Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Hiking Page 2 of 4

Bukhansan National Park

Bukhansan National Park is located on the north side of the city. We hopped on a bus Monday morning and it took us about 40-minutes to get there.

The weather for Monday was predicted to be the nicest all week. Perfect for hiking and enjoying the view above the city. The bus ride to Bukhansan National Park was very simple and a great way to see a little bit of the city. We reached the the entrance to the park a little bit after 9 am. We stopped at the Ranger station to review our hiking route to the peak of Bukhan Mountain, Baegundae, and we were hiking by 9:30. Side note: San means mountain in Korean – Bukhansan means Bukhan Mountain. Here is our pre-hike selfie.

Please notice the cute lanterns hanging throughout the entrance to the park. They are lotus lanterns and placed in celebration of Buddha’s birthday on Tuesday. Also notice the recycled rubber matting placed on the wooden bridge. The rubber helps provide more secure footing when the bridge is wet and also reduces the wear on the wooden bridge. Brilliant!

The hike through the National Park was beautiful. The trail was very well maintained and included a lot of stairs to climb. Shortly after the entrance was a spot along the trail to wash your hands and bring good luck for your hike to the peak.

Before too long we reached a view point. Already we could tell this was going to be a perfect day for the hike. The tall building in the picture is the Lotte World Tower, the tallest building in Seoul.

Around the city of Seoul is a stone wall. Even though the city has spread beyond the wall, it remains part of Seoul’s history and continues to be maintained. Part of our hike today was along the wall.

The Seoul wall has several gates. We hiked past one as we were climbing up.

We continued our climb up countless stairs. The views as we reached the top became even more amazing.

Check out this huge rock. Laurie snapped my picture with it and then informed me that was the summit we were hiking towards! There are tiny specks on the right side of the mountain, those are people!

Clearly, we had more hiking to do and more stairs to climb. It’s hard to read the distance sign, it says .1km and it’s pointing straight up! The last part of the climb was pretty intense. There were chains to hang onto and use to hoist yourself to the top.

When we finally reached the summit, we were so excited and invigorated.

After enjoying the view, we were ready for lunch. We packed sandwiches and a Korean pear to enjoy. I think we had the best view in the city.

After lunch, we began the climb down the other side of the mountain. The path was less crowded on the way down. I was able to snap a few pictures of the chains. Hopefully, you can see the trail became pretty challenging at the end because of the smooth rock and vertical angles. We were both glad we had long legs to help us climb!

Going down was easier and harder at the same time. It was less exhausting and yet more tiresome on our legs. The pounding was painful. Our tired quads and calves were shaking by the time we reached flat ground.

We caught the train home, showered, and were ready for dinner. Laurie, Izzy, Maddy, and I went out for Korean Barbecue. At the restaurant, we had a hot pot placed in the center of the table. It was covered with a grate. On the grate, we were able to grill our meat. We made lettuce wasps with the meat and assortment of vegetables. After the long hike, the dinner and beer were delicious.

Perhaps the favorite part was dessert. Ice Cream! Maddy and Izzy enjoying their sweet treat.

As we walked back home, we caught a glimpse of sunset. It was a sweet ending to a fantastic day!

Beautiful Weather

The past few days, the weather has been absolutely amazing. Yesterday, I spent time gardening and refreshing my flower pots on our front porch. Today, I decided it would be best to enjoy a hike. I started in Kamakura at the end of the Red Leaf Trail. Dave and I last hiked it in November. When we did that hike, we came to a fork in the trail and decided to stay on the course of the main trail. My goal today was to hike to the same spot and take “the road less traveled.” Because I was going the opposite way, I was able to gain a different perspective while hiking the trail. Like the steepness of the uphill – normally a downhill!

Soon I made it to the first split.

Did I already mention how beautiful it was today!?! I was dressed in capris and a short sleeve shirt with a fleece. Not too long into the hike, I put the fleece in my backpack!

I made it to the second split in the trail and continued along the path Dave and I traveled before.

It was after reaching the summit, the last picture above, that I veered left instead of right. I knew following the trail to the right would lead me back to Kamakura. The hike continued to be beautiful.

At one point, I passed a huge cemetery.

