US had just got robbed in the Slovenia game, I was drunk, it was 130am, and I had to be up in 4 hours to catch the train. “Hiking in the rain will be nice…I can try the umbrella…” I tried to stay motivated as the rain came down.
Embracing the rain was new. Unlike the other seasons, the rainy season has no fans in Japan. In fact, although Japanese brag of ‘4-distinct seasons,’ they quietly forget the 5th: the rainy season. I decided to be counter-cultural: I would love it.
Umbrella deployed I started the 1000m 6.5 km ascent to Tono-dake hard and fast. I passed all the hiking clubs that had caught an earlier train by 3km in. I felt pity for them under their layers of gor-tex that amplified the humidity of the morning. Thank you Ray, that could have been me. The rainy season wasn’t so bad.
When hiking ridge lines in Japan you’ll often be looking at a natural growth forest on one side and only cedars on the other, the result of bad forest management policies. This time, I heard only birds down the ridge on my left, and an insect orchestra fit for the amazon on my right. I have no explanation for this.
A handsome, young Japanese spotted deer greeted me at the summit of Tou-no-dake. He grazed loudly while I munched on trail mix. We feasted together, and the rainy season was getting pretty nice.
The deer had distracted me, though. After 10 minutes of hanging out, he walked behind me and turning to follow him I realized I had been missing this right behind me:
The clouds had parted to reveal a floating Fuji; it couldn’t possible be rooted on the same ground I was. I took an early lunch and enjoy the view while it lasted. The rainy season, I imagined, was saying thank you for my faith in its potential.
As the clouds returned and the other hikers began to crowd the peak, I began my decent to Minoge. The ridge-line was lush and a entertainingly treacherous. Full of energy, I jogged all but the steep bits for the next 12km.
On the last big uphill, I noticed someone coming up fast behind me. He cruised right past, laughed loudly at the top of the hill looking out at Fuji, the ocean, and steep valleys, and then ran off. A bit relieved that I was not the only one who laughed at the ridiculous fortune of this rainy season day, I was also grateful for the motivation to train harder. I got a very good look at his very fit bum in spandex: something to aspire to I suppose.
I pushed myself the last muddy 3.5km to meet a totally arbitrary 2:00pm goal for the hike-cum-jog and beat it by 3 minutes. The bus left at 2:00pm, I remained fortunate until the end.
I felt self conscious about my muddy legs on the train home. Such a thing it is to love the rainy season I suppose.
Super-cat was great. Replaced lid of my snow-peak 1400 with foil saving 1.6 ounces: great. Made windshield with foil: great. Superstar of the day: 300 yen umbrella, perfect for humid, rainy days.
18-19 km (not quite sure) with a hiking time of 4:40. Didn’t max myself out, legs only sore for one day, and I could actually walk down stairs without knee pain despite the long downhill run. I’m happy to see my body adapting!
Follow the access directions and route to Tou-no-dake from Wes at Hiking in Japan. At Tou-no-dake take the trail to Yabitsu-toge on the left side (facing downhill) of this beautiful hut:
Once you get the rest-stop at Yabitsu-toge (there is 1.8 km of on road hiking here) follow the sign for Minoge that will direct you up a staircase and then to a wonderful decent into the valley. Follow the access road at the end to the main road, the bus stop for the bus back to Hadano (Odakyu line) is across the street from the bathroom and vending machines on your left.