外国人の日本体験 Experiences in Japan
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A Mountain of Pride (Part One)
by Michael Buder
I've always loved hiking. I started exploring mountain trails from a very young age. One of the greatest feelings in the world is the one you get when you are standing at the top of a mountain after a long grueling hike. The fresh air swirling around you as absorb the spectacular views of nature usually reserved for birds.
Now that I was in Japan I wanted to try hiking. I was curious to see how it would compare to the treks I had been on in my own country. So I bought a book all about hiking in Japan. I was surprised to see that this was so popular here. There were mountains and famous trails from North to South of the great archipelago.
First I read the introduction of the book to get an idea of the type of wildlife, terrain, and dangers I may face. Being that I was going to be hiking mainly around the Tokyo area there wasn't too much to worry about. The major concerns were inoshishi (wild boar), and the habu (pit viper). The inoshishi are famous for their tasty meat used to make inoshishi nabe and their vile temper occasionally used to make mince meat out of men. They have been known to tusk-slash the artery in a mans leg in one powerful motion when confronted. The habu is an aggressive, highly poisonous snake that is quite prominent in the mountain areas around Tokyo.
There are similar concerns when hiking in my own homeland but now that I am in another country I would have to be even more careful. If I was confronted my some sort of emergency it may be more difficult to deal with because of the language barrier and my unfamiliarity with the great Japanese outdoors.
I decided I would start off by climbing a small mountain. This would enable me to get a feel for the outdoors in my area. I chose Izugatake, a small mountain in Saitama about an hour and a half from central Tokyo by train. I used the book I purchased to plan the trip. The book explained everything from how to get there to how long it should take to reach the summit and everything in between.
So on a nice warm summer day, I climbed a winding, wooded trail to the top of a pretty little mountain. I was surprised to find many other people of all ages climbing the mountain as well. I was able to practice a little Japanese along the way and get a terrific work out.
The climb took me less than on hour and the view was beautiful from the top. I was surprised because the book told me it would take two to three hours to complete the hike. I figured they were just trying to be conservative to allow for slower hikers. I was instantly motivated to try something more challenging.
I climbed Izugatake a couple more times before embarking on my next adventure. In my handy little hiking book I found a great hike that was not too far from the mountain I had been climbing. It boasted ancient temples, beautiful flora, and a chance to see some wildlife. It also happened to be a three mountain hike the last being the highest mountain in the Tokyo area, Kumotori San. Literally "cloud catcher".
The book rated this hike as an overnight excursion of about eighteen hours in length with lodging just before the summit. Now because it had taken me a third of the suggested time to climb Izugatake, I automatically figured that 18 hours was also a conservative estimate and that I could easily do the hike in a day if I left in the early morning.
So I began planning for the adventure to the top of the cloud catching mountain. I copied the kanji for the destination markers I expected to encounter and photocopied the section of the book about the climb. I packed all the essentials, water, energy snacks, first aid kit, compass, knife, change of clothes, and of course my camera.
At about seven a.m. on a cool, foggy morning, I laced up my boots, threw on my pack and headed out on what was to become one of the biggest adventures of my life. （June 7, 2003 ）
(to be continued)