Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mountain climbing!

For all the pics of mountain climbing madness, click here.

Near the end of last month (Feb 24th), a fellow teacher and I went on quite a little adventure. We had been tossing the idea around about going for a day of hiking for a few weeks prior to that. I was pretty interested, as I had been trying to get some friends to go hiking with me for a long time, but no one ever seemed to want to go. Anyway, we decided to head to west Saitama to the Chichibu mountanis. Mr. Ishii, the teacher who planned the trip, had found some information about a hikeable mountain called Izugatake. We decided that was the plan for us.

We met that morning at Minami-Koshigaya station, and made the 2 hour trip out to the mountains. It was a nice trip, and we had a great view of Mount Fuji out of our window along the way. We arived at Shomaru station around 9:00 am and began our climb.

The first little while seemed to be the leisurely hike that we had anitcipated. The path we were following wound its way through little villages, ran past little waterfalls, and was not steep at all. However, that all soon changed. Once we rounded a bend, we were faced with a gnarly slope, covered in the roots of big trees. There ceased to be a path, and we basically just climbed hand-over-hand up the slope. This would be the way it would go for the better part of the next 6 hours...
Although the grade was steep and the terrain was bit dangerous, we had a great time scaling that initial face. The mountain itself was not very high, only 851m (Mount Fuji is over 3000m). There were a lot of places where you had to use a rope to lift/lower yourself, and the tree roots made excellent handholds. About 2 hours into the climb we arrived at the first peak, which was nicknamed `the Olympic peak`. We rested there for a while and then continued on.

Finally, we arrived at the top of Mt. Izugatake. At 851m, we were still afforded agreat view of the countryside. On one side, we could look back and see the Chichibu mountains, and on the other we could see all of the urban sprawl of west Saitama/Tokyo. We could even see the Seibu dome in the distance (the home of the Red Sox`s new Japanese pitcher, Matsuzaka). It was a bit early for lunch, so after having a quick victory beer, we pressed on.

We thought that after reaching the top we would be able to head downhill for the remainder of the trip. Wrong. The rest of the way down was an up and down route that was quite hard to deal with. Luckily we were not high enough for the air to be thin or we would really have been in trouble. Either way, we pressed on.

Later in the afternoon, we came to a break on the trail and stumbled upon a Buddhist temple and monastery. It was very beautiful, and was situated in a perfect spot high up in the mountains. Mr. Ishii showed me the proper way to pray at a Buddhist temple, which differs slightly from the rules at a Shinto shrine. We also bought some insence to put in the offereing "bowl", and rang the big gong over the shrine. There were also giant replicas of Japanese kimono sandals outside the temple, and several large statues that were quite beautiful.

After pressing on for another couple of hours, we finally ended our journey. Unfortunately, the hot-spring (onsen) that we had planned on going to at the finish had already closed for the day. So instead, we hopped on a train to Tokorozawa and went to a nice onsen near the station. Japanese onsens are quite amazing. In this particular onsen, there were several different baths of varying temperatures to choose from, as well as a sauna, and a rotemburo (outdoor bath). After soaking our stiff muscles in the baths, we retired to the "Rest Room", which is not a toilet, it is literally a "Room of Rest". The staff give you relaxed-wear clothing (kind of like a baggy nurse`s smock) and you are ushered into a different are. In this area, there are rows of deluxe vibrating Lazy-boy recliners, complete with TVs, and you can order food and drinks to be brought to you. There are also tatami mat areas, and places to get massages. We sat down in the tatami mat area and ordered some well-deserved beers. After realxing there for a couple of hours, we hopped on a train and headed home.
Although this trip wasn`t as physically demanding as the Mount Fuji trip, it was still a great time. Next on my list is Mount Tsukuba, which should be a fun hike too.

1 comment:

Charity said...

Good post.