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2. Mount Tsukuba (筑波山), Ibaraki
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Monday, April 10, 2017, 8:28 PM
2. Mount Tsukuba (筑波山), Ibaraki


Mount Tsukuba was considered as my impromptu plan. I was supposed to hike Mount Io and Mount Aka at Yatsugatake. But due to unpredictable weather and strong wind, I could not proceed to Mount Aka. So I had to come up with a new plan right away.

I discussed with Sota-san about this mountain over dinner after we got back from Mount Io. I was hesitated at first because I didn't have anyone to accompany me. However, later, I was suddenly overflowed with confidence and bravery (that I didn't know where it came from) and decided to go for an easy hike the moment I woke up the next morning despite not having a buddy to go with.

Located in Ibaraki prefecture, near the Tsukuba city, Mount Tsukuba / 筑波山 / Tsukuba-san (877m/2900ft) is a well-known mountain for its’ double peaks, Nyotai-san (877m) and Nantai-san (871m) as well as the ancient shrine that is located at the foot of the mountain.






The shrine at Mount Tsukuba's base is among the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan and the mountain has been worshiped by the Japanese for over 3000 years as it is believed can bring them happiness and prosperity.






In Japanese folk cosmology, Nyotai-san means “Woman’s Body Mountain” while Nantai-san means “Man’s Body Mountain”, both represent Izanami and Izanagi, the nation’s first conjugial pair and creator deities, respectively.

Mount Tsukuba is listed in '100 Famous Mountains in Japan' written by an author and climber Kyuka Fukada. This list is famous among Japanese hikers and can be said as one of the ultimate goals for them to complete.

It took me about one hour and a half to reach Tsukuba from Nakano. Then, from Tsukuba train station, I took a bus ride to Tsukuba Jinja. The mountain trail is located behind the shrine. There are few trails that hikers can try, Miyukigahara trail, Shirakumobashi trail, Mukaeba trail, Otatsu-ishi trail, Shizen-kenkyuro trail, Sancho-renrakuro trail. (english.ibarakiguide.jp/news/climbing-mt-tsukuba.html). You can get the trail map at Information Office near the entrance. They also provide locker service.


                 






I used Miyukigahara trail for ascend and Shirakumonbashi trail for descend. It is better to use different trail for both ascend and descend as you can get to experience different side of the mountain, as told by Sato-san. Hehe.




It took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Nyotai-san using Miyukigahara trail. The trail was not that hard despite the never ending stairs. It was clear and clean, as expected. One won’t simply get lost during hiking. But even so, always aware of surrounding and take precaution. I also met many friendly hikers on the trail and I like how they kept cheering me along the journey.


            




Sadly, the fog was too much that it covered most of the view. So there was no view for me this time too. I had my light lunch to recover my energy and walking around a bit taking photo despite the view. There's also few shops on top of this mountains selling food and souvenirs.
I continued my journey to the second peak, Nantai-san.






There’s another way to go to the mountain top without hiking, Mount Tsukuba also offers cable car service until Nyotai-san peak. And from there you can walk about 15 minutes to the other peak, Nantai-san.




I gotta say that Nantai-san peak looks more or less like Mount Datuk in Malaysia. The peak consists of rock. Most mountains in Japan are volcanic, but Mount Tsukuba is composed of non-volcanic rocks such as granite and gabbro.




There was a small shrine on top of Nantai-san. The hikers took their time to pray here. And there was a  view as well! Thank God, finally! I wandering around, taking photo (as usual), observing other hikers (because I was alone and didn’t know how to initiate conversation because my Japanese was bad haha). When I was busy selfie-ing, came this one uncle offered to help me taking my photo (I bet he saw my struggle coz I didn’t use monopod whatsoever). I gladly accepted his help and I returned the favor by taking photo of him and his family.


            


I spent few minutes enjoying the view before decided to go down. And I’m following Sota-san’s advise, to use another route which is Shirakumobashi trail. It took me about 40-50 minutes to reach the trail head. I was literally running down because the forest looked creepy to me. Haha. And there were also many memorial stones (or whatever it’s called) along the trail which added up to its creepiness level. Haha.










I met a group of trail runners training for their next running event near the trail head. They were funny, friendly and bright (I mean their running apparels). I had small conversation with them and we took picture together before parting our ways. I went straight to the shrine and wandering around a little bit before heading back to the bus station.










