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    • Spring
      • Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkaido

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Northern Tohoku’s Top 5 Spring Hikes

        Chase the cherry blossoms north and enjoy five of Tohoku’s best hikes this spring.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.
    • Summer
      • Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Climbing Mt. Fuji Outdoor Japan

        Peaking in 2021: Climbing Mt. Fuji

        Thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji this summer? We talk to Mt. Fuji guides on best practices for scaling Japan's highest mountain.

        Japan Camping Guide

        Check out our picks all the way from Hokkaido to the Okinawa Islands and then plot your perfect Japan camping adventure.
        Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
    • Autumn
      • Pow Bar Founder Megumi Scott

        Beyond the Brand: Pow Bar

        An interview with Megumi Scott, the founder of Niseko brand Pow Bar.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
    • Winter
      • Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Snorkeling, Surfing and Sustainability in Koch...

        Enjoy the clear waters of Kochi by snorkeling and surfing while staying at a refurbished hotel committed to sustainability.
        Outdoor Japan Shimoda

        Blue Waves and Black Ships in Shimoda

        Shimoda may be famous for its white sandy beaches and surfing, but it also played a major role in shaping the Japan we know today.
    • River and Lake
      • sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Sawa Nobori, High Above t...

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawa nobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endanger...

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote Activity Guide

        A guide to Iriomote's outdoors, hiking, diving, cultural experiences and accommodation.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkai...

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor A...

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
      • Indy Pass Outdoor Japan Tohoku

        The Resistance

        The Indy Pass arrives in Japan to bring avid riders to local resorts that punch above their weight class and offer varied terrain.
        Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
    • Travel
      • Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
        Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Market Watch Onomichi Market

        Market Watch: Omicho Market

        Discover Omicho Market in Kanazawa, Ishikawa for the best of seafood and local vegetables in Japan.
        sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Sawa Nobori, High Above the Wakasa Waters

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawa nobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
    • Food and Drinks
      • Shinano Town Outdoor Japan

        Go Deep into Shinano

        Discover Snow Country in Shinano Town in northern Nagano, popular for its deep powder but also its mountainous winter scenery.
        Protect our Winter POW Japan

        Protecting Japan’s Pow

        Professional snowboarder and environmentalist Goro Komatsu fights climate change with Protect our Winters Japan.
        Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Market Watch Onomichi Market

        Market Watch: Omicho Market

        Discover Omicho Market in Kanazawa, Ishikawa for the best of seafood and local vegetables in Japan.
        sawa nobori wakasa fukuivideo

        Sawa Nobori, High Above the Wakasa Waters

        Learn about the uniquely Japanese activity of sawa nobori, navigating up rivers and waterfalls, in the Wakasa region of Fukui Prefecture.
    • Races and Events
      • Evergreen Outdoor Center Japan

        Japan Snow Guide: Winter 2022 Events & No...

        Check out the latest news and winter events held at ski resorts all over Japan in 2022!
        Onbashira Matsuri Japan Nagano Festival

        Onbashira Matsuri

        Watch one of Japan's most dangerous festivals in Nagano in 2022. The Onbashira Matsuri is an ancient festival dating back more than 1,200 years.
        Yuji Hirayama Urban Base Camp

        Yuji Hirayama’s Urban Base Camp Opens in Shinj...

        One of Japan's top rock climbers Yuji Hirayama has opened Urban Base Camp, a new bouldering gym in the heart of Tokyo.
        Photo by Noriteru Ino

        2021 Summer Music Festivals in Japan

        Camp and listen to great music in the outdoors at these summer music festivals across Japan.

Urban Taiheiki

A photographer who too often read samurai novels and had trouble distinguishing between reality and the pages in those books. A man who saw himself as the descendant of a legendary samurai and began taking pictures as the “Photo Warrior of the Southern Dynasty.” 

He drove a beat-up four-wheel-drive car with Nagano license plates, suddenly emerging in the middle of the night in the Imperial Palace Garden in Tokyo where he would shoot the statue of a legendary samurai. He kept taking photos alone, on rainy and windy days, sometimes suspected by the police, sometimes getting offers for jobs. 