I also passed numerous other hikers out enjoying the day. We exchanged “Konnichiwa” and a couple times they would engage me in a conversation They would ask, “where from?” My simple reply, “Chicago.” Their response, “Ahh, America.” “Hai, America,” I would agree. I laughed and felt a little bit badly for my Illinois friends. I don’t mean to diss the state, or think Chicago is the only part of the state. It is just easier to say Chicago because Chicago is known internationally. So, yes, I’m from: Chicago, America. I also realize I’m from the United States of America. However, when I say I’m from the U.S., it creates much confusion. So, although there are many Americas, most people I meet think of the United States of America as “America.” Sorry, I digressed on that one, but I’ve had the question from wabisabisole fans as to why I say Chicago and not the U.S.

Back to my beautiful hike. After the cemetery, I pooped out at a rest station where I found a beautiful map. I studied it for no less than 10 minutes. I was still unclear about where I should go. There were three trail heads. One I came from. And the other two were a mystery. So, I just went in a direction that seemed correct according to Google Maps.

More beautiful trails.

Until I found a paper plant. OMG! This part of the trail sparked my vertigo. I had to stop, take a picture, and then put phone away. I was insanely worried I would slip. Thankfully, I didn’t see a snake!! I couldn’t help but wonder if he bamboo had been cleared to prevent people from falling.

I made it through and then quickly descended. Soon, I found myself on a road near where I teach English on Thursdays!! Ha!

I walked a little bit and caught the bus to Matsuura Train Station (one stop away from our stop). From there, I took the train home. (Not a picture of my train, but I love the other colored trains.)

I was home by 3pm. It was a four hour trip from door to door and about 5 miles total with 3.5 miles of actual hiking. Pretty good for a beautiful day. I rewarded myself with a glass of wine on our front patio with one of my new favorite plants. How many kitty cats do you see!?!

Before the Rain

I think we all are experiencing strange weather patterns. The back to back Nor’easters blowing up the east coast have us all captivated and thinking about our loved ones. Here in Japan, we are having lots of rain and wind. The humidity is starting to return with the rain. Yesterday and today were overcast and cool. Amanda and I decided to get a hike in before the rain returns tomorrow. We hiked the trail close to our house, Mt. Takatori. I always giggle when we pass by the nursing home at the start of the hike. There are always cute and strange statues.

Amanda and I came to a crossroads at the beginning of the trail. Here is the route we normally would take.

We hesitated because there seemed to be a very clear unmarked trail. Neither of us had ever taken it and decided today was a day for exploring!

Off we went and up we went!

Check out the worn areas on the rocks. Perfect for foot placement!

The trail went up and up and up. It was a total thigh burner!

We came to another crossroads and decided to go left. This led us back down and close a school where we started. Check out the wire mesh stairs. Brilliant idea on a potentially muddy slope!

At this point, we could either turn around and go back up the hill or end our hike and head home. We decided to double back. We finally knew we were on the right track when we started seeing the numbered signs!

We continued up and down and had an unrelenting burn in our thighs by the time we made it off the mountain.

Before getting on the train to head home, we stopped by the grocery store. I thought sushi sounded like the perfect dinner. Dave and I have a goal to eat sushi once a week while living here. It’s one of our favorites. Plus it gives me an excuse to use my Japanese pottery!

I hope everyone in the path of the upcoming storm remains safe. You’re in my thoughts!

Mt. Miurafuji Hike

Katie has asked me about different hikes near base that would be good for her to do with her kids on the weekends. I remembered the hike of Mt. Miurafuji and Mt. Takeyama I did last March. We decided to go today because the weather was clear and not too cold. We met at Yokosukachuo Station. It was our lucky day because we were on a yellow train! Usually, the Keikyu Line trains are red. Very rarely there will be a blue, white or yellow train. When this happens, I get very excited and consider it a lucky day!

We started our hike at the Keikyu-Nagasawa station. It was different than where I started last time, but I knew it would be closer to the trail head. We walked past a bunch of farms. They were full of winter vegetables. Cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and daikon (Japanese radish).

As we were walking towards the trail, we passed a couple of older Japanese ladies. They stopped us and asked us if we lived close. Yes, Yokosuka. They asked if we were going to hike Mt. Miurafuji. Hai! They then became very animated gesturing at our sneakers. We said we would be ok and then asked us to please be careful. Hai! Arigatōgozaimas! We continued on our way and found the trail head without trouble. The trail head is marked with a Torii located behind a school.

And then we began our ascent.

