I am starting a written journey of my adventures as I explore Japan as a guide for Venture http://www.ventureea.com/
Venture lead a variety of trips, from family based, culture, food and the more physically demanding active trips. With my background being in exercise science and my passion for fitness my intention of my writing is to give you an insight into active travel, how you can get involved and just how incredible this country of Japan is.
So here we go Day 1 of my active gypsy lifestyle brings me on a research trip to the beautiful Kamikochi, before the 19th century the area was used as a logging area until British missionary Walter Weston hiked the area and fell in love with it, he lobbied to protect the area and since then it has been used for recreational use and is now a protected national park. Kamikochi is a mountainous wonderland of rivers waterfalls, forest, snow and some of the highest peaks in Japan. It’s about 5 hours from Kyoto and can be accessed via a shinkansen to Nagoya, scenic train to Takayama for a possible quick look at some of the old houses, renowned carpentry work and some delicious sake breweries, you can then catch a bus to Kamikochi.
I woke at 6:30 am with my japanese breakfast waiting fueling me with rice, egg, mountain veggies, salad and miso soup for the day ahead. I told my accom I would start with a hike to Dakesawa valley, they looked worried as it was raining outside and this was a tricky hike up the mountain to where snow would await as I went higher, I assured them I would turn around if it was too much and started my run to the entrance.
It started off fine and a lot of fun, there was flowing creeks, the sounds of birds and planks of wood laid out to cross over.The track was beautiful and so green, even more so in this wet weather and not a soul in sight. As I climbed higher the air began to thin and I saw my first patch of snow, how strange this was after two weeks in Kyoto of over 30 degrees, I’d forgotten how cold it can be in the snowy mountains. I came to a clearing with rocks everywhere and the most spectacular views as I looked up of Mt Oku -Hotakadake and Mt Mae-Hotakadake, when I looked down I could see beyond the cloud cover Kappa Bashi bridge and what was the entrance into the park. I climbed further noticing the beautiful summer flowers beginning to bloom, but I would soon come to a new difficulty…. The snow got even more deeper, I tried to hold on to a rope and climb up the mountain, but as soon I tried to climb across the snow got deeper and took my leg with it. I made the difficult decision to turn around and abseiled my way back down to the path. Legs feeling more like jelly now I made it back to the road and ran into town for a delicious apple cake and coffee.
It was still early and I had heard of the Nirringso flower at the end of Tokusawa so I ran back to Myojin pond and headed towards Tokusawa, stopping to acknowledge the many snow monkeys in trees and walking along the road.
I followed the river with it’s calming and wild sound next to me, and it wasn’t long until I would see a sea of colours with many tents set up.
I decided to continue on to Yokoo Ohashi. Stopping for a hot cocoa from the vending machine I took in the beautiful 80m long Shinmura bridge overlooking the river and mountains.
My legs were heavy now I had already hiked and ran 18km and it would be another 3 up the mountain, but I started the steep journey. The rocks were slippery and I had to climb many wooden ladders, I was so high that I reached the clouds, a thick smog blocking my view as I got higher, and there it was that blasted obstacle of snow yet again, I was so close with only a couple of hundred metres to the peak but as I stepped my foot sunk, I tried again but it was so steep and I could see myself slipping down the mountain, the way my legs felt now it was an appealing thought if it wouldn’t bring me to my death, so again I made the trek back down. It was a slow descent, the rain had taken it’s toll on this track and I slipped more than once. I can not stress the importance of adding balance exercises into your workout routines each day, I was also wearing my minimal five fingered shoes so my brain was quick to respond to the environmental cues to quickly adjust my body to the changing and challenging terrain.
Feeling exhausted when I reached the bottom I fuelled up on some nuts and decided to run, I was ready for my nice hot bath and despite the pain in my body now I picked my feet up for a steady pace back. Perhaps my slowest running performance I made it back to my accommodation with staff happy to see I had survived the 9 hour day and 25km up, down and across the mountains of Kamikochi.
Accommodation was a Kammon the 130 year old hut, Kamijo Kamon was the guide for the famous Walter Weston and helped change history to preserve this spectacular area, I drank local beer ate fresh caught fish with the owner and descendant of Kamijo Kamon by the fire and would highly recommend to stay here. Staff were so friendly, meals were brilliant, very traditional, and comfortable, it felt like I was in a family home which was nice. http://kamonjigoya.wordpress.com/
If you want to know more about Venture and their trips you can follow them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/VentureEA
I will also be posting a photo diary of my adventures on Adventure PT’s instagram account “adventurepersonaltraining”
and of course our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AdventurePersonalTraining