Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mt. Chokai

I took the train south to Honjo last weekend and met up with the friendly local English teachers pictured above. Together we set off to climb Mt. Chokai, an active volcano on the southern border of Akita prefecture. Because of its size and shape, it's sometimes referred to as Akita-Fuji (Mt. Fuji of Akita) or Dewa-Fuji (Mt. Fuji of Yamagata), depending on which side of the peak your loyalties lie.

We had planned on making it to the top, but left too late. Getting to the top and coming back down takes about 8 hours of hiking without rests. We left at 11AM and took breaks along the way, so eventually we had to turn back for the sake of daylight. We went most of the way up, though, saw a lot of great views, and enjoyed the unusually warm, sunny weather in spite of the forecast for rain.

Approaching Chokai by car. You can't see the peak here, but you can see where the outer edges disappear into the clouds.

Shortly after we began to drive up the mountainside we stopped to admire the areal view of the Sea of Japan coastline.

Team Chokai, minus myself: Phil from Manchester, Sophie from New York, and Canadian-Jeff

This view was pretty amazing and caught us all off guard as we came around the corner.

The view.

Here is Canadian-Jeff demonstrating the dangers posed to pedestrians by the so-called Gaijin traps, the trough-like gutters that skirt several country roads in Japan, threatening to wreck the cars of any unsuspecting foreigners. Honestly, what other purpose can they possibly serve?

The beginning of our trek looked pretty easy.

The paved road quickly disappeared, however.

Halfway to the peak there's a little rest-house with bathrooms and a great view.

Looking down from the rest-house was like looking out of an airplane.

Looking the opposite direction from the same place.

There were several people coming and going along the way, including one other grizzled-looking foreigner who wished us luck.

Here you can see our laughably deficient hiking footwear. On the left, me and my Converse® sneakers, followed by Canadian Jeff's flip-flops (which elicited cries of "sugoi!" from Japanese passersby who were impressed, and what sounded like admonishments from others who thought he was just stupid), and finally Phil and his sad old boots which began to fall apart near the top of the mountains and had to be tied together impromptu with the string from one of our sweatshirts.

Next up is Lake Tazawa, and this time I got a decent pair of hiking shoes (though I had to have the store order a pair in my size).


Sean said...

Do not forget the ancient Japanese proverb - you must break in your hiking boots before you climb the mountain!

Kateri said...

Those are some beautiful photos!! How is the weather out in Akita?

Mom said...

I guess the predicted typhoon didn't materialize. Are you really working, or is this an extended vacation? This is a chance of a lifetime. Wish I were there too. Love, Mom