While waiting for the bus, I had conversation with this one Japanese man who happened to be a lecturer in one of the local university. He was amazed seeing me hiking the mountain alone as most tourists/hikers prefer to go to Fuji instead of Tsukuba. Somehow I understand that. Fuji is the tallest and the most famous mountain in Japan, of course it becomes tourists' number one's choice. As for me, I don't really mind. As long as it's a mountain, I will climb 'em all! Hehe.

As soon as I reached Tsukuba city, I rushed to the toilet to change my clothes as I couldn't find toilet near the shrine. Coincidentally, the city was having Summer Festival (or known as Matsuri) and there were many booths and stalls selling foods and souvenir. This was my first time attending Japanese festival. I was all excited and amazed. Again, I was being 'jakun'. Haha.


       




There were drum performance, Noh theater, Japanese traditional dance. It was fun watching all those in real life as I always have a thing on traditional stuff. I enjoyed the festival for few more hours and went back to Nakano at night. 


p/s : sorry for the bad photography skill. -__-"

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Friday, May 27, 2016, 4:08 PM
1. Mount Io (硫黄岳), Southern Yatsugatake, Nagano.




       Mount Io / 硫黄岳 (2,760m/9,060ft) was the first mountain in the list. Mount Io is a stratovolcano mountain. It is one of the many peaks of Southern Yatsugatake mountain range located at the border of Chino and Minamimaki Prefecture, Japan. Southern Yatsugatake has 8 peaks (Mount Aka being the highest) while Northern Yatsugatake has 10 peaks (Mount Tengu being the highest).

      I hiked with two of my new friends whom I knew from social media (the one I mentioned earlier in previous post, remember?), Anas (but I like to call him Nanas more, so I'll use Nanas in this post) and Sota-san. Well, being the random me, I was the one who asked Sota-san to hike together. And later when Nanas knew about it, he wanted to join us as well. Initially, Sota-san planned to hike three mountains, Mount Aka (the highest peak of Southern Yatsugatake mountain range), Mount Yoko and Mount Io. But due to bad weather, we only managed to hike Mount Io (also due to my inability to endure cold weather).


THE TRUTH : I lost the data once I updated iOS (oh screw you Apple!). So, this is basically what I remember. (sobs)


         Sota-san and Nanas picked me up at 2AM at the guesthouse I was staying in Nakano. It took about 3 hours (more or less) to reach Yatsugatake-Chūshin Kōgen Quasi-National Park by car. We stopped at highway pit stop in the middle of the journey for Subh prayer. It was my first time seeing Japanese highway pit stop, and trust me, I was jakun. Haha.

Public transport instruction :

From Shinjuku Station, take the rapid train to Chino Station.
From there, take a bus to Minotoguchi Trailhead (美濃戸口).
Shinjuku→Chino Station    → Minotoguchi Trailhead
2 hours 25 mins. (¥6,070)   → 45 mins. (¥900)

The food order machine. You pay first, get the receipt and
give it to the food stall worker.
Their convenience store is to die for, everything's here.
They have variety of food too. But Muslim
cannot eat everything. Haha.
Subh prayer. I bring my raincoat everywhere I go.
It has multiple purposes, can be used as telekung
as well as sejadah.
Japanese highway pit stop


         Though I hike often and have like 3 years of hiking experience, I still could not get rid of the nervous feeling. It always gets me whenever I hike mountains I have never been to. I didn't know what to expect, what to feel, what to think. The unfamiliarity made you losing your mind. I told myself to calm down, just follow the flow, keep walking and rest if you need to. And I also told them about my hiking pace so they can estimate theirs. Hmmm, just like I expected, first mountain is always the hardest (cough*worst*cough).

         We started hiking around 5.30AM from Minodo trail head. I do not have much information on the trail though, because I lost the log in my phone and I did not buy or take any maps of Yatsugatake mountain as I could not find any (actually more like I forgot to go to the office). Haha. Sorry. But here is a few information on the trails we used, roughly.


Minodo-guchi / 美濃戸口 (trail head)  - Minodo Sanso - Kitazawa - Akadake Kosen (hot spring mountain hut) - Iodake (Mount Io) - Gyoujyagoya  - Minamizawa - Minodo

Minodo trail head. Here's the parking space.
I already felt the coldness here. Belum start
hiking pun lagi. Haha.





