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Hiking in Japan [E]
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mugen 2008
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PostYou have posted in this forum: Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:13 pm Back to top

What does Japan makes you think of? An ultra-modern megalopolis like Tokyo and Osaka, with their skyscrapers, their busy life? At the opposite does it bring to mind Zen, calm and minimalist atmospheres? Or maybe older images of samurai, geisha or sumo wrestlers? Finally, Japan does represent for you an exciting cultural destination with its forward-looking fashion, architecture, music, graphic art, animation, manga and more?

What if Japan was all at the same time and even more: a sunrise on Mount Fuji, treks along endless ridges in the Japanese Alps, bathing in a natural hotspring in the middle of a mountain stream, volcanoes powering under you feet with smoke columns rising from the ground, the calm atmosphere of a thousand-year-old temple at the top of a mountain, wild landscapes of Hokkaido…

Located on a subduction zone between the Pacific, Philippine and Eurasian Sea plates, Japan is subject to intense geologic movements that have erected mountains and volcanoes during the last 20 million years. A country of mountains that occupy about ¾ of the territory; there is a stark contrast between over crowded cities on the plain and the mountainous expanses. The Japanese mountains have never been exploited for agriculture or livestock farming, leaving them, by comparison, almost virgin!

The consequence is that that Japan is one of the most wooded nations amount industrialized countries (forest covers about 2/3 of the Japanese islands). In the past, mountains were thought of “a beneficial place of wealth vegetation”. In a word: the forest. The dual meaning is an apt description of these wooded mountains that also maintain the nation’s precious water resources for rice cultivation, crop irrigation, but also prevent flooding in the plains during rainy months.

With Mount-Fuji (3,776 m/12,388 ft) as the highest peak, Japanese massifs are less elevated than those of Europe and don’t have the same alpine landscapes. Still, they are no less striking with their lush vegetation and misty wooded mountainsides. Japan offers an unexpected, particularly pleasant and relaxing panorama that can be found in only few places in the world: the view you can have from the rotenburo (outdoor hot springs) on the mountain you just climbed. It’s a MUST-do!

Mountains also refer to: “a sacred place where gods live and were you go to train and put your faith to the test”. Of course “training” meant a spiritual training in the form of long periods of meditation in isolation. As in many civilizations, mountains are sacred. If in some of them the sacred aspect of their mountains prohibits climbing them, it is not the case in Japan! To the contrary, they are a place for pilgrimage and worship. Many summits have an altar if not a temple creating a unique atmosphere at their top.

Finally, thanks to the combination of cold wind coming from Siberia and rain coming from the Pacific Ocean the Japanese mountains have an exceptional snowfall in the winter. In winter 2006 snow fall accumulated a record 3.50 m (11.5 ft) in less than a week. Every spring the opening of the “Tateyama kurobe alpine route” in the Northern Japanese Alps attracts a lot of tourists who go up and down by bus or walking. To allow people into the area, trench machines have to dig anywhere from at least 10 m (32.8 ft) up to 20 (65.6 ft) m of snow to reach the road! It is spectacular! With such amazing snow conditions the possibilities are infinite, free riding, mountaineering, snowshoeing.

You are still hesitating to visit? Yet, Japan has all the assets of a first class mountaineering destination.
You will live a unique experience between cultural discoveries, hot springs, spirituality and breathtaking landscapes.

pictures available on my web site and my friend's web site

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PostYou have posted in this forum: Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:06 pm Back to top

Hi! I tried to look at your Tozai Trek website and it was extremely slow loading (i.e. several minutes) so you might want to look at what is making it slow. I'm using Safari 4.0.2.

I've only done a few day hikes in Japan myself but I have traveled pretty extensively by train, bus, car, and bicycle. Virtually no where would I say the mountains and forest appear "almost virgin". As I understand almost the entire country was logged within the last 150 years. Isn't the Shirakami region the only virgin forest left? The main reason (AFAIK) there is so much forested space now is that it's cheaper to import wood (and cause ecological damage elsewhere) than to cut Japanese trees which also leads to the enormous allergy problems in Japan during pollen season.

