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Hyakumeizan: Climbing Japan's 100 Famous Mountains
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#87 Hijiri-dake (3,013 m.) & #88 Tekari-dake (2,591 m.) By Ginger Vaughn

“This is going to be a long three days, the tail-end of the South Alps,” I thought to myself, as I checked my bootlaces and then slung on my pack. Including tent, food and water, my pack weighed nearly 17 kgs., and I was miserable from the...

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#23 Kuju-san By Ginger Vaughn

The peak of Mt. Kuju, reaching skyward from Aso-Kuju National Park, is the highest point on Kyushu Island and is the largest active volcano in Japan. You can enjoy camping and hot springs, as well as alpine plants and flowers in the area, while Mt. Ku...

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#21 Tsukuba-san By Ginger Vaughn

As I approached Mt. Tsukuba from a distance, I could see the two peaks that symbolize this mountain. The peak to the east, Nyotai-san, represents the goddess Izanami. The peak to the west, Nantai-san, the god Izanagi. My mind raced back to the pages o...

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#86 Takatsuma-yama By Ginger Vaughn

I left Tokyo with a few friends long before the sun came up and started on the trail around 8 a.m. Everyone was groggy from lack of sleep except for my friend, Kana, and we slept like zombies the entire way in the car. The first hour starting from To...

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#27 Kaimon-dake By Ginger Vaughn

The mountain of the day was Kaimon-dake, also known as Satsuma-Fuji, the symbol of Satsuma-hanto Peninsula. I had less than two hours of shut-eye but was more than happy to start my day and flee from the roach-infested nightmare of a room in Ibusuki. ...

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#68 Goryu-dake By Ginger Vaughn

The dust in the rusting tin storage shack I had stayed in near Goryu campsite had gotten the best of me, and I woke up sneezing and chilled. But it was a worthy trade-off, and I was pleased I didn’t have to bother pitching my tent the night befo...

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#89 Enna-san By Ginger Vaughn

The sound of traffic woke me up, and I quickly threw the sleeping bag to the floor and flipped open my mobile to check the time. It was 6:10 a.m. and, damn, I overslept. I had I intended to catch only a few hours of shut-eye in the back of my rental C...

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#45 & 46 Kuro-dake and Washiba-dake By Ginger Vaughn

Although I have been known to be an ame-onna, a woman whose presence seems to bring rain, this time around the gods were taking care of me. Not a cloud in sight, but the chill at nearly 3,000 meters had encouraged me to put on all my layers including ...

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#70 Tateyama By Ginger Vaughn

Right as I began to empty the contents of the tent bag on the ground, snowflakes started to come down with a flurry. “No, no, no”, I whined aloud in disappointment, imagining the freezing night ahead after an exhausting five days of trekki...

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#34 Ibuki-san By Ginger Vaughn

Some say the name Ibuki (strong exhalation) comes from the powerful winds common on Mt. Ibuki. As the wind picked up and the approaching storm made its way ever closer, I was convinced. “Ame ona (rain woman) does it again,” I thought to my...

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#54 Kaikoma-gatake By Ginger Vaughn

For two weeks I had been in the South Alps, working as hut staff. Preparing pre-sunrise breakfasts and early dinners left little time for hiking. On my last day, I was ecstatic as I packed my bag and headed out, even as rain poured down from above. I...

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#30 Ishizuchi-san By Ginger Vaughn

On the ferry from Tokyo to Tokushima, a local woman told me it was a good choice to climb Ishizuchi-san, as it is the guardian angel of her hometown, Saijo in Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island. Ishizuchi-san, also known as “stone-hammer,”...

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Mountain #1: Poroshiri-dake By Ginger Vaughn

“A foreign girl climbing Poroshiri alone? I have lived here 50 years, and the mountain is no joke.” So said the old man at the visitor center in Batori, Hokkaido, giving me a concerned look and shaking his head. Pointing to the sky, he war...

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#56: Kita-Dake By Ginger Vaughn

It was my third day out in the South Alps, and I was convinced I was an “ame-onna”  (rain woman) as I had been in my rain gear for two days straight, and there was no sign of it letting up. That morning I was once again putting on the...

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#17 Hachimantai By Ginger Vaughn

I hear the door to the Visitor’s Center slide open as I scramble to get my things in order. Still in my sleeping bag with all my gear, it’s obvious I spent the night here. But, who cares?  It’s 6:07 a.m. and there’s a magn...

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Mountain #12: Akadake By Ginger Vaughn

It was still mid-October, but the chill in the air made me wonder if sleeping in a tent was a good idea. When I arrived at the gyojya (行者) hut, literally “pilgrim hut,” I figured roughing it would do me good. Only three hours had passe...

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Mountain #59: Akaishi-dake By Ginger Vaughn

After a great 10-hour sleep in the empty hut on Taka-dake, my internal clock woke me at 4:30 a.m. as usual. The caretaker of the place was a grumpy, yoga-obsessed old man who had told me my Japanese would be good if I stopped using that “youn...

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#25: Sobo-san By Ginger Vaughn

It was my fifth day and mountain number two in Kyushu. Hitching a ride from an onsen in Beppu was easy and, soon enough, I was on the trail as it was beginning to get dark. Damp air and rusty fingers made it difficult to get a fire going in the hut on...