Mountains of Central Japan Mt Fuji Tour October 2012
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Fine weather throughout most of the tour for this group of nine Russians meant that not only did we have some great hiking in the North Alps, but that those who attempted it also managed to get to the top of Mount Fuji some six weeks after the end of the ‘official season' (climbers in general are dissuaded from attempting Mt Fuji after the beginning of September). The vibrant autumn colours in the North Alps were as astonishingly beautiful as ever.
The character of this group was very different to the large American family group I guided in August. Russians and Americans seem to have different attitudes when travelling, each posing different challenges for the leader! Waywardness when it came to getting organized was tempered by resilience when the going got tough, and a great sense of humour. Spirits were kept high thanks to Yegor, an experienced Russian guide who accompanied the group from St Petersburg, and who had trekked with several members on previous trips around the world. We had many laughs along the way, and enjoyed the odd pub night where Man U and Arsenal supporters in the group drank and got silly shoulder to shoulder with the locals.
Food was high on the list of priorities, and we sought and found some excellent sushi, notably in Kanazawa. It may be a year after the Fukushima plant nuclear disaster, but seafood remains an area of concern for us, so we try to ensure that our itineraries are planned in relatively safe areas, and that the food we eat is from safe a source as possible.
Unfortunately, the tour didn't coincide with any seasonal sumo tournaments or autumn dances in Kyoto. We did have one or two encounters along the way, however, including one with an eighty five year-old teacher and his small group of Noh enthusiasts who happened to be staying at the same farmhouse as us, and who kindly put on an impromptu performance by firelight, which helped fill this ‘gap' in the itinerary. Serendipity …
It was encouraging to see that there are ongoing improvements to the hiking trails in the mountains. Ladders and chains have been replaced with newer, tougher ones, and there has been significant upgrading of the trails themselves. The mountain huts will have been responsible for some of this good work. The huts themselves, particularly Yoko Sanso, are also continually improving. On our four day traverse we only came across a couple of overseas visitors. The number of young Japanese hiking in the mountains, on the other hand was up this year. Boy how fast the young seem to walk!