Tag - Taketa

Kuju: Climbing 久住山

Kota had the wonderful idea of meeting at 9am at his work office somewhere in Taketa – this off the back of a night in Mie trying to finish off all the alcohol in my apartment before moving out the next day!

By 8am we were off, checking in the Everyone konbini for some hiking snacks – like pot noodle and ramen! By 9am we had met, and at 1015 we were setting off up the mountain!

Ten minute later and we had stopped on the side of the tracks.

Rika and Kota had had the wonderful idea to use spikes on the boots – alas your poor narrator had no luck, nor the frivolous cash to expend on such luxuries a week before returning to the UK, and us such would spend most the mountain hike squattedly baby stepping his way up the mountain and especially on the way back down!

In all honesty, it didn’t make all that difference going up, and if anything, I was looking safer, especially after we cleared the made-made concrete paths and got out onto what I suspect was the frozen mud track.

Initially the walk set along easy going hillside, with a few ups and downs, before we hit the first peak of the day. The views of the mountains were intermittent at best, à cause de clouds and mists a passing overhead at such alarming speed, taking us from dull, scattered glow, to luminous sunlight in a just a few seconds, for perhaps only a few tens of seconds before becoming engulfed by the gentle greyness.

Climbing down the scraggity first peak, it gave hint of the fear that was in store later in the day coming back down from the peak, but fortunately the gods smiled favourably, and no accidents were had at this early stage!

The ground levelled out a few more times with only minor inclines, as our surroundings became incresingly white and wintery, snow sticking to the plans to create intricate white brains!

Kuju

The plateau before the lunch hut

After a couple of hours, the ground leveled out and we hit a kind of plateau between the mountains, Mt. Kuju hidden in the distance by cloud cover. It felt almost as if we were hiking through a Scottish valley, or around Hogwarts, and I was almost disappointed not to see any sheep on the hills.

In the distance was a small, thick stoned building, with a flurry of hikers coming in and out of it – it was time to lunch!

Pulling out the kettle from my bag, Rika got the gas fired up and we were moments away from our cup noodles! Alas, we had to wait a further 3 minutes for the water to penetrate and make delicious our noodles, but oh boy were they satisfying after a long hike, sitting in the cool, white interior of the hut.

Where we were headed

Where we were headed

The final accent was a head of us, and as proven so far, snow spikes weren’t really necessary for climbing up! Following the scattered path of rocks dotted with yellow splodges, we were occasionally afforded the sight of the peak were climbing for a seconds at a time as the weather broke and a blue sky appeared.

Gonna bop, bop, bop, bop to the top!

Gonna bop, bop, bop, bop to the top!

A final ascent along the narrow, rocky ridge, the breaking mist showed the summit marker was in sight, as we raced to the top – we had done it!

Rather fortuitously, the weather took a rest from its grey mystery, and gave it near perfect views of the surrounding areas, and we even got some blue sky and blinded by sunlight as we posed for the obligatory photos at the 1786m sign. It had taken around 4 hours to get up to the top.

Kuju Peak

Reads – “Mt Kuju, 1786.5m”

Kuju peak pano

The old pano from the top

As quickly as the weather took to change, we were heading back down the mountain again, and so began the bit I was dreading; descending without spikes…

Things started off well, getting to the lunch-lodge with no real difficulties. Passing by and through rocky outcrops I had my first slips, landing squarely on my arse, but luckily on a fairly flat region of ground and so we continued, trekking through the relatively flat plains, the mists reducing visibility to only 15-20m forward and behind, with no sign of the clear blue skies we had seen at the peak.

12669243_10153311933490667_245015761_o

The final descent into the car park

Much of the journey was uneventful, careful selection of footing, combined with reasonably gentle declines ensuring no more falls. Getting closer to the peak near the start of the trail, it’s sheer vertical face wasn’t too much of a difficult climb, with Rika supporting my arse in case I fell (any excuse), and the only major difficulty was the man-made concrete ramps for the final kilometre or so, it’s concrete/gravel mixture filled in with compacted snow and ice to create a slide of terror! A rather short sighted and stupid idea that ensures the most dangerous part of the whole climb is the first/last kilometer.

Having fallen on my arse a couple of times, and knowing I was soon leaving the country, I sacrificed my waterproof trousers to turn the terror in an amusing sledging run!

Why fall, when you can slide? - Photo by Rika

Why fall, when you can slide? – Rika Onishi Enomoto

All in all it was wonderful hike, with, at times, so really beautiful views! I would love to do it again in the summer, to see the views, the nearby mountain lakes and to finish with less bruises on my arse!

The final part of the day Kota threw a yakiniku party as his house for us! After securing meats from the nearby mini super market, he lit the coals outside before transferring them to his indoor fire pit!

BBQ at Kota's

Traditional fire pit built into the floor

We had to have the doors open in order to pull out the smoke from the meats, and it was really cold, but the meats and vegetables were so delicious, it didn’t even matter!

It was a lovely weekend to finish my time in Japan.

Fancy meeting Kota and having yakiniku? Check out his Air B&B listing here!

Taketa: Trekking Through 竹田

Finally Sunday had arrived, and it was time take my first hike in Japan! Though Holly getting lost on the way to mine was not the best start!

Our co-ordinates converged we set off to Asaji station to meet Savvy, running only 20 minutes late. Once convened Savvy filled in a form in the hike centre – presumably to say that any chance of death was acknowledged before we started on route.

The second turn in we would turn out to be lost, a mere few hundred metres from the station. As exciting as it was to march towards and see the taiko performance, as we continued on, it become abundantly clear something was awry or the map was wrong…

Back on track we passed a delightful family of scarecrows, adorned with matching stuff dog, whom smiled cheerily and creepily at us in passing. A short with later we arrived at a kufufle of people and followed them down a stony stepped path, passing under a Dulux colour palette named ‘Burnt Autumnal’ as the tree leaves ranged from brown to red, to orange and yellow, down to a pond. Whilst the tree themselves were beautiful, there was a strange sense of the artificial, perhaps the man-made look to the lake, or just the sheer volume of people in such a small space.

Losing Savvy and Holly, I spent 15 minutes traipsing up and down hill paths in pursuit of them, to find they had paused no more the 20 metres from where I turned around on the first path I’d chosen.

Truly hills did follow. A combination of regular roads, single track roads and pedestrian paths, the route took up to beautiful heights, and down to field upon field harvested rice paddy, weaving its way through and onto the next hill, the path highlighted with red and blue ribbons hanging from the trees.

Two hours in, we stopped for lunch just before reaching the giant stone Buddha, and reflected on our progress – we’d made just under 4km in 2 hours – it was going to be a long day!

10805833_10152768296017107_18926693309385855_n

A top the Oka ruins – Photo by Holly Brown

 

After lunch we make much better progress, perhaps the energy from lunch fuelling us onwards and upwards, but pretty soon we had reached Oka Castle (ruins), about 9km in and it was only 1530! A fantastic vantage point to view the world, and a real shame it was burnt down to show allegiance to the Emperor as the regional Shoguns began losing their power. A sprawling network of paths and rooms built across multiple levels following the contours of the top of the hill.

Not long after this we were in Taketa, sat in Michael’s (unlocked) car and inviting him for curry back in Mie. Completing my weekend trio of curry, I was very pleased with myself, ending a weekend of running and hiking with curry, friends and Firefly!