This story is about a photographer-warrior who mistakenly saw himself as the descendant of a legendary samurai, and who intended to serve as the recorder of the great urban struggles of the Nanboku-cho Era (1336 to 1392), from the battles of Chihaya and Akasaka (in the 1330s, in Osaka) to the Battle of Minatogawa (1336, in today’s Kobe). 

Taiheiki 

I’m an outdoor photographer, with a career spanning more than 20 years. I shoot mountaineering, backcountry snowboarding and outdoor sports in general, and I have at times lived in the Mecca for outdoor activities in the US. I always bring my camera and several books to the mountains. This was true when I spent two weeks heading into the remote areas of the Canadian Rockies as well as when I was crossing from Hakuba to Toyama in the depth of winter. 

Since I was a child, I enjoyed reading samurai novels, and continued to read them into adulthood. Of these, perhaps my favorite is the classical work “Taiheiki.” The book is a record of the fierce battles among the samurai, of the heroism that all people can empathize with—and above all an illustration of tadayoshi—the traditional samurai values. But those weren’t the only reasons I was drawn to “Taiheiki.” Many mountains appear in the scenes portrayed in the novel. Through these pages written 700 years ago, samurai run through mountains that I climb today. At one point, I thought it would be impossible to express the world of “Taiheiki” in photographs. 

Kusunoki Masashige 

Most foreign tourists visiting Tokyo will probably visit the Imperial Gardens. Within the Gardens is the statue of a samurai on horseback. Today, however, few people know the name of the samurai. People point at the statue and say it’s the famous warlord Takeda Shingen; less cultivated people say, “Oh, that’s Tom Cruise from ‘Last Samurai.’” The real name of this samurai is Kusunoki Masashige. He is known as the strongest, most notable strategist of the medieval samurai in Japanese history. 

It’s hard to quickly explain Kusunoki, also known as “Nanko.” With a force of just 700 soldiers, he faced the army of the Kamakura Shogunate—estimated to be in the tens of thousands—during the siege of Chihaya Castle at Mt. Kongo, and protected it for several months. At the same time, he built up an information network using yamabushi (ascetic mountain priests) while also inciting anti-government guerrilla attacks in many locations, eventually overthrowing the Kamakura Shogunate. Later the new government collapsed due to rebellion, but he remained loyal to Emperor Godaigo even after his loss at the Battle of Minatogawa. This story has long fascinated the Japanese people, and he has become a legend somewhat like King Leonidas of the Greek city-state Sparta, depicted in the movie “300.” 

Mount Kongo 

Mt. Kongo is the highest peak in Osaka Prefecture and one of the most famous mountains for Japanese people. Shugendo, the religion of the yamabushi, developed here, and even today people climb repeatedly as part of their training. At the top there is a place where they keep track of successful summits, with the most recorded by one person equaling more than 17,000 times. Climbing once a day would mean it would take a person more than 40 years. 

Mt. Kongo was the mountain where Kusunoki stood against the tens of thousands of soldiers of the Kamakura Shogunate and survived a siege of many months. Along the side of the trail to the peak is Chihaya Shrine, where Kusunoki and his son are enshrined as symbols of powerful spirits; it seems as though he is still protecting the mountain. Interestingly, straw samurai figures— which Kusunoki is said to have used during the siege—are set along the trail. While climbing the mountain, it may feel as if arrows could suddenly fly by at any moment. 

Another shrine and a temple are located on the summit, further telling of the mountain’s role as the home of many myths. One more person we can’t forget when talking about this mountain is En no Gyoja. Combining Buddhism with traditional Japanese mountain beliefs, he can also be called the founder of Japanese mountain culture—Shugendo. He began his practice here on the mountain long before finding enlightenment. It is not just a mountain, but a place with tremendous power. 

For those interested in Japanese history and photography, Yuske’s photo exhibition will be held at Kanshiji Temple in Kawachi-Nagano, Osaka from May 20-27. 

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