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 http://www.tozai-trek.com/
and my friend's web site http://www.light-of-earths.com/