But, the view from the top of Mt. Miurafuji was worth it! We were able to see Mt. Fuji!

Our summit selfie.

We continued along the path. We were chatting away and taking our time descending.

I knew to look for a specific fall rock sign from the last time at an intersection. Unfortunately, when faced with the choice to go right or left, I choose left. The trail led us back down the mountain. I should have gone right. I thought the trail to the right was only a dead end. It does have a dead end, but it also is the connection to Mt. Takeyama. I knew something wasn’t right when we were back so quickly to the farms and plum blossoms.

When I got home, I looked at the map a little closer and realized the error of my navigation. Here is the map of the area.

We took the path in yellow. We omitted the portion in blue.

It would have added another 30-45 minutes to our hike. It would have been nice to see the other view. However, by the time we walked down and back to the Tsukihama train station, we were both ready for lunch. Another 30-45 minutes might have pushed us over the top! I sent my marked up map to Katie so she can hike it with her kids this weekend. All things considered, it’s better to take a wrong turn and make a hike shorter than a wrong turn that makes a hike longer. I’ll consider my navigation mistake a lucky one!

Hike and Lunch

The original forecast for today was sunny with a high close to 60 degrees. Unfortunately, it was cloudy most of the day and barely got to 50. I am definitely not complaining. Especially, as I continue to hear about the cold temperatures and snow storms back in the U.S.

So, despite the chillier conditions than we anticipated, Amanda and I set off to hike the Kuzuharaoka-Daibutsu Hiking course.

Before starting the hike, we made a quick stop at the Jochi-ji Temple. One of my favorites. What isn’t to love about Hotei – the God of Happiness!?!

Besides the God of Happiness, the daffodils were starting to bloom.

Without further delay, we were on our way along the trail.

At one intersection along the trail, I saw a sign for a restaurant I have been wanting to try. I’ve heard great things about the food at Cafe Terrace. Plus, on a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

The sign literally seemed like a sign for us to stop and enjoy lunch. We ordered first and then sat down at the cute outdoor cafe tables.

While we were waiting for our order, the sun started to come out. It was lovely.

The server brought our food and an information card about the restaurant. I was relieved to see hikers were welcome. I was worried we might be under dressed.

We both ordered the mac and cheese with side salad. It was delicious, warmed us up, and fueled us for the rest of the hike.

I definitely want to return to Cafe Terrace. I want to return on a sunny and clear day and sip a glass of wine while watching Mt. Fuji.

After our meal, we finished our hike and made our way home. The rain from yesterday made the trail a bit muddy and slippery. Fortunately, we made it through without consequence.

Hike & Lunch

Amanda and I went to Kamakura to hike the Red Leaf Trail. It was a crisp cool winter day. Perfect day for a hike and for viewing Mt. Fuji along the way.

Most of the leaves have turned and fallen already. There was one Japanese Maple along the trail still holding onto its leaves. It was beautiful in the sunshine.

A few more pictures from my favorite parts along the trail.

After our hike, we stopped at a cute little restaurant in Kamakura called Magnetico. As advertised, they had several craft brews and delicious food.

I ordered the taco rice bowl. The taco seasoning was a little different. It was more on the sweet side. Almost like a curry flavor.

I thought it was delicious. Amanda ordered the taco plate. She gave her dish a thumbs up as well. The other highlight of the restaurant was the art. I loved the Beer God with hops.

After lunch, we worked our way back home via the trains. I would definitely recommend this restaurant and add it to my list of places to take Dave. It was a nice hidden gem.

Hiking Mt. Takao

After visiting Mt. Takao last March for the Fire-walking festival, I really wanted to return to hike the mountain this fall. Rain spoiled my plans to go a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule the hike today and I invited my friend, Amanda, to join me. In the end, it worked out perfectly. We caught the 7:21 train from Jimmuji and made it to the base of the mountain by 9:30.

After leaving the train station, we found this extra large map showing the mountain and various hiking trails to the top.

One quick picture before we started our hike!

We decided to take the darker orange trail. The Inariyama Trail.

The English description provided says, “while some sections are a little rough, this ridge top trail offers refreshing wonderful views.” It left out the ridiculous number of stairs we would climb over the next 90 minutes!! These pictures only show a portion of the stairs. According to my Apple Watch, we climbed 139 flights of stairs! My thighs were on fire by the time we reached the top.

