Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mt Chokai

This past summer we realized we wanted to climb the famous Mt Fuji. But before we tackled Japan's tallest and most known mountain, we needed to get into climbing shape. We started off at the end of May about 50 km south of Akita at Mt Chokai.This area is not frequented by many Americans, so we got frequent stares and 'hello how are you' attempts. When we actually got to the base of the mountain, they were about to close a gate blocking off access. Luckily, we got across to them that we were camping and didn't intend to hike that night. The campground we stayed at was completely abandoned (as are many campgrounds in Japan until August).

Mt Chokai gets a lot of snowfall, so there was still plenty of the white stuff left at the beginning of Spring. We were wondering if we were going to be able to hike the trail, but a bunch of old Japanese people set off in front of us. The hike itself was beautiful (about 2/3 of it being in the snow) since most of the trail was above the tree line. There was so much snow that many of the hikers we saw were doing a ski descent.

The hike itself took us 5 hours up and three down...a long hike for the first one of the season, but it was worth it. The picture below is us at one of Mt Chokai's three peaks. Even though there was a lot of snow, the temperatures were pretty nice. Only once we got close to the top did we have to really layer up.

One of the really fun things about hiking/camping in Japan is the interaction you have with fellow Japanese hikers. After our hike we stayed in a mountain hut at the trail head due to it being rainy. One of the guests at the hut knew pretty good English (much to the delight of the manager), so we ended up talking with them for a long while.

Before we met them they said they were surprised we were Americans, because we were so quiet. They had heard us Yankees are loud and obnoxious, so it was nice to let them see otherwise. Although we were exhausted from the hike, we stayed up to about 11pm talking with them (the manager said he usually closes the living area at 10pm, but this was a special occasion).

The manager even broke out a bottle of wine and a bottle of sake to share with us. He kept telling us how much he loved Kentucky "Bubun" (Bourbon). We plan on going back this spring and bringing him a bottle. One of the young guys even made us some noodles.

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