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Features

2008
ISSUE
21
Four Corners of Japan
By Tyler Ensrude

Although I spent the first few weeks of 2008 helping my new friends and temporary neighbors, Ian Fraser and Chris Lynch, compile MP3s for their “spring hike,” I couldn’t blame them for wanting to bring their music collections on a nearly six-month trek through the back roads of northern, southern, eastern and western Japan.

Their adventure will take them to the four corners of Japan and help raise money for The Fred Hollows Foundation, working to eradicate preventable blindness in developing countries.

Ian, aka “Mountaingoat,” is a 43-year-old Appalachian Trail veteran and Mt. Fuji conqueror. He was born in Brisbane, Australia, and will be starting his journey in early April from the easternmost corner of Japan at Cape Nossapu in Hokkaido, ending at Kosakibana, Nagasaki, the westernmost corner. Ian's love for Japan began back in junior high school after reading several Yukio Mishima novels.

Chris, aka “Ashioto,” is a 30-year-old New Guinea-born writer who also grew up in Brisbane. He will be starting out in late March at Cape Sata, Kagoshima, the most southern point in Japan, and ending at Cape Soya, Hokkaido, the most northern point. Chris has been fascinated with Japan since his childhood explorations of WWII relics found around New Guinea.

In his book The Roads to Sata, writer and film critic Alan Booth took a similar route as Chris (although from the opposite direction) but, unlike Booth, Ian and Chris will take seemingly more treacherous routes through the mountains of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu compared to Booth's coastal routes which avoided several of mainland Japan's tallest peaks, valleys and forests. In his book The Roads to Sata, writer and film critic Alan Booth took a similar route as Chris (although from the opposite direction) but, unlike Booth, Ian and Chris will take seemingly more treacherous routes through the mountains of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu compared to Booth's coastal routes which avoided several of mainland Japan's tallest peaks, valleys and forests.

They plan to cross paths in mid-summer at an undecided point somewhere in central Honshu. The pair plan to “rough it,” eschewing hotels or inns for tents or sleeping outside. They’ll bring just one set of clothes, search for cheap onsen and try to avoid convenience stores at all costs.

Ian’s first attempt at the Appalachian Trail was cut short due to stress fractures from heavy gear (although he later went back and completed it). His experience taught him to travel light; however, Hokkaido will be cold, even in mid-April, so Ian will carry a heavy-duty Mountain Hardwear tent, the North Face Snowshoe sleeping bag, a pair of lightweight Australian Yowie snowshoes, Cassin ice axe and Osprey Aether 85 pack.

He’ll ditch some of this as he moves to warmer climes. Chris will also bring the Osprey pack plus an Outdoor Research NightHaven tent, but will be hiking in warmer weather. They’ll also bring cell-phones for occasional blog updates and an EPIRB Mini Sat-Alert in case of emergency.

Upon completion, they plan to write a book about their experiences and perspectives of their journey. To follow their adventures or donate to the Fred Hollows Foundation, visit www.fourcornersofjapan.net.