along the Kumano Kodo (more on that in the weeks to come) – but it’s a good time to heal. You see, although most Japanese people practice Shintō, Buddhism, or both, Japan loves

Read more

Torikabuto and Takanosu

Torikabuto and Takanosu

Yesterday saw the addition of three more peaks to my #100Summits list, thanks to a traverse of two peaks and a gondola-assisted climb of a third in the Hakone area. While I’ll give more details about the later two climbs in the weeks to come, today I’m sharing a little about the first, which also involved research for my next Hiro Hattori mystery (the first one to involve a ghost).

Read more

The Great Toilet Parade Mystery of 2018

The Great Toilet Parade Mystery of 2018

My Japanese skills are improving rapidly since my move to Japan, and I’ve achieved a state of relative (dis)comfort with basic functions like travel,  shopping, restaurants, and paying basic bills. In other areas, I can often “keyword spot” and intuit the portions of a conversation I don’t know, to at least achieve an acceptable result. However, it doesn’t take much to remind me that, in the immortal words of Robert Frost, I have “miles to go before I sleep” in terms of linguistic fluency. Case in point: this afternoon’s Great Toilet Parade. (Read to the end to understand the photo…)

Read more

Mt. Tomuraushi – and Pikachu!

Mt. Tomuraushi – and Pikachu!

My third and longest climb in Hokkaido was the first on my 100 Summits quest that I almost failed to complete. But it wasn’t pain or exhaustion that almost cost me the summit. On Tomuraushi, as always, time proved my worst enemy. My guide Takuto and I began our hike at 7:40 am at the trailhead near Tomuraushi Onsen, where we’d spent the night. If you read the sign, you’ll notice the peak lies 9.2km from the trailhead – and they’re not an easy nine kilometers, either. The hike begins with a lovely walk through pristine forest. It has some

Read more

On the Road – and at the Races!

On the Road – and at the Races!

I’m sorry the blog has been more silent than usual lately – that’s changing, starting now. I’ve been quiet mostly because I’ve been climbing, and I have a ton of exciting moments to share! The #100Summits journey has taken me halfway across Japan, 1,100 kilometers north of Tokyo, to the northernmost major island, Hokkaido.

Read more

To Hokkaido . . . In The Wake of the Quake

To Hokkaido . . . In The Wake of the Quake

I started planning the 100 Summits Project a year ago, and even then I knew the most difficult region of Japan in which to climb would be Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island. Most of Hokkaido lies beyond the northernmost terminus of the Shinkansen (bullet train) which ends its run at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto terminal, 1,099 kilometers from Tokyo but only at the southernmost end of Hokkaido itself. From there, it’s almost a full day’s ride by express train to the northern end of the island – and the hyakumeizan peaks are scattered across Hokkaido like a handful of dice flung down by an angry

Read more

The Headless Buddhas of Koboyama

The Headless Buddhas of Koboyama

While hiking Koboyama, I passed many shrines and temple buildings, indicators of the mountain’s history and holy status. However, the most poignant of these was not identified with a roadside sign, or even set at a noticeable place along the path. About twenty minutes past the summit of Koboyama, I came across a row of carved stone buddhas by the side of the trail. Each had been decapitated–and someone had replaced their heads with stones.

Read more