“Are we there yet?”

Panting with arms akimbo, I squinted at the rock path snaking through the alpine green ahead. Another ridge to cross. More loose rocks to scramble over.

We continued trudging to the peak of Mount Furano, stopping occasionally to take photos of the beautiful lush surrounds.

“Hey, I think we’re finally there!”

We strode towards the wooden marker atop Mount Furano. There was an elderly Japanese couple who had arrived moments before us. Presumably in their late sixties, the couple looked like seasoned hikers, dressed in bright coloured jackets with gaiters over their boots.

We exchanged nods and broad smiles before turning around to take in the mesmerizing sight. The drifting clouds played peek-a-boo, unveiling impressive views of the nearby valleys and surrounding mountains in the Daisetsuzan National Park every now and then.

The man offered to take a photo of us with the sign at the summit, and suggested that we “pose” – how Japanese! So we did and gave a thumbs-up gesture.

He then joined his wife who had made herself comfortable at a corner. They opened their backpacks and, to my amazement, took out a giant container of water, camping gas, packets of noodles, and utensils, and started cooking their lunch.

Me: Look, they are having a picnic. What a great way to enjoy the mountain views! I’m envious.
AB: We can do the same when we retire.
Me: No, I don’t want to wait until I’m old to do this.
AB: We can also do this now. We just need to make enough money for our lodging.
Me: Hmmm.

An adorable tiny pika (Siberian chipmunk) suddenly appeared, distracting us from our daydream. It stared wide-eyed at us before scampering away with its bushy tail disappearing into the bushes.

We continued to marvel at the wonderful views. Soon it was time to make our descent.

We needed to get re-hydrated – we forgot to bring more water with us and had only half a litre for the climb. The clouds were moving in swiftly. So close yet so far, these enormous bodies of water droplets that we can’t drink from.

We bade farewell to the couple, continued on our way as well as dreaming of what is to come in the future.

Useful information

  • Mount Furano (富良野岳) is one of several mountains in Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido (大雪山国立公園, 北海道)
  • Ryounkaku Tokachidake Onsen (十勝岳温泉 凌雲閣
) is located at the start of the route that we took. It is also a great place to get washed up and relax, as well as soak in more mountain views, after the hike.
  • Total walking distance from the onsen (elevation: 1,280 metres) to the peak of Mount Furano (elevation: 1,912 metres) and back is around 11 kilometres.
  • The hike takes around five and a half to seven hours in good weather. We took less than six hours, including some time spent enjoying the views at the top.
  • It is better to start the climb early in the day so that there is enough time to complete the walk. Even in summer, the sun can set start early, at around 6pm. The first time I was at Mount Furano with my sister, we began in the mid-afternoon and made it about half-way up before having to turn back.
  • The weather can change quickly up in the mountain, so bring wet weather gear.
  • Walking season is from July-October; the first snow usually falls here in the middle of September.

3 replies on “Vignettes of Japan #3: Mountain Dreams

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