Monday, May 11, 2009

Tsukuba San

Carl here for a report on our recent Mountain climbing exploits... Tsukuba-San.

At 877m (2877 ft), Tsukuba isn't a particularly huge mountain though even on most cloudy days it can be clearly seen from Sugito. We're hoping to climb Fuji-san later in the year so it seemed to make sense to climb a few 'baby' mountains first, to get a feel for the difference in climate.

The journey
We left Wado station at 10 o'clock and had a bit of false start trying to get to the mountain because I managed to mis-read the Kanji on my phone 'train finder' and decided to take us to Kita-Senju station - maybe 90 mins from Sugito instead of Kasukabe station - maybe 15 mins from Sugito! Though I'm sure it's a mistake anyone could have made... maybe! What can I say, Japanese is difficult enough without trying to muddle your way through 6000 different Kanji!!!

Anyway, back to the story...

According to my guide book, there was no direct train to Tsukuba-town because the locals decided to shut down the train station that used to service the area. So, we had to get the train to a nearby town instead, and then take a 40 minute bus ride to Tsukuba.

BAD Bus Drivers
Once at Tsukuba, we wondered around looking lost until we found which bus we needed and then headed towards it. I think the bus driver was feeling 'mean', or maybe he just didn't want to try dealing with foreigners because he saw us walking towards his bus and decided to close the bus doors and leave early!

This gave us a 30 minute wait in the baking sun for the next bus to take us to the start of the hike. The bus was full of Japanese people, and I had the unfortunate pleasure of a little boy being sat behind me. Every 30 seconds he decided to kick the back of my chair which (along with the heat) made the journey a little unpleasant.

New Friends
But, I decided to make friends with him and gave him and his grandmother a sweat (Mitsuya Cider - if you were wondering), then to my surprise this little boy starts talking to me in VERY GOOD English. His name was Rikuto, and he was 4 years old. He asked me my name, Amy's name and how old we were!.

My guidebook told me that this bus ride should only take 10 minutes, but we arrived at the start point an hour later. By this time it was close to 1pm!

We walked uphill for a few minutes and arrived at the Shinto Shrine at the foot of the mountain.

Folk Tale... in traditional costume...

We skipped the folk tale by the 'Samurai' because we didn't understand a word of it, but the Shrine itself was worth a look around.

The lazy way to travel...!

(If you're feeling lazy, you can take a short train ride up to the top of the mountain from here.)

We started the walk up the Miyukigahara course (御幸ヶ原コース).

Let the hiking begin!

The walk up was pretty straight forward, it was a relatively well maintained, though well worn route. With lots of people going up and down with us. Everyone was very friendly with a firm 'Konnichiwa!' from everyone you met, though some were particularly interested in us, the usual questions followed - who are you? where are you from? how long are you staying in Japan etc...

Not wanting to mess up again, I wisely checked the map!

One surprise was a guy in a full, bright Orange 'Son-Goku' Dragonball costume. He was thrilled that we were also Dragonball fans and we immediately recognised the costume! Though I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a photo.

The view from the top!

We got to the top within 90 minutes and we were greeted with tons of shops, and even a rotating restaurant of all things! There were a lot of people around, all queuing for ice creams. Though most had clearly taken the train up the mountain!

From here, it was a short walk up to the first peak. Mt Nantai @ 771m...

Then it was a 10 minute walk past the souvenir shops to the second (and highest peak). Mt Nyotai @ 877m...

On the way you pass this:

A 'toad' shaped rock formation. Legend says that if you can lodge a stone in the toads mouth (like the child is trying to do) then you'll receive good fortune. I tried and missed the toad completely!

The view on this side of the mountain was much nicer, though much busier!

We opted to double back on ourselves rather than take the circular route because we weren't sure of the bus schedule. As it turned out, we luckily caught the last bus back to Tsukuba centre.

GREAT Bus Drivers
Which is were we hit a problem... we didn't have any coins to pay the bus fair, the smallest note we had was 5000 yen and the driver couldn't split it. The driver was really patient and a genuinely nice guy, despite our lack of language skills. I tried to get change in the bus station, but the office was already closed, so he offered to let us ride for free, which I refused. I ended up running to a department store across the street to get some change. We thanked the driver and headed to the 'Tsukuba Express' subway station for the journey home.

Apparently my hiking guidebook was printed before 2005 when this subway was built. It's a private line so it's a little expensive, but it cut 90 minutes off our journey home so it was worth it! Oh and yes, we could have taken this train on the morning too!!! D'oh!

No comments: