Seeing the Sunrise from Mount Batur

We started climbing just before 4:00 am. The climb was gradual at first and then became very steep the farther we got up! The climb was particularly challenging because of the loose rock that covers the mountain (technically an active volcano) and because we were in the dark, although we did have flashlights! We were with a group of 7 and two guides, who were both very nice and clearly thought scaling the mountain was no big deal. Sometimes they would need to return to the front of the group after helping someone below and would run up the mountain smiling at us huffing and puffing below. We made it to the top right around 6:00 am to see the sunrise. the lack of sleep plus the adrenaline of the climb made reaching the top incredibly exciting. I felt tired (but only a little) and incredibly accomplished sitting on the top of the mountain watching the sunrise.

After the sunrise we walked around the top a bit, feeling hot air escaping from vents and shouting to hear our echo (both firsts for me!). We ate toast and eggs at the top which tasted amazing (but it could be just from the exhilaration of the morning). The climb down was a new form of entertainment. The top of the mountain is covered in ash so I climbed down, I could jump a little and slide a few feet at a time. It was like snowboarding except my shoes got a lot dirtier. About halfway down the mountain we switched to a different route that was less steep and it was a fairly easy walk down. I made it back to my hotel around noon and fell asleep immediately! Ha.

The climb has inspired me to be more proactive about climbing in Japan, Living in Toyama is prime location for climbing and I should take advantage of it. One of my goals is to climb the three holy mountains. As most people who have done it will tell you, climbing Mt. Fuji is not fun. It’s long, difficult, and often wet. And after the two hour climb I did, I know the (at least) six hours of Fuji will be a challenge.

All in all though, climbing Mt. Batur was (surprisingly to me) my favourite part of the trip!

I went with Bali Eco Cycling, which I would definitely recommend if you feel interested in doing this. The guides were incredibly patient and kind, and they made the experience a positive one!

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Whiteout Weekend: Snowboarding at Hakuba

While Canada is battling through the polar vortex, Toyama has been relatively mild hovering at around 0 Celsius. Although I’m not one to complain about the lessened need for fleece and heaters, there’s something a little sad about a winter without snow. Over the weekend a group from my area drove to Nagano to spend two epic days at Hakuba ski resort. I haven’t been snowboarding in about 4 years, so I felt a little nervous and shaky on the way up to our first run. By an hour into the first day I remembered the rush you get from gliding down a mountain, and I felt exhilarated from the crisp air.

This is by far the most unique course I’ve ever been on, with multiple paths intersecting and diverging, and with multiple chair lifts and rest stops at various points on the mountain. This turned out to be quite an enhancement on our trip, because we were able to find sections of the mountain that we really enjoyed and repeatedly run them over and over.


After our first day on the mountain I experienced my first ever Onsen, a public bath. After the initial internal anxious meltdown had passed, my body was beyond grateful I decided to go. There’s no feeling quite like letting your muscles relax in hot water after being beat up by an icy mountain all day.

On our second day on the mountain the weather took a turn for the colder resulting in non-stop snow and freezing winds. We spent most of our time at the top of the mountain, where the snowfall had created heavenly powder that made you feel like you were flying. Of course, this came with the price of snowboarding through the white-out, with snow so thick the path disappeared a few metres in front. Like so many other times in Japan, this place felt incredibly peaceful despite the odds. Wind swirling around me, snow coating my face and goggles, skiers whipping around me, and yet the top of the mountain felt tranquil.

I’ve certainly gained a greater appreciation for Japan’s mountains (which I wouldn’t have guessed possible) and I’m eager to go back for more.


A chairlift disappearing into the snow.

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From the bottom of a run- thick snow looks like mist.


On the morning of our first day.

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A clear view of the surrounding mountains.

Monkey Mountain: the kings of Arashiyama

Sadly no, Arashiyama (嵐山) does not mean “Monkey Mountain”. Rather, it is the joint “Arashi”, meaning “storm” (incidentally also the name of Japan’s biggest Boy Band) and “Yama”, meaning “Mountain”. I had very little knowledge about Arashiyama, but having never been it seemed like the perfect excursion for a Thursday morning.

