Tag Archives: japan

Hiking Hakusan: enjoying the colors of the “white mountain”

After climbing Mt. Fuji, we decided to complete the sanreizan (三霊山), Japan’s three holy mountains. So we next set our sights on Mount Hakusan (2702 m) in Ishikawa Prefecture. Its name in Japanese (白山) is translated as “white mountain”, due to its snowy peaks. However, we visited Hakusan in the summer so I would remember it as a mountain of color, a feast for the eyes with its lush greenery, varied flora and fauna, and magnificent landscapes.DSCN0776

Getting there

We decided to climb using the most popular route from Ishikawa prefecture. To get from Fukuoka to Kanazawa, we took the seishun 18 kippu, changing from one slow, local train to another for 19 crazy hours (but that’s for another story). We stayed the night in Kanazawa, took the first bus at 6:45 am, and arrived at the Bettodeai trailhead at 8:55 am (bus schedules here, use Google Chrome auto-translate for the English version).

Day 1: Trailhead to the campsite

Map of Mount Hakusan trails (source: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4285.html)

From there, we chose the Saboshindo trail to get to our target for that day: Minamiryugabanba campsite. We were not in a hurry since we had the whole day to reach the campsite, and another full day tomorrow to reach the summit. From the hanging bridge that marked the start of the hike, the trail is narrow but well-maintained that alternates from wooden planks to gravelly paths and even stone stairs.DSCN0546 (4)Hakusan-002 After 45 minutes, we reached an emergency shelter hut where we stopped to prepare our late breakfast/early lunch and refill our water flasks.DSCN0565 We took our time with our meal, enjoying the cool temperature and good weather that Hakusan offered us. With our stomachs full, we continued on our hike with different types of flowering plants lining the trail. Everywhere I look, there were interesting plants or curious insects that kept me occupied and made me forget the length of the hike. The flora and fauna were one of the most varied among the mountains I have climbed.Hakusan-001Hakusan After 1.5 hours (around 1 pm), we stopped at the Jinnosuke shelter hut for a bathroom break and survey of the scenery. There we met a lot hikers also taking a breather, from young kids to groups of young hikers to old grandfathers and grandmothers. They all had a “konnichiwa” greeting for us as we passed.

At the Jinnosuke hut

At the Jinnosuke shelter hut

We continued on to the steeper (but still really rolling) portion of the hike, but when we got to the intersection going to Murodo (hut nearest the peak), we started descending again to reach the Minamiryugabanba campsite. The sky started to get really clear, so we were rewarded by beautiful views of the surrounding peaks covered by different shades of green. I took a lot of photos of the stunning landscape before continuing on.DSCN0664

DSCN0661 (7) The last few portions of the trail were all elevated wooden planks until we arrived at the Nanryu sanso hut around 2 pm. We had to register there and pay 300 JPY per person to use the nearby Minamiryugabanba campsite.

Nanryu sanso hut

Nanryu sanso hut

After the paperwork, it was another 20 minutes before we got to the campsite, where several tents were already set up. The campsite had small, open cabins with toilets and sinks.

Minamiryuganba campsite

Minamiryugabanba campsite

View from our tent

View from our tent

Inside the cabin building at the campsite

Inside the cabin building at the campsite

I felt really thankful that Japanese campsites always have a water source for drinking and washing, it really takes a whole lot of load off our shoulders, literally. We arrived at the campsite quite early, so we took our time preparing our early dinner. Even then, we were already inside the tent before sunset for lack of anything else to do. The smartphone became our best friend that night.

Day 2: Campsite to the peak and back

The next day, we started our day by getting up at 6:15 am to prepare breakfast. We left the campsite with all our stuff at around 7:30 am to take the 3.1 km Tonbiiwa course up to Murodo hut. The trail consisted of large boulders that eventually became gravelly paths. The vegetation changed to short pine shrubs and stunted trees and then to grassland.DSCN0711

DSCN0724 (2)Along the way, there were still patches of snow from the previous winter that added character to the already amazing scenery. I was feeling really pleased with the beauty surrounding me.

DSCN0724 (10)

DSCN0735
We reached Murodo hut at 9:00 am and took a half-hour break to explore the surroundings and watch the helicopter deliver the hut’s supplies.DSCN0738 (13)

Murodo hut

Murodo hut

delivery

delivery

At 9:30 am we said a quick prayer at the shrine for a safe trip to the summit (Hakusan was a holy mountain, after all).DSCN0738 (14)

The Murodo hut seen from above

The Murodo hut seen from above

After half an hour, we reached the smaller Shiramayahime shrine and from there it was a short 2-minute climb to the peak.DSCN0753 (4) It was a clear day so the view of the lakes below, paired with the vibrant blue of the sky, were just stunning.

