Jan 4, 2018

The most uplifting experience in Japan

November and December in Japan are the months made for mountains. Summer is great for getting outdoors and exploring places on bike and foot. But summer in Japan is hot and humid and some days it just feels better to stay in the air conditioning. Fall, on the other hand, is just about cooling down. But the change in seasons means storms brewing and you can never be certain that the weekend won't be stolen away by torrential winds and rain. November, however, is just moving past typhoon season, thus you are almost guaranteed clear weather and the drop in temperatures also means crisp clear skies. December in Japan is usually not quite too cold yet, particularly around the Kanto plains region. You can see for miles / kilometers around during this time.

Now, imagine sumitting a mountain with a crisp cool breeze and surrounding you on all sides are hills of bright foliage just changing colors from red to orange to brown. Depending on the year and where you climb, some sprinkling of snow may also be visible. Unfortunately Mount Fuji and a several other more strenuous mountains in Japan would already be closed to unskilled climbers by now, but there are plenty of mountains, with easier climbs, all over the country ready to show you their beauty and splendor. You don't need any experience to take a hike up these peaks and for some who still want to enjoy the mountain tops but can’t manage the climb, you can find cable cars on some of the more tourist-friendly mountainsides.

You don’t even need to stray far from Tokyo to find a good trail. There are so many Japanese people who make annual trips out to the mountains just to see the leaves changing in fall. It is quite an experience to see the leaves in their full autumn glory. And it's quite an experience to have a conversation with a group of 80 year old Japanese men at the peak of a mountain while watching the sun rise through the clouds. Some of the most interesting conversations I've had have been along the mountain hiking trails with people I don't know. Everyone seems friendly, each out of breath “Konichiwa!” in passing encouraging everyone along to reach their goals. Most people I've met on the trails in Japan were in their later years, with the younger trail-goers more focused on running up the hills and just pausing long enough for the expected greetings.The older generation of hiker, however, slows down and appreciates the mountains, nature and the gorgeous views. Many stop and pay their respects at the shrine gates, bowing to greet the gods.

Hiking in Japan is not just hiking. It has a cultural beauty all of its own and I've learned so much from so many different people through it. Just like every other hobby in this country, Japanese people tend to invest their whole selves into it, but even the casual hiker can’t help but feel the camaraderie of everyone out on the trails. I’ve only ever been on a trail twice in the states, but it was very different from the way it feels here. Everyone kept to themselves, enjoying nature in solitude. But on an afternoon on the hillsides in Japan, everyone seems to be appreciating the experience together, sharing stories and names of flowers and trees.

If there is one thing I wish everyone who comes to Japan could experience, it would be just a small amount of time spent outdoors here. I know that when I’m 80 something, I’ll be the friendly old lady ready to chat about salmon spotted in the river, or the name and history of the tiny shrine at the peak, paying forward the knowledge and joy I have received.



American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too


  • genkidesu

    on Jan 4

    Gorgeous pictures! Love the nature and outdoors here too...miss those super clear Tokyo November and December days!

  • edthethe

    on Jan 5

    @genkidesu i wish i could be out this year! the skies have been so clear in the cold weather. its just chilly if you are in the wind though.