Honestly, I’m not sure we could have enjoyed better weather. It was such a glorious day. The foliage was spectacular! Here are just a few pictures from our ascent.

Once we reached the top, the view didn’t disappoint. We were able to see Mt. Fuji. Look at her snow cap!! Beautiful. Absolutely, beautiful.

At the top, we enjoyed a cold brew and warm bowl of Udon.

The biggest surprise of the day was the number of people! Despite the hard climb to the top, I’m glad we decided to hike the Inariyama Trail. We passed so many people coming up the paved (easier) trail as we were walking back down.

We walked about part way down before taking the tram down the mountain. The leaves were so beautiful.

I’m so glad it worked out for us to hike Mt. Takao on such a beautiful day. Fall in Japan might take a little longer to arrive, but it’s worth the wait!

Hiking Happiness

Dave and I decided to set out for a hike on Sunday. It was such a glorious Autumn day. We decided to hike the Red Leaf Trail. 

We hiked parts of this last fall. Today, we had plenty of time and hiked about four miles of the trail. About half of the hike was new for us both. The day was so clear, we could see Yokohama in the distance. 

We were hoping to see a little more fall color. The forest was still pretty green. 

We passed through a spectacular Ginkgo grove. It was beautiful. So much yellow. 

The view from the top over Kamakura was worth the climb! 

We passed Kamakura Country Club as we hiked. The golf course also had quite the view. Check out the view at hole 4. 

I snapped a picture of the pompas grass. It’s so peaceful in the wind. 

We had such a fun day hiking our way around Kamakura. It’s hard to believe how close we were to the bustling city as we walked through the quiet woods. There were a lot of people out enjoying the day as well. We exchanged a lot of “Konnichiwas” as we hiked along. We passed this man and his dog shortly after exiting the trail. His dog is in his backpack!! 

We had such a great time today. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a Sunday Fun day as well! 

Mt. Fuji – Take 2

Ironically enough, Dave and I climbed Mt. Fuji the exact same weekend last summer. I was a little hesitant to climb again after our experience climbing down in the torrential rainstorm. As Sonia and I discussed expectations, I said I wanted amazing weather at the summit. I wanted pictures of being above the clouds with blue skies and a Torii gate. Realistically, I wanted it to not rain as much as it did last year. 

We took the MWR tour and left Yokosuka at 2:00 am Saturday morning. We made a brief stop in route for provisions and arrived at the 5th station of Mt. Fuji a little before 5:00 am. I decided to carry the same hiking stick from last year and fill it with stamps. This was Sonia’s first climb so she purchased a new stick to have stamped along the route. Here is the location of the 5th station. It is the furthest accessible point by vehicle. 

Of course, one of the best parts of the hike is seeing an amazing sunrise. 

From 5th station we begin our hike to the 6th station. This part of the hike is repeated when we come down the mountain. We took a quick picture at the 6th station before going up! If you look closely at the picture, you can see the results of the high winds. Most of the way up the mountain today, we were challenged with very strong and gusting winds. 

The hike from the 6th station to the 7th station consists of wide igneous rock covered trails with a lot of switchbacks. In my opinion, it is the most boring part of the hike. 

It was a lot of this! 

And fortunately, this! 

The 7th station is fun because here you can receive the first stamp on your hiking stick. Also, the terrain of the trail changes dramatically. There are a lot more large igneous rocks. I remembered how challenging they were last time to climb over because their texture is so rough. Today, they were exceptionally difficult because of the strong winds. At times I felt like a human sail and decided to keep my head down and hold onto the rocks with both hands! Sonia was smart and brought sunglasses to keep not only the sun out of her eyes but also dust. She was a great help to me by yelling “put your head down” when she felt a strong gust. We were covered in dust by the time we came down the mountain. 

The other important thing to note is how beautiful the skies were during this portion of our hike. It truly set the stage that I just might have my amazing views. 

From the 7th station we continued on to the 8th station. 

At 3100m, the views were still spectacular. 

We reached the 8th station just before 8:00am. Time wise, the 8th station is approximately halfway up the mountain. We had about three hours of hiking remaining before reaching the summit. We enjoyed my new favorite find at Family Mart. Cheeseburgers! 

