By answering the usual Monday morning office question of “what did you do last weekend?” I have been gaining quite a reputation as the “girl who climb mountains”. I don’t mind this at all until such time that I was asked to search for the next trail and organize a group hiking activity.
Initially, with 10 people showing interests, the actual number of participants went down to 3 – me, my boss and her secretary. I guess most of them back down when they found out that the boss is joining or maybe because there is no cable car option just in case they decided not to further continue. Anyways, if the boss says he wants to hike, then we need to hike- another perks of being a salary man.
I have chosen Mt. Nabewari as our hiking destination due to some information that the trail is quite challenging and because I wanted to punish my boss, to see him panting and sweating. With a total height of 1,273 meters, not included on any list of most beautiful places, don’t have any temples or shrines but Mt. Nabewari promises one thing- a hot pot of nabeyaki udon when you reach the top prepared by a mountaineering legend.
Before I share with you several pictures of the hiking trails, few rules and one unpleasant experience, let me fast forward here a bit and allow me to show you the legend himself- Mr. Kusano.
Mr. Kusano owns Nabewari Sanso, the rest house at the peak of the mountain and been serving the famous udon for 30 plus years. What’s amazing about him is that he carries everything manually everyday, up and down the mountain, from his younger years up to these days.
We have the pleasure of meeting her youngest daughter, Wakana-san (the small kid sitting at the picture, If I recall correctly), who is now all grown up and very kind to assist his father on weekends when she is free from her studies. She can speak good enough English and was able to share with us stories about her studies abroad, her father and the mountain.
Meeting Mr. Kusano, her beautiful daughter Wakana-san and tasting his famous nabeyaki udon was the highlight of our hike.
Going back to the beginning.
The original plan was to follow the other hiking party and take the shortest route to reach the peak and go back using the longer, more scenic route. After more than an hour of walking, we noticed that the other hikers were stopping and looking down at their boots. Assuming that maybe they just need to tie their shoe laces, we passed them by until my female colleague started screaming.
Disgusting leeches, plenty of them. I sustained 2 bites- one on my feet and the other one on my neck. Not sure how it reached my neck, maybe when I unknowingly put down my rucksack for a few seconds. The worst injury was with my female colleague since she was wearing low cut shoes and socks.
All of the hikers including us abandoned the trail and head back to the start and search for an alternate trail. According to those who have cross the mountains plenty of time, the leech experience is unusual, even on a somewhat gloomy weather.
Wasting 2 hours, we go back again and took the route which we should have taken originally to begin with. Without the fear of leech attack, we managed to gain momentum and hike easily along Nishiyama Woodland path.
At 2.4km, we saw several bottles of water with a Japanese signage that requests if a hiker can carry at least a bottle to the top of the mountain as a way of helping Mr. Kusano. Without any hesitation, we picked one bottle each.
The most difficult part of the trail is from Futamata towards the peak, where the path is non-stop steep and inclines. The only break we got from time to time was whenever we reached the trail portion with wood planks, which was confirmed later by Wakana-san was built by Mr. Kusano himself, with no help from the government.
I guess my boss took the hike as if it was a job that needs to be finish as soon as possible, and left us two girls behind. I do understand his enthusiasm; I believe it was his first time and want to test if he has the power to complete such activity.
I have one basic rule in hiking- to do it at your own pace. There is no competition who will reach the top the fastest, the most important things is to finish the hike with no accident. So, I served like a sort-of trainer to my female colleague who almost cry and gave up. I encouraged her to climb at her own comfort, accompanied her all the way up and down even if it means that I need to slower my pace which I don’t mind at all.
My limited Japanese hiking phrase was expanded that day. From the usual ”Konichiwa!”, I started to scream the words “Ganbatte! (Try your best!)” and “Daijoubu desu ka? (Are you alright?) plenty of times.
We began descend at 4pm which was pretty late. Afraid that it will be dark soon and the threatening rain showers, we try to hike down as fast as we can. As advised by fellow hikers, we took the same path downwards to avoid another leech encounter.
Few advise when hiking Mt. Nabewari.
Bring plenty of water, since there is no vending machine along the path. The only available toilet is the one in the peak, so make sure to visit the comfort room prior hiking. No trash cans or so, even at Nabewari Sanso, all the bottles you used you have to carry it down.
Above all, savor every drop of Nabeyaki Udon knowing that it takes so much effort to bring all the necessary ingredients in order to prepare one and knowing that you have to climb mountain just to taste it.