Preparing to Hit the Mountain Roads

Although I’m currently only halfway through chemotherapy, I’ve already started planning my 100 Summits climbs. The hyakumeizan are scattered across all four of Japan’s major islands, meaning each mountain presents not only a physical challenge but a logistical one as well.

Add in shifting weather patterns and the fact that (due to chemo) I won’t arrive in Japan until mid-May, and the puzzle becomes even more complex.

Because of this I’ve started preparing a detailed profile for each mountain, containing not only trail and climbing information (for example, whether I’ll need a helmet, climbing poles, or other special gear) but access information, estimated costs, and the name of the hotel(s) where I plan to stay. The more I can prepare in advance, the less I’ll have to worry about when the time comes, and the greater my chances of success.

I’ve even booked my lodgings for one of the mountains, whose date is already fixed and relatively immoveable. Ironically, the mountain in question–Kōyasan, in Wakayama Prefecture–doesn’t actually appear on the original list of nihon hyakumeizan (hundred famous mountains of Japan). However, since Mount Adatara (安達太良山) lies within a short distance of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and thus has high enough radiation levels that the mountain is unsafe to climb, I’m substituting Mount Kōya (one of the holiest mountains in Japan) in place of Adatara.

I chose Mount Kōya because it’s also the setting for my upcoming Hiro Hattori mystery, Trial on Mount Kōyawhich releases July 3–which also happens to be the date when I plan to climb the mountain. (See what I did there…)

Since that date, at least, is set, I’ve already booked my lodgings at Ekoin, a thousand year-old Shingon Buddhist temple that I’ve stayed at several times before, while researching the novel.

Ekoin makes some of the best shojin ryori (temple cuisine) I’ve eaten in Japan, and since writers and hikers–like armies–travel on their stomachs, the promise of that delicious food was far too tempting to pass up, despite my usual preference for changing up my experiences any time I repeat a trip.


While there, I’ll not only climb the mountain but also visit Okunoin, Japan’s largest cemetery, and attend a goma (fire ritual) and other services at Ekoin.

Like all of the Hundred Summits climbs, I plan to make Mount Kōya about more than just “feet on the trail” – I’ll be sharing the history, culture, and food that make each mountain special. I hope you’ll join me along the way, both here and on Facebook (SusanSpannAuthor and SusanSpannBooks) and Instagram (!