Climbing Mount Tsukuba

Early December 2015: three friends and I decide to finally hike Ibaraki’s only worthy and/or notable mountain, the one that looms in the distance of all of my schools: Mt. Tsukuba.

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See it there, in the right corner? Yeah, that mountain.

It started as a sunny, warm winter morning, although, as you can see from my later photos, the day turned a frosty grey by mid-afternoon. The four of us met up at the mountain’s base, climbed to the top of both mountain peaks (named Mt. Nantai and Mt. Nyotai — Tsukuba is famous for it’s unusually distinctive twin peaks) and then took the funicular back down.

Here’s a brief snippet of history/mythology concerning Mount Tsukuba, ripped straight from Wikipedia (I’m unsure of exactly how accurate the information is, but I’ve heard parts of it before, so it’s not completely false):

“As legend has it, thousands of years ago, a deity descended from the heavens and asked two mountains for a place to spend the night. With its great summit and almost perfect cone, Mt. Fuji refused, believing with pride and arrogance that it does not need the deity’s blessings. Mt. Tsukuba, on the other hand, humbly welcomed the honored guest, even offering food and water. Today, Mt. Fuji is a cold, lonely, and barren mountain, while Mt. Tsukuba bursts with vegetation and is filled with colors as the seasons change.

Ancient chronicles say that the sacred progenitors of the Japanese race are enshrined here, the male divinity at Mt. Nantai, and the female divinity at Mt. Nyotai. Legends say that the two deities wed and gave birth to other deities, and even to Japan herself.”

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Really, Mount Tsukuba isn’t a tough mountain to climb (only 877 meters, well-marked trails!) but it was still a good workout, and a great day trip. The mountain seems to be a bit of a warm-up mountain for others, though. Many local hikers climb Mount Tsukuba on a weekly basis to keep up their endurance, or in preparation of climbing more challenging, further-away mountains.

(After all, Mount Tsukuba rises straight up out of the Kanto Plain, which is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest section of flat land in Japan. All other mountains are far away, and it’s a pretty lonely mountain itself.)

I will admit that we were passed by many 70-year olds. And it took us a leisurely 4 hours to hike to the top of both peaks, when everyone says it should only take about two hours. Although, in our defense, we scrambled up some huge side-rocks that were decidedly not part of the hiking trail (all for a good view) and we also spent a lot of time taking photographs (well, that was me… sorry for slowing everyone down!)

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“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Dumbledore, Harry Potter.

The above quote, in association with the above photo, is all I thought of when I saw this random string of light bulbs on the second mountain peak… which led to a ten-minute photography shoot of abandoned light bulbs. I liked the elements of light and darkness, you know?

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Mount Tsukuba is one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains — the list was composed in 1964 by mountaineer Kyuya Fukada — so if you are in the area, check it out! Well, to be honest, if you are in the area, you’ll probably see it whether you want to or not, because on such a flat plain, the silhouette of the mountain can be seen for miles. Anyways, one of the criteria for selecting the top 100 mountains back in 1964 was elevation; Fukada chose only mountains that were 1,500 meters and above, although he disregarded this criteria to include Mount Tsukuba.

To end with, another fun fact: my iPhone’s questionable “Health” app calculated that we climbed about 180 flights of stairs that frosty day in December. Cheers to that!

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