Wild Japan: an explorer’s guide

Snow Monsters of Zao; Tohoku Japan
Snow Monsters of Zao; Tohoku Japan

Wild Japan: an explorer’s guide to the islands, mountains, forests, and other natural settings in the land of the rising sun is now online at https://medium.com/@aaronpaulson/wild-japan-an-explorers-guide-to-the-islands-mountains-forests-and-other-natural-settings-in-ae8c216934d0

Check it out for first-hand suggestions of where to trek in Japan!

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Snow Monsters of Zao

Snow Monsters of Zao; Tohoku Japan

By some measures, Japan is the snowiest place on earth, and winter in areas such as the Tohoku region north of Tokyo add to that rep. The Zaosan (蔵王山) mountains, on the border between Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures, for example, gets around 12 metres dumped on its forested slopes each season. That’s a far cry from the 40-metre (120-plus feet) epic blanket that smothers the Japanese Alps around Nagano each year (there’s a reason houses in the countryside traditionally have a second front door, upstairs), but still more than enough to transform this range of stratovolcanoes, crater lakes, and subalpine fir trees into a magical fantastical winter wonderland each year…

Read the rest of the story and see more pictures at https://medium.com/the-big-sushi/snow-monsters-of-zao-japan-9f6853a2523

Mount Mitakesan Photo Drift, Winter 2016

Tenguno Koshikakesugi "Tengu Tree" Mount Mitakesan; Tokyo Japan

This new years’, our 13th at Mitakesan, a cold wind and rain blew from the desiccated Kanto plain rice paddies into the Okutama mountains and cedar forests. R and I slipped and slided on silvery trails through mist-draped woods. The sun stayed behind the clouds – did it ever really shine in these cold shadows, on this frigid earth? Rain and sweat chilled us both: hypothermia country. Fortunately, we made it off the mountain and onto a heated JR train back to the city and… a hot bath. Looks like we owe another one to the guardian spirits of the mountain – and the city.

Check out all the pictures on Instagram

Mountain Day 2016

Japan’s New National Holiday

Happy Mountain Day, 2016! If you don’t know already, today — Thursday, 11 August, 2016 — is the first-ever Mountain Day national holiday here in Japan.

That’s what today’s image on Google Japan is all about, if you didn’t know https://www.google.co.jp/

TBH, though R. has the day off work and school hasn’t yet started, we don’t have plans to do anything specific to celebrate. We figure we already spend a lot of time in the mountains – in fact we’re just back from our summer trip to the Canadian Rockies! – and besides, it’s uncomfortably hot on main-island Honshu in August. Besides, summer is a busy time in Japan, and the mountain trails and huts will be crowded with students and tourists and other holiday-makers.

We prefer to do our own thing, at our own pace 🙂 We’ll celebrate the mountains we’ve been blessed with in our own way, as we always have…

Meantime, here’s Kachou Fuugetsu “Flower Bird Wind Moon:” a gallery of pictures from our outdoor adventures in Japan

 

Mount Mitakesan Photo Hike

Mount Mitakesan to Hinodesan

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Tengu Tree

Even now, after more than a decade of visiting and photographing around Mount Mitakesan in western Tokyo, R. and I still find new pictures to take. Sometimes it’s something new or that we didn’t notice before, such as the goblins “hidden” in the renovated stairs which lead to the summit-top shrine, or a new lookout spot to the green serrated ridges of the surrounding mountains on the trail from Hinodesan to Tsurutsuru onsen; other times it’s a new way of seeing an old subject, such as the backlighting on the tengu tree this trip.

Mitakesan continues to be enjoying its moment, as there were far more visitors than we’re used to, and far more tourists at the shrine and on the trails. On the plus side, work crews have done some serious maintenance leading from Hinodesan down to the Tsurutsuru onsen; this section of the trail used to have steep, knee-aching stairs but have been replaced by far gentler, knee-saving steps.

Another great day at Mitakesan. Despite the growing crowds, I expect we’ll continue to return to one of our favourite power spots in Japan…

If you like these pics, check out my continually updated Mitakesan gallery at 500px…