Summit of Mt. Hakusan

Summit of Mt. Hakusan

DSCN0755 (2)

View from the top

We were feeling great on the summit so we decided to take the longer Oike Meguri course. The course is a longer loop that leads back to Murodo hut, but not before passing by the seven lakes along the way. We checked out all the lakes depicted in the course, and they varied from large blue lakes with melting snow to small sulfuric ponds.

This way down

This way down

The lakes of the Meguike course

The lakes of the Oike Meguri course

After 2 hours of leisurely walking, we arrived back at Murodo hut and had a quick lunch. By noon we were on our way down using the Kankoshindo trail for variety. We raced down, especially on the wooden walkways, since we felt so energized by the good weather and wonderful scenery.

Tired hiker along the trail

We felt energized, but this hiker was feeling really tired.

DSCN0838

Wonderful view going down

I was also busy taking photos of more flowers and insects along the trail, and at one point we met a snake, which added more excitement to the day.

Snake on the trail

Snake on the trail

We waited for a while to let him move out of the trail before we continued on. By 2:30 we were already back at the Bettodeai trailhead and ready for the 3:30 bus that would take us back to Kanazawa.

Bettodeai welcoming us back

Bettodeai welcoming us back

 

Climbing Hakusan was one of the most laid-back and relaxed climbs I did. The good weather, well-maintained trails and beautiful scenery all contributed to the good vibes that the mountain imparted to us. I would always associate the “white mountain” with vivid colors: from the different greens of the grass and leaves, to the beautiful blue of the sky, the vibrant colors of the flowers and insects and the colorful scenery both from the peak and below.DSCN0711 (3)

Advertisements

Oktoberfest 2011 in Fukuoka: My Japanese-German party experience

Because Japanese people love drinking, it’s no surprise that the German Oktoberfest has found its way to Japan. In Fukuoka, the Oktoberfest has been an annual event for a few years now, usually held during the last week of October.[click here for official Japanese event page]

This 2011, my lab mates and I decided to check out the Fukuoka Oktoberfest on a Monday night to chill out from our research (our excuse to drink). The venue was in Reizen Park, so we took the train to Nakasu Kawabata Station. We arrived there at around six in the evening and walked a block or two to the park.

When we arrived, the first thing that caught my attention was the merry-go-round at the entrance. I found it amusing that there was a lone amusement ride amidst the food and drink stalls.

We were greeted by the welcome sign and some Japanese ushers who handed each of us a sheet of yellow paper with the venue map and song lyrics, which proved to be very useful after a few beers. But more on that later.

The first thing we did was to look for, of course, German beer! There were several choices but Loren, my Filipina friend who came with us, and I chose the stall with the nice German lady smiling at us. We asked her to choose our drink for us, since we did not know what the different beers were anyway. We were surprised when she replied to us in Filipino! She speaks a little Filipino, with very good Japanese, English, and of course, German 🙂 Very cool!

She also explained that we had to pay 1,000 yen more for the ‘glass deposit’. She said that after we finish with the glass, we just have to surrender it at the next stall for our next beer, and they will replace it with another glass. At the end of the night, we just returned the glass to the designated area to get our 1,000 yen back. The biggest glass available was 500 mL.

Since it was dinnertime, we also looked for food to accompany the beer. There were several stalls selling sausages, fries, pizza, popcorn, pretzels (in short, food not usually served in a Japanese restaurant/cafeteria). We got German sausages with mashed potato to really take in the ‘German’ atmosphere.

There was a little rain, so we brought our food and drinks inside the tent. The tent was relatively big and because we came early, we got a whole long table to ourselves. My labmates ordered different kinds of beer so we got to taste the different types of German beer available. This also gave us an idea which type of beer to try next.

There was a three-man German  band (2 guitars and an accordion) who performed twice that night. Every 15 minutes or so, they enjoined everybody to sing the traditional German toast song ‘Ein Prosit’ and then toast. The lyrics to the song was in the yellow flyer that they gave us when we entered.

At first we were just observing other people do it, but after downing about 3 different beers, we were singing along and shouting ‘Prost!’, toasting in German at the top of our voices.

As the night continued and people became more intoxicated, the party got more interesting. As the band played German songs, people started to dance in front of the stage to songs they couldn’t even understand 🙂 They also made a dancing train line that went from the stage to the back of the tent. People were high-fiving each other and jumping up and down while waving German flags. Of course, we joined in on the fun! It was a crazy, fun-filled night. After the singing, dancing and shouting, we got ready to go home since the event closes at 10 in the evening every night (too early! but this is probably wise to avoid people from getting too drunk).

To cap off the night, some of my labmates rode the merry-go-round. I did not think the alcohol in my system would agree to going round and round in circles, so I passed on that and amused myself watching them and taking pictures.

We walked back to the train station and went home with a few drunk friends, and happy memories of loudly singing ‘Ein Prosit’ and shouting ‘Prost!’. It was one of the best Monday nights ever, partying the Japanese-German(?) way! 🙂