Kids’ hands raised high in response to dad’s question: who wants to climb again? (October, Mt. Kurikoma)
Japanese people love outdoor life and there are plenty of incentives in Japan to leave your room and go outdoors. Rather than island tours and beaches, this article touches on some of the mountains in the Tohoku region (with the rest left for you to explore yourself)!
First of all, did you know Mountain Day (山の日) has become a public holiday in Japan since 2016? Japan has dedicated August 11th to be the day of mountains to celebrate the nation’s nature and geography. This public holiday is also said to commemorate the casualties from the crashing of Japan Airlines Flight 123 in 1985 (日航機墜落事故).
2016/8/11: A long line of climbers on Mt. Kurikoma
Not everyone hikes on August 11th , of course. Most people take it as another day-off from work…which is a shame! Kyuya Fukada, Japanese mountaineer and novelist/essayist, composed the book 100 Famous Japanese Mountains in 1964, selecting 100 mountains out of all the mountains that he had climbed based on three criteria: elegance, history and individuality.
(The complete list can be found in Wikipedia 深田久弥「日本百名山)
Just as you can collect seals from shrines around Japan (ご朱印), you can collect mountain badges from many of the mountains too. More incentive for you to go hiking?
Photo credit: Ying-Hwey Nai
Here are some of the photos from Mt. Izumigatake, Mt Kurikoma, Mt. Omoshiyo, Mt Zao, and Oirase in different seasons. Personally, I think they are beautiful in any of the seasons.
Autumn in Yamadera (more of climbing stairs):
There are many things to enjoy in addition to hiking: local food, hot springs, paragliding in summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter, with facilities in close proximity to the mountains.
If you’re still reading thus far, I guess you are interested in hiking! Some housekeeping before you wander into the nature: get yourself equipped! In Sendai, sports clothing and gear can be found in various sports shops in main outlets (Montbell, Columbia, etc.) and ICI石井スポーツ仙台 (see photos below). Most of the staff are experienced hikers and are willing to give you advice should you need it. Sports clothing and equipment are not always cheap, but are worth investing in.
Photo credit: ICI石井スポーツ仙台 (http://www.ici-sports.com/shop/)
Lastly, remember – safety first!! Check the weather and necessary information beforehand, including warnings of bear-sightings! Many hikers share their trips on yamareko（山レコ: https://www.yamareco.com/ ）, including information on the routes, distance, time spent on the track and usually with photos taken along the track which are very helpful for hikers who are visiting the trails for the first time. Not that I want to scare you, but accidents can happen and prevention is the best way to protect yourself while you enjoy what nature offers. If you are a beginner, start with a mountain and a track that suit your physical fitness. It is also wise and courageous to stop pushing yourself all the way to the summit if you are feeling unwell.
What are the benefits of hiking? As well as being healthy and fit and enjoying some beautiful scenery, you will make friends along the way. After all, Sir Edmund Hillary once said: It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
Be warned: you might get addicted!
Safe hiking 🙂