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Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan Alps

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Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan Alps

Postby Ikan Mas » Sat Oct 03, 2015 8:09 pm

So I took a backpacking trip to the Northern Alps region of Japan at the beginning of September. The trip is about 25 miles long and it took four days. That doesn't seem to be far, but the trip turned out to be much tougher than I thought. Lots of climbing up chains up rock faces in wet weather. Challenging. Anyhow, here's some photos.

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Here's a view of the mountains I would soon be hiking in from the train. The crop in the foreground is buckwheat, which is made into noodles.

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After hopping off the train in a town called Hakuba (which means "White Horse"), I took a taxi ride up the mountain and began the hike. After a hike though the woods, I began climbing up a glacier. The Japanese use crampons of a sort, but a pair of Kahtoolas worked just fine for me.

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After climbing the glacier, I continued upward toward what I hoped was the inn. It was getting dark and the weather was rather nasty. I was concerned, but finally I heard a generator and I knew shelter was close. I checked in and dinner was ready shortly.

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It was pretty good.

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Here is the sleeping quarters. This was typical for all the lodges.

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Next morning, everyone got up at 4 am to watch the sun rise. Then breakfast:

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With the sun up I also saw the lodge:

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Here's what the view ahead looked like:

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Here was the first peak:
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Here's something I saw a lot of on this trip. Instead of using dynamite to blast a way over rock, the Japanese just installed chains. This made things more interesting.

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Here was the next night's lodge:

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Here's the dining hall:

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Sunset over the nearby peak, Karamatsu-Dake:

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Next peak on the agenda: Goryu Dake, Five Dragons Peak

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The Five Dragons Inn from part way up the peak:

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The peak of Five Dragons:

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My third night's inn, wedged between the peaks:

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Chains and ladders the next day in the drizzle. No fun. I was so glad I brought a pair of cheap garden gloves with sticky rubber palms. The bomb for climbing a wet chain up a slick rock slope over a 2000 foot drop!

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Most of the hikers I met were older. There were a lot of tough oba-chan out there. I spent most of morning trying to catch this lady. Genki!

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Here's the local version of a Nutcracker:

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Part of the last peak:

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The last inn along the way (I didn't stay there), before descending down to civilization:

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Civilization (the bus station back to town)

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After meeting my wife and indulging in the onsen, a nice room in the hotel:

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Last edited by Ikan Mas on Sun Oct 04, 2015 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby TahoeJeff » Sun Oct 04, 2015 7:38 am

I'm only seeing one picture, the rest are the dreaded black and white "X".
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby maverick » Sun Oct 04, 2015 10:42 am

I'm only seeing one picture, the rest are the dreaded black and white "X".


+1
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby old and slow » Sun Oct 04, 2015 3:47 pm

same here, although I really do like that one picture! Would love to see the rest.
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby Ikan Mas » Sun Oct 04, 2015 7:33 pm

Fixed. Let me know if there are any questions.
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby rlown » Sun Oct 04, 2015 7:49 pm

works now.. Fantastic pics!!!
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Oct 04, 2015 7:52 pm

What a great report and photos. I grew up looking at books with photos of the Japan Alps but have not seen photos that convey what it is like on the ground as well as your report. Even though I just finished dinner, just looking at the meal photos made me start salivating. Yummmm. I've been to Japan twice, but I have not spent any time in the high mountains there. Perhaps next time I'll try to figure out a way to combine to hiking and geology. I had a great uncle who was quite the outdoor person in Japan. He was climbing peaks to a pretty advanced age.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby rlown » Sun Oct 04, 2015 8:20 pm

just curious. what does that kind of trip with meals/lodging cost?
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby old and slow » Sun Oct 04, 2015 8:52 pm

awesome report!!
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby Ikan Mas » Sun Oct 04, 2015 10:19 pm

I did this trip on my own, without a guide. I've traveled fairly extensively in Japan, so I'm familiar with how things work there and have some language skills, though this was my first hiking trip. I had a Japanese speaking friend make the phone calls for reservations, but I'm not entirely sure it was necessary. Some inns were fuller than others, and I suspect that if you turned up late without a reservation and they were full on a popular weekend you would be out of luck. That said, the numbers of people accommodated is huge. The mountain inns were about 9500 to 10500 yen a night, which is about $80-$87 at current exchange rates. I think it was 500 yen to pitch a tent.

The charges included breakfast and dinner. At dinner and breakfast you are served a specific plate of food with all the rice, tea, and miso soup you want. The food is good, but the meals are very traditional Japanese in all aspects. No knives, forks, or coffee. There were also people that brought their own food and cooked it outside or in a vented alcove. There was beer and snack items for sale, but a bowl of hot water cost me 180 yen at one inn. I had instant coffee that I wanted to drink instead of a small cup of coffee, which went for 500 yen.

Sleeping areas are communal but segregated by sex. Bring ear plugs, as some snore. There are no sheets and the blankets are "well used" so I just slept in my sleeping bag on top. That said, things were pretty clean. Strange for Japan, but understandingly due to the water situation on top of a mountain, there were no baths. Just a sink to wash your face and hands in.

One of the inns had a high altitude doctor, and I sat across from him as he worked with a patient in the dining hall. Though I am no expert, I was really impressed by the care and treatment that this doctor gave his patient.

As you see from my other posts, I've done a lot of miles in the sierra and other places on the west coast, and last year I did several off trail passes without any problems. That said, I really had to kick my game up another notch for this hike. The distance was only 24 miles over four days, but climbing up rock faces on chains over cliffs where a fall could be fatal was unnerving, especially considering how much cliff space you had to cover. Conditions were rainy and slick. I had to say to myself "you can do this" at each pitch. It was a bit more than I expected. By the time I was done, I had grown some mentally. I also know that I have hiking pals that under no circumstances, could handle climbing up chains. This is not for everybody. There are places to bail and routes without the chains, but I know that this route is fairly routine, especially when you see a group of seniors heading up the chains you just came down.

The book I used to plan this trip was Lonely Planet's "Hiking in Japan" by McLachlan, Ryall, and Joll. It gives a pretty good description of a number of hikes, including this one. The only thing I could fault the book with is that they don't contrast how tough the Japanese trails are in comparison with the USA.
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby Rockyroad » Sun Oct 04, 2015 10:40 pm

Wow, what a fantastic trip. Thanks for posting.

I was curious where in Japan this was so checked it out on a map and found a very strange feature.
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.p ... &z=15&t=t1

Do you know what this is? It is a deep vertical square hole about 0.25mile on a side and at least ~5500 feet deep. It is about 1/2 mile east of the Five Dragons Inn and about 4.5 miles WSW of the town of Hakuba. Google Earth satellite also shows this hole.
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Re: Hiking in Japan: Shirouma Dake to Ogizawa, North Japan

Postby Ikan Mas » Mon Oct 05, 2015 6:15 am

I would call that "hole" a GPS glitch! Perhaps a mountain that is upside down. I know little about these things, but I'm sure there is a mapping expert of some sort that could explain this.
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