New Year’s Eve on Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山) (2021)

New Year’s Eve on Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山) (2021)

In December 2018, I established a new, personal New Year’s Eve tradition: I climb a mountain. In Japan (as elsewhere) New Year’s Eve is a time for personal reflection, and I reflect on myself, my year, and the world around me better on a mountain trail than just about anywhere else. The New Year’s Eve climb is also my way of expressing my hope that I’ll keep moving forward (and upward) and keep returning to the mountains in the coming year. This year, I chose to go back to the proverbial “scene of the crime”–the site of my original, 2018

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Hiking Mt. Muine (Sapporo, Hokkaido)[#140]

Hiking Mt. Muine (Sapporo, Hokkaido)[#140]

Last September, I headed up to southern Hokkaido for a week of traveling and mountain climbing with my friend Ido. He knows Hokkaido far better than I do, so when he was extra excited about our climb of Mt. Muine, near Sapporo, I knew to expect something special . . . and as you’ll see, Muine delivered.

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An Autumn Visit to the Dragon King

An Autumn Visit to the Dragon King

On the first weekend in November, my son and I headed up to Tochigi Prefecture to hike the Ryuō-kyō (Gorge of the Dragon King). This was my third hike through the gorge, but the first time for my son, and I hoped we’d timed it correctly for autumn foliage. As you’ll see, it didn’t disappoint:

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On Crying-Bug Mountain (Nakimushiyama) [No. 144-146]

On Crying-Bug Mountain (Nakimushiyama) [No. 144-146]

On October 24, I headed north to Nikkō, in Tochigi Prefecture, to hike a new-to-me trail that included Nakimushiyama (鳴虫山), an 1,103-meter mountain not far from Nikkō station. The route went up and over three smaller peaks, too, and though much of the trail is surrounded by trees, there were a few spots with beautiful views as well.

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Hiking–and Riding–on Daishiyama at Kinosaki Onsen

Hiking–and Riding–on Daishiyama at Kinosaki Onsen

To celebrate my 50th birthday in July (2021), I headed five hours southwest to Kinosaki Onsen, a famous onsen (volcanic hot spring) town in Hyogo Prefecture. In addition to some of the best hot spring baths in Japan, Kinosaki is famous for the Japanese white storks that live and nest in the area (there’s a preserve within bicycling or walking distance of the onsen town)–and the large white birds also lend their name to the Stork Express, the train that runs between Osaka and Kinosaki Onsen Station. Although the “nature” portion of the hike wouldn’t start until I reached the

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Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Picnical Course

Hiking the Jogasaki Coast: Picnical Course

The Izu Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo. The northeast portion of the peninsula is called the Jogasaki Coast (城ヶ崎海岸 – Jogasaki Kaigan), and it’s home to a pair of excellent hiking courses that run through portions of the Izu Peninsula Geopark. It’s a great hike at any time of year, but particularly in the summer, when the coastal breeze helps mitigate the heat and humidity.

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Hiking Marudake From Otome-Toge (Hakone)

Hiking Marudake From Otome-Toge (Hakone)

Earlier this month, I took advantage of a sunny Sunday and headed out to hike another “new-to-me” trail in Hakone: Marudake (1,154 m) via Otome-Toge. As always, the hike information is at the bottom of the post. I caught the highway bus from Shinjuku to Otome-toge; the route goes through Gotemba–where I caught a great view of Mt. Fuji–always an excellent way to start the day. I’ve hiked the first part of this trail several times, and the view from the Otome-toge bus stop is one of the best anywhere when Fuji is in a cooperative mood. She was a

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