As we were finishing up our mid morning snack, the clouds were building and rain started. Quickly we gathered our gear and started hiking again. The rain didn’t last too long! Whew! The next stop was the 8.5th station (that’s what the sign calls it!) or the original 8th station. It takes an average of 80 minutes to go from the 8th station to the 8.5th station.  The elevation change is a little over 300m. Along the way, we noticed new trail maintenance and a sign. It was fun to see “new things” on this journey! 

Through this portion of the journey, we kept good tabs on our pace and level of exertion. Knowing we had about three hours of hiking to reach the summit, we remain cautious and steady. None the less, our hearts were pounding pretty hard at times! As we passed the 3240m – 3400m elevation, we stopped for a few fun photos. 

I was able to get a good picture with a Torii above the clouds. I took time to embrace the wabi-sabi. It’s may not be at the summit but, it’s a great picture! Beauty in the imperfections. As a result, I have a cute Torii picture on Mt. Fuji. 

As we arrived to the 8.5th station, the clouds started to roll in, again. 

That’s a patch of snow! 

From the 8.5th station to the summit is about 90 minutes. The elevation change is a little over 300m. It was during this stretch last year when the wheels started to fall off because of the weather and our inexperience with climbing Mt. Fuji. This year, I at least knew that the 600m sign meant we still had 25 minutes of strenuous climbing! 

As we arrived at the 9th station, we were greeted by another Torii. Perfect opportunity to catch our breath and take a few photos. 

The final stretch to the summit remained. The clouds were thick. 

Off we went. One boulder scramble, stair step at a time! 

Until finally…. we made it!! Check us out! 

At the summit, we stopped for lunch. It was just before 11:00am. About 6 hours of hiking with necessary breaks. Not too shabby! Actually, 6 hours is the average. Lunch was a delicious warm bowl of ramen! By the time we reached the summit the only spot left on my hiking stick was for my second summit stamp! 

We ate, had our hiking sticks and temple books stamped, and used the restroom. By the time we were heading down the mountain it was noon and it was beginning to rain. Oh, no. I honestly didn’t know if I had the strength to endure the descent in the rain again this year. Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out. The rain stopped pretty soon after we left the summit. 

The descent without rain was so much easier. We each slipped a couple times on the loose igneous rock. But, we were ok. We were dry and warm. 

Somewhere along the descent, the clouds were beneath us and above us. 

We could stand on the ledge and I could get my cool cloud picture. 

I experienced wabi-sabi yet again. The summit isn’t the only place magical pictures can be captured. 

The remainder of the hike had a few sprinkles and maybe a slip or two. Without all the rain, coming off the mountain was a breeze. We were back at the 5th station by 3:00pm. 

We had two hours before the buses left to clean up, eat, and shop. Which we did. I enjoyed Mt. Fuji Melon Bread and a Mt. Fuji Craft beer. Delicious reward for a great hike. 

After our hike today, I’ve decided I love Mt. Fuji even more. She has a way of showing you your strengths and weaknesses when you make the climb. Mt. Fuji doesn’t give you what you want, but gives you what you need. Sonia needed to check Mt. Fuji off her Japan bucket list. She was ready for the challenges climbing Mt. Fuji would give her and she came out victorious. 

Today, I needed perspective and a dose of wabi-sabi. Finding beauty in the imperfection. Honestly, I don’t feel like I have any unfinished business with Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is a good sensei (teacher). I came and I climbed – twice. For that I am wiser, not a fool! 

Working Lunch

Sonia and I met in Yokosuka today for a “working lunch”. We met at ConeLi pizzeria. Formerly known as Napoli Bar Pizzeria.

Sometime in the past few months, the restaurant has changed names. The pizza was still worthy of an honorable mention. And the perfect carbo load for the upcoming weekend adventure details we needed to work through.

You can call me a fool when I tell you the planning details we were working on at lunch. We are going to hike Mt. Fuji on Saturday. Remember this quote: “You are wise to climb Mt. Fuji, but a fool to do it twice.” I went back to reread my blog post from last August when Dave and I hiked Mt. Fuji.  Ironically, it was the exact same weekend last summer! With respect to hiking it again, I said maybe. If it was on someone’s bucket list. It is on Sonia’s Japanese bucket list and she was preparing to hike it by herself. Being a good friend, the thought of Sonia hiking by herself and selfishly, the chance to see an amazing view we didn’t see last summer… changed my maybe to a YES! Oh, boy!! 

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