By now the readers of this series of translations must have noticed that each mountain ends with the suffix dake (pronounced dah-keh), meaning “peak.” As I assume most of my readers are not proficient in the Japanese language, one might ask why I have chosen not to translate this when indeed in other instances I do translate such suffixes, such as in the case of the chô, which means “town” (read on and you’ll notice several examples of this later in this piece).

The reason why I typically do translate these is simply because I believe that knowing that the place I’m referring to is a town or a moor or a lake is often important for the reader to properly get a feel for the scenery being described. However, in the case of dake, I feel that the prosody of the suffix itself is so evocative of the character of the mountain that I feel I need to retain it. Try saying the word out loud. Dake. Doesn’t the very sound call to mind rugged mountain slopes? Even at the expense of losing a certain amount of meaning, maintaining that feel is important enough that I have chosen not to change it.

I’m curious to know what you all think of it, though. Please leave a comment below and tell me whether you agree with my reasoning or not.

3. Shari-dake (1545 m)

Shari-dake (斜里岳) is one of the mountains that I’d longed for ever since I first saw her figure in a photograph, but I only met her in person for the first time early in the August of Shôwa 34 (1959). While riding a train headed for Abashiri (網走) from Kushiro (釧路), I crossed over the border of Kushiro and Kitami (北見) when she appeared grandly in the right-side window as the train went down toward Shari Moor (斜里原野). Although the weather that day had been cloudy since the morning with rain also mixed in periodically, when I came to the point where I could get that most beautiful sight of her, the heavens cleared refreshingly, allowing me to see the full form of that longed-for mountain calmly hoisting ridgelines left and right upon a backdrop of blue sky.

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Shari-dake from Shari Town
By 663highland, CC 表示 2.5, Link

However, this was the only time when the heavens took my side. After that, I travelled by bus along the four shores of Lake Mashu (摩周湖) anticipating — even more than the rumored mystical color of the lake — the sight of Shari-dake, which ought to have been standing grandly in the background. Sadly, all was enveloped in a blanket of mist, and both lake and cloud were concealed in brilliant white. The next time, several days after that, I passed along a primordial roadway from Nemuro-shibetsu (根室標津) toward Shari Town (斜里町) on a bus with few passengers. Since this road followed along the eastern foot of Shari-dake I had been hoping to enjoy gazing up at her figure from there, but alas the ride ended with me having only for an instant caught a glimpse of a portion of that gently smooth ridgeline through the dull weather.

I wasn’t even able to get a view from Shari Town to the north. In vain I unfolded my 1:50,000 scale map and looked at the coarse but symmetrical contour lines fanning out to the north of Shari-dake like the tail of a peacock, but I was only able to imagine the scale of this mountain’s hem.

As can be surmised even from a map, Shari-dake is a mountain that spreads its roots out on a grand scale. One could even recognize that from the fact that the indigenous Ainu people simply called it Onnepuri (meaning “big mountain”), revering it as though it were a god. In the Ainu language, onne means “big” and nepuri means “mountain,” so it seems likely that the name Onnepuri came about by shortening and combining the two.

As seems to be the case with most of Hokkaido’s mountains, Shari-dake’s mountain climbing history is fairly recent. Until May of Shôwa 2 (1927) this beautiful pyramid mountain had no one but local people who tried to climb it; it was only then that a party first ascended the mountain on skis, starting from Mitsui Farm (三井農場) at the mountain’s northwest foot. At that time they just approached the summit before turning back, but in March of the next year a group attempting ski-climbing from Koshikawa Waystation (越川駅逓) on the northeast foot finally arrived at the top. That same year the first summer climb was accomplished as well.

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Shari viewed from Kiyosato Town 
By Highten31投稿者自身による作品, CC 表示-継承 3.0, Link

After that, a hiking trail was opened from Kiyosato Town Station (清里町駅) on the Senmô Line (釧網線), a shrine was consecrated at the summit, and local people began to climb in great numbers. A large guide map stands in front of Kiyosato Town Station on which are recorded the names of the prominent boulders and waterfalls along the trail.

Perhaps because Japanese people can’t feel at ease if they don’t place a shine at the top of a venerated mountain, a shrine was established on Shari-dake in Shôwa 10 (1935) at which are worshipped the two gods Ôyama-tsumi Taishin (大山津見大神) and Ame-no-Mikumari Taishin (天之水分大神). I heard that on the occasion of the solar eclipse of Shôwa 16 (1941) they built a torii gate at a shrine in Shirakabe dedicated to Dr. Nishina Masao, who had observed cosmic rays from the mountain. In Shôwa 34 (1959) the shinmei-zukuri style shrine was reconstructed. Even though they call it a shrine, it’s a little thing of about a meter in height. In any case, it’s a fact that Shari-dake has been raised to the status of a famous mountain in this area. Personally, I would rather just revive the beautiful name Onnepuri.

In order to climb Shari-dake, we three (my wife, my fifth-grade second son, and myself) went straight to Kushiro (釧路) from Hakodate (函館), and the next day went up the Senmô Line accompanied by Mr. Sato and Mr. Yokohama of the Kushiro Mountain Society (釧路山岳会). Mr. Kaburagi (鏑木) of Waseda University, with whom we had become acquainted in Kunashiro, also came along. On the afternoon that our party of six disembarked at Kiyosato Village Station, the sky cleared brilliantly and we there recorded our first sight of the beautiful figure of our sought-after mountain, standing there like a traveler. When we moved our eyes to the left away from Shari-dake — though we were not yet tired of looking — we were able to see the smooth summit of Unabetsu-dake (海別岳), and even further to the left we saw Shiretoko’s (知床) Rausu-dake (羅臼岳) in the distance.

That day we stayed at Kiyodake Lodge (清岳荘) near Fifth Station (approx. 600 m), a mountain hut the Forest Service had built the year before last (1957). The two fellows from the Kunashiro Mountain Association were carrying rucksacks so large that they rose higher than their shoulders, and yet within them all they had prepared — other than the meals and snacks for the family and I that is — was nothing more than sleeping bags and beer.

The next day we went up an old road, one which passes back and forth across the upper reaches of the Chesaku Etonbi River (meaning, they say, “the river with no fish”). Along the way there were a number of waterfalls, the most beautiful of which was Nanae-no-Taki (Sevenfold Falls, 七重ノ滝); we followed along edge of her seven flowing pools.

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The summit of Shari-dake from Kumami Pass
By Highten31投稿者自身による作品, CC 表示-継承 3.0, Link

We stood at the summit but were greeted with nothing but mist. We waited an hour in a shabby hut nearby hoping that the heavens to improve their mood a bit, but in the end it was to no avail. On the way back we took the new ridge road. We walked amid mist that from time to time cleared only to close once again, but in the end our mountain climbing addiction was fully satisfied by the beautiful highland scenery along that ridge road covered in azaleas and creeping pines.


Translation © Brian Heise, 2018
All photos belong to Wikicommons