With winter vacation fast approaching, I found myself thinking hard about where I should go  hiking. My first thought, of course, was the Fureai Trail: with two weeks off work I could easily bang out 10 or more sections and get a big boost in my goal of hiking the whole thing all the while providing myself with weeks of material for this blog, but something nagged at me about doing this. That was, how could I spend my whole two weeks hiking trails that I do on a typical day off? In the end I had to abandon that idea.

My second thought was to start hiking one of the other trails that make up the network of paths that connect the whole country, from one tip to the other. Yet again, though, I found myself somewhat dissatisfied with the thought. These trails, like the Fureai Trail, tend to be biased towards making them more accessible, meaning they were more likely to be a day’s hike at the most between bus stops and train stations and to follow courses that even older hikers stand a chance at completing. I, on the other hand, was seeking something with a bit more of a challenge, places where I could spend days without crossing a single paved road. And of course, places with a bit more prestige. Then, just a few weeks ago when I was hiking the Section V of the Fureai Trail that I finally found my answer through a comment by my friend Tianyu, who for the second timed mentioned his dream of someday hiking all of Japan’s “100 Famous Mountains.” I pondered about his comment for about a day before making my decision: I’m going to climb those 100 Famous Mountains, which I have since found are heralded as the premier list of hiking mountains in Japan.

Compiled by the Japanese mountaineer and writer Kyūya Fukada back in 1964, the list of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains is hardly historic, but in the last few decades it attained cultural prominence after its endorsement by a Japanese prince and has since spawned numerous other famous mountain lists, though these are still the gold standard. The mountains included vary widely, but each was selected with scenery, view, and uniqueness in mind and, with just a few exceptions, mountains under 1,500 meters are excluded. Also, some mountains are included more for historical significance than anything else.

Starting in January, I plan to begin writing a series of posts on these mountains, in which I detail my own experiences climbing them as well as providing historical background, photos, and and probably some musings as well. I will post at least one in this series per month, with the other three focusing on my ongoing Fureai Trail project.

Having examined the list of mountains in full, I found that I’ve already climbed five of them. Those are as follows:

  • Mt. Fuji or the “Wealthy Gentleman” (富士山), climbed in July 2012
  • Mt. Tsukuba or “Zhu Wave” (筑波山), climbed multiple times throughout the year 2015-2016 (note: a zhu is a traditional Chinese musical instrument, but the name may have originated from the Ainu language meaning “Head Towering Over”)
  • Mount Nantai or “Man’s Form” (男体山), climbed in May 2016
  • Mount Kumotori or “Cloud-catcher Mountain” (雲取山), climbed in August 2017
  • Mount Mitake, “The Venerable Peak” (御嶽山), climbed November 2017

I’ll give accounts of my experiences on these mountains as well though these will of course be accompanied by much older and lower quality photographs and probably less detail since I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things.

For those of you who have been following my blog up until now, you might remember my experience of Cloud-catcher Mountain from back in August of this year. My plan for this winter vacation is to pick up where I left off at the end of that trip, ascending Goose Hill Pass once more and continuing down the ridge to the Peak of the Fist (甲武信ヶ岳, previously translated as Armored Warrior’s Fidelity), and on to Gold Peak Mountain (金峰山), and finally ending at the Auspicious Wall (瑞牆山), a total distance of around 45 kilometers that will take roughly four days due to the short daylight hours in the winter.

If you’re interested in viewing these future posts, I encourage you to subscribe on Patreon to make sure that I can complete this series. Many of these mountains are quite far from where I live and cost hundreds of dollars for round-trip tickets to them, not to mention the cost of food and other supplies. Any amount that you pledge, even just a single dollar per post, will go a long way towards making this series possible. Even if you don’t want to subscribe, I’d appreciate it if you like this post and share it on your social media so I can reach a wider audience. Thanks in advance for your support!

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. To view the other posts in this series, click here.

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© 2017 Brian Heise