Toyama Prefecture (as most of you should know if you've been keeping up with these blog posts) is home to part of the Hida Mountains, known colloquially as the Northern Japan Alps. Not only are they covered in gigantic trees and reportedly crawling with wild bears, they are also home to some fabulous hiking trails which I've been exploring with my friend Akiyo. We climbed Joyama a few weekends ago, and during Golden Week we tackled Tonokurayama and Takazukoyama--three of the many hikes in Akiyo's book on hiking in Toyama.
Occasionally I've run into words that translate decently well from English to Japanese (and vice versa) but just don't fit quite right. The concept of mountain climbing is one such concept. I've had a very similar conversation several times lately, and it goes like this:
"What did you do this weekend?"
"Oh, I went hiking. Japanese mountains are so steep!"
"Ah. So you went mountain climbing."
"No, just hiking."
"But you climbed a mountain, right? How is that not mountain climbing?"
"It's just...not? I guess."
Whether it counts as mountain climbing or not, I've been on some lovely excursions lately, and I'll post some pictures on my photobucket when I have a chance. Takazukoyama was certainly the most interesting, though, so that's what I'll talk about today. Akiyo's book categorizes each hike based on difficulty and danger level. Takazukoyama earned two biceps (out of four) and one falling rock (also out of four). Even though our previous hikes were only single bicep endeavors and about half the length, I figured a two bicep adventure couldn't be that much more difficult. Here's a map of the area--I know it looks like it's in the middle of nowhere, but it was less than a half hour drive from the outskirts of Toyama City.
Japanese trail-blazers, I've discovered, don't seem to care much for switchbacks. The Northern Japan Alps are some seriously steep mountains, but all three of the trails we've done have headed straight up the mountainside--no passing go, no collecting $200, and no room for sissies. It makes for shorter, significantly more intense hikes, and Takazukoyama was no exception. I'm pretty out of shape, so there were definitely some areas where I struggled, but we made it eventually. One good thing about hiking with a buddy is not having the option to poop out and go back to the car for a snack.
The next half an hour or so went (generally) like this:
"Do you see a trail marker?"
"It's probably this way..."
"Ok, let's check it ou--Oh Sweet Jesus!"
"Yeah, just...don't step there. Oh look, a trail marker!"
After stomping around aimlessly for awhile, we ran into the only other hiker on the mountain--a middle-aged man training for some quadruple biceps. We chatted for a few minutes and continued on, knowing that the top of the trail couldn't be that much further. After a lot of backtracking and a few patches of rotten ice, we finally made it to the top in about three hours. Score one for Team Double Bicep! Snacks were had by all.
Akiyo's guidebook mentioned a 40-minute side trail that would take us to a waterfall, and we decided to check it out. In for a knut, in for a galleon, I say! Totally worth it, as it offered some of the prettiest scenery of the day as well as an opportunity to see this guy:
Farewell, Japanese goat-antelope! May we meet again.