Minodo sanso. Sanso (sansou) means mountain villa/hut.
Here's the closer look. I found that Japanese mountain huts
are mostly pretty, neat and clean.
They even got the map signage. Every is complete!
Picture credit : Nanas
Sota-san gave briefing to us before hiking.
Picture credit : Nanas




        After few hours trekking, I started to feel the coldness as the elevation increased. Cold weather is my ultimate weakness. I can endure steep trail, hiking for hours (I once hiked for 16 hours straight with heavy load before *cough*V1*cough) or walking under scorching sun. But not cold weather. I could not think straight when I hiked Kinabalu last year as it was too cold to handle (because it was raining the day before and the temperature dropped). So when Sota-san said it was not that cold, I thought a thin Uniqlo windbreaker would do me justice. Sadly, no (cry). The weather in Japan mountain area is still cold even in summer. And I learnt my lesson, in a VERY HARD WAY.

No one in their right mind will jump into the water
because it was freaking cold, macam air batu. Nak ambil
wuduk guna air ni pun aku fikir 10 kali.






         I know I should never believe him. I mean, I should never believe in his ability to withstand cold weather. He used to it! He used to live in winter! Who am I kidding? Yes, myself. He just wore a windbreaker and he was fine with it which was very contrary to my condition. Haha. I suffered and struggled and mentally exhausted throughout the whole 4 hours trekking (usually it takes about 3 hours trekking but we stopped at Akadake Konsen for rest) because of the coldness (yes, you can laugh all you want). I felt guilty to them because I complained about the weather too much that I think they felt annoyed. So sorry guys... T.T

Akadake kosen.



100 yen per entry.
You gotta be thankful for the seat warmer.




       The wind started to blow even stronger when we nearly got to the peak. Thick mist was everywhere and it was pretty hard to see. After struggling with the strong wind, thick mist and coldness (oh god), we reached the peak few minutes later (around 9.50AM). Many hikers were there as they were stranded due to bad weather. All of us wanted to proceed to Mount Aka, but could not do so as it was quite dangerous because there were parts where you have to climb to get to the peak. 



Thick mist was getting thicker.
Part ni gayat. Hmmmm...
Met the other hikers, stranded.



The peak of Mount Io, Southern Yatsugatake.
Yeay! Finally!
Picture credit : Nanas


          We decided to descend after taking few pictures. It was so cold, so windy, that I think our sweat starting to freeze. Really. Hontoni. Sota-san chose to use other trail for descend as it was more fun that way (according to him).

Apa? Sesat? Phone ada, apadehal. Most of the
mountains have phone coverage. Fuji has wifi.
Dia ni relax je cuaca sejuk pun.
Eh, geram pula aku tengok. Haha


We had a rest at Gyoujyagoya (mountain hut) for awhile and gave ourselves a chance to enjoy the view of Yatsugatake mountain range. It was magnificent. I always love Japan for their advanced technology, cleanliness and manners. But I never knew that their mountains are also beautiful!

Look at that pointy peak. That's the one we hiked,
Mount Io.
Southern Yatsgatake mountain range. I asked Sota-san,
how long will it takes to complete all peaks?
He said maybe around a week or two.
Aha! So this means REPEAT! hehe

You see that? That's Mount Aka (Akadake),
the highest peak of Southern Yatsugatake.
Camping site. You gotta pay for it.




            It was a sad thing that I broke my film camera on the first mountain (I accidentally dropped it, the advanced knob broke). So, no film pictures throughout the trip. Only the digital ones that I took using phone camera (cry even harder TT.TT).

The biggest mushroom I've ever seen in my whole life.






         We continued our journey to Minodo. We passed through river stream and mossy forest and stopped for awhile for some pictures. If you think Irau's mossy forest is pretty enough, well this one is even prettier. Hehe. After few hours trekking (probably about 2 hours more or less) we reached back to the Minodo trail head. Prayed and went back to Tokyo! Wohooo~

THE MAMMUT STAIRS!
I asked Sota-san, what's Mammut has to do with this?
He said maybe Mammut gave some amount of money
for this forest's conservation project.



I bet he's busy, so I just screenshot-ed the picture
from his Instagram. Haha.



It was Sota-san's first time seeing this.
We (me and Nanas) praying outside,
at the carpark, in the forest. Huhu.


         Thank you so much Sota-san and Nanas for being the best hiking buddy. Thank you Sota-san for the treat. Please do come to Malaysia, I will bring you out for hiking trip in Malaysia. Hehe.




p/s : Sorry for the not so pretty writing style that might caused bleeding eyes and heartache. XD. If you want to see my experience in video format, go to instagram.com/izzarosli. Thank you for reading. Hope it helps. :)



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