The town is a mecca of tourist attractions, including the very famous Sagano bamboo forest, Kameyama koen, and last but (definitely) not least, the Iwatayama “Monkey Park”.



The journey is no small feat, as visitors need to climb some extensive steps upwards on the side of a mountain. Throughout the ascent, informative signs are posted to humour and prepare visitors for their encounter with the park’s furry inhabitants.The three rules of the Monkey Park are as follows:

1. Don’t feed the monkeys

2. Don’t touch the monkeys

3. Don’t stare at the monkeys (it makes them feel embarrassed)

Rules number one and two are dismissed when located in the special monkey-feeding building which has large-gapped screens in place of windows. Monkeys calmly hang off the building and reach through the screens, holding their palms in patient (and a somewhat bored) request for food. Clutching my 100 Yen bag of fruit chunks I cautiously placed a piece of apple in an outstretched hand, expecting the monkey to snatch it up. Years of being fed this way have taught the monkeys that they have nothing to fear from camera-wheeling tourists and the monkey practically rolled his eyes at me.


The third rule (don’t stare at the monkeys) was the hardest to keep. I’m not sure how embarrassed they really did feel as they strolled around the mountaintop, occasionally blocking the walking paths as visitors (OK, me) edged around them.


_DSC0155Monkeys aren’t the only reason to come to Monkey Park (although you might expect as such). The height of the park is higher than that of Kyoto tower (131 Metres), offering a sprawling view of the city below. The climb (although potentially challenging) passes through some pretty beautiful scenery.

_DSC0131 After the Monkey Park, we spent some time wandering the bodies of water, taking in the bright sky and mountains. Although Kyoto is not chaotic by any means, Arashiyama is most definitely a welcome relief of fresh air and picturesque surroundings.



Started from the bottom now we’re here: Climbing Tateyama

One of the top items on my Japan bucket list is to climb the “Three Holy Mountains”, a typically tourist-y goal that requires the ascension of Mount Fuji, Mount Haku and Mount Tate. The opportunity to experience these breathtaking mountains cannot be passed up, even by novice climbers like myself.

Today I faced the first instalment of my mountain trilogy with Mount Tate, more commonly referred to as “Tateyama“. Vocab lesson of the day: “Yama” means “mountain” in Japanese, hence the combination or Tate + Yama. The Kanji character for Yama is mountain is 山, one of the first I memorized because of its very literal appearance.

From Toyama city it’s about a two hour drive to the base of the mountain. You are able to drive quite high up the mountain to the main lodge, which includes several restaurants and gift shops. The drive winds up in a somewhat precarious route, slowly unveiling the sprawling surrounding mountains. The fog became so thick further the route that it felt as if we were in an enchanted forest and I expected (ok hoped) to see Harry’s Patronus or a Unicorn to gallop towards us.

Looking around, I felt a little out of place amidst the seas of school children in matching hiking outfits and Japanese climbers in brightly coloured water proof pants, jackets a and hiking poles. The climb demanded focus as the path of irregular rocks has the potential for danger. Nevertheless the journey is perfectly manageable for most people, even novice hikers like myself and the view (even on a very foggy day like ours) is more than worth every uncertain step.


The Canadian in me seriously underestimated the “freezing” weather we had been advised to prepare for, and I felt content in my jeans, hoodie and rain jacket. Karma soon put me in my place as the weather shifted to high winds and heavy rain. Stepping precariously across paths of slippery stone and icy snow my Asics running shoes and heart patterned ankle socks felt comically naive. At around the half way mark the path ahead was barely visible through the fog and we heard the rumbling of thunder in the distance. With heavy hearts we turned around and descended the mountain.

And so, my first experience of Japan’s Holy Mountains ended with some disappointment having not reached the summit. And yet, my desire to realize this goal has not wavered, and I will return for a second climb of Tateyama.
Shivering, and soaked through our clothes we warmed up in the lodge’s restaurant… There’s nothing a little hot Udon can’t fix.