I remember during a tour in New Zealand that some of my fellow passengers were exclaiming that the forest looked like a place where Elves would live (i.e. it looked pure and ancient to them). I said it appeared to be a tree farm which was confirmed by the tour leader. They were simply a bunch of Americans who had never seen a real forest.

On my next trip to Japan I plan to spend more time in Touhoku and Hokkaidou and do more hiking but I have few expectations for wilderness that appears untouched. That's OK. I'm beyond romanticizing Japan. It will still be enjoyable.

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PostYou have posted in this forum: Tue Jan 05, 2010 7:29 am Back to top

First of all, I have no problem to access to ...

Now about wilderness in Japan, I think that we have to put things in perspective: Japan is a relatively small and crowded country. Still, nature is much more present in Japan that in any country in continental Europe, for example. There certainly are limited "virgin" forests, but there are some; Shirakami is one of them, but you will find that Iriomote island (Okinawa-ken) has one, too. What makes Japan impressive - at least for me - is that you can travel for a short period of time from a very large city and find yourself in a relatively wild area.

Certainly New Zealand or Hawaii - two places I really like - have wilder forests, but those are remote islands that where never inhabited by a large population, so comparison is not fair.

There are also specific features that are found in Japan, like the presence of a strong volcanic activity almost everywhere in the country, or the fact that when traveling from north to south you can go from a cold pine forest to a wet tropical one.

And all of those are accessible to people living with millions of others in some of the largest cities in the world. This is what makes really Japan special for me...

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mugen 2008
Total posts: 6

PostYou have posted in this forum: Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:41 am Back to top

Sanji, I fully agree with you. You explained the point better I did.

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mugen 2008
Total posts: 6

PostYou have posted in this forum: Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:45 am Back to top

Well I do understand your point of view. However my intentions are not to romanticizing Japan. But far too people in my home country view only Japan as a big city as it is the only images broadcasts on TV and medias. My point is just to say that Japan is not only that and that it can also be a great place for outdoor aficionados.

Please also note that I have never said that Japan nature was virgin. I said that IN COMPARISON to it's big metropolitan areas it looked ALMOST virgin. But any way if I just talk about France, you won't find either a single virgin forest. All forests have been exploited for centuries and are still exploited and controlled by humans. And I guess it is the same in neighbouring countries. Still every year thousands of tourists come from abroad to enjoy European Alps landscapes and wilderness...

It is true that one reason for the forest not to be exploited today is that it is cheaper to import wood from abroad. But still mountains forests have almost never been exploited in Japan history, in order to avoid landslides and floods (except during the first and second world war, as far as I know, when they cut bunch of forests which created irrigation problems in the plains leading to insufficient rice production). So it is also historical.

You also can't compare Canada to Japan (or even Europe). Countries are not at the same latitudes and longitudes, landscapes are different. So of course climates are different and so is vegetation. Country sizes are also different, we don't have in our countries inaccessible remote areas like in Canada. So no, you won't find in mainland Japan inextricable jungle-like dense forests, like you can find in Canada. But that doesn't mean they are "tree farms", "not wild" or "not virgin". I also don't agree with your comment "They were simply a bunch of Americans who had never seen a real forest". What is a real forest ? There are all sort or forests, each one having it's own vegetation, fauna, climate, history and relation with humans. And the combination of all these elements makes it unique and interesting and should be enjoyed for what it is. But you said it yourself, "It will still be enjoyable".

What I am trying to say is that Canada's wilderness is not Japan's wilderness neither France's wilderness or somewhere else wilderness. But Japan do have it's own and unique wilderness that is really enjoyable and a great place for outdoors activities.

By the way, what type of internet connections did you had when you where trying to look at my website? Where you trying to access it from Canada?

Last edited by mugen 2008 on Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:45 am; edited 2 times in total

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