Hiking Japan: Living

Thunder and Lightning

i am on the train writing from my cell phone. an hour ago i took off in the night from my apartment in the country to the train station, to head into tokyo before heading out for a five-day walk in the mountains west of tokyo early tomorrow morning.

for three weeks now thunderstorms with incredible lightning displays accompanied by the heaviest torrential rains on record and, when not raining, the highest temperatures on record, have been hammering the islands. even as i write the train rides through a lashing rain that obscures the lights of the city outside, but lights up every now and then with flashes of daylight. thunder pounds against the roof of the train.

it’s almost a dream, sailing blithely through the night land while the gods stamp about among the rooftops, hurling spears and roaring in anger. around me in the train car passengers doze and glance up sleepily when a lightning bolt stabs the roof of an apartment hi-rise. the world could be sinking into the sea for all they see. in the seats across from me a baby snoozes in the arms of her mother while the mother watches tv (the olympics most likely) on her cell phone. nothing is really there.

the rains and lightning may hold me back from climbing this week; i’ll have to keep an eye on the sky. but at least i’ve broken out of this two-week shell and will feel whatever may come against my skin. there is nothing like the rake of the immediate world.

10 replies on “Thunder and Lightning”

Oh, I’m glad you’ve gotten out.

(Thanks so much for your note the other day on my website! I’ve been only sporadically online the past week and I just saw it.)

Breathe deep!


Makes me think of the night showers we had when we took a short trip with you in ’99 in the Japan Alps. J and I had foolishly pitched our tent in a nice drainage while you and Y had made a wiser choice, … I think. I hope this time you made a comfy shelter while on your wilderness adventure.


Sorry to hear your carefully laid plans for a long hike were washed out. You’re not alone! But you’re right to cancel than risk the wrath of the lightning gods.

Let’s hope the autumn brings settled blue skies and you can find the time for even a 1 or 2-day trip to restore your sanity.


Dale, I was worried that I might have overstepped my bounds by giving unsolicited advice about your website. I’m glad that you took it as a friend’s suggestion.

Marja-Leena, sad to say, no climbing or hiking. Much too dangerous. There have been major floods throughout the country and more people have died in the mountains this summer than I’ve ever heard of before, mostly due to landslides, but quite a few due to lightning hits, too. I couldn’t even get out of my town for several days because the trains had stopped so often due to floods.

RR, dancing it is! During the lulls the crickets have been entertaining me en masse. Quite a lot of joy there!

Taintus, for mountain climbers this has been a truly awful summer. It must have been a disaster for all the mountain huts that rely on all the walkers during the summer. Though I live right by the ocean (10 kilometers away, Kujukuri, the longest beach in Japan), I’m not really a beach person (though I love sea kayaking and want to learn scuba diving), and since there are not even any reasonable hiking trails nearby it is hard to find anything to do on the shorter days when traveling five hours to the nearest slopes is not an option. So I envy your living in the countryside of Nagano! It must be beautiful there!

Sally, your words bring back wonderful memories! How I miss your company. When we camped on Mt. Houhou I wanted so much to warn you and J. that the site you had both selected would probably not do well in a rainstorm, but I dreaded saying anything to J. He seemed angry with me or else proud of his own mountaineering skills and I didn’t want to step on that. I hope one day we get to take a hike together again. I most definitely will visit your area some time, and I wouldn’t miss any chance to see you again.

Rana, It’s so weird to think that I, who has a strong aversion to four walls, could spend several weeks holed up in this shoe box. Every time I take the train to work and pass my apartment, I look out the window and am amazed by just how small it is! And I actually hole up in there!!! I’m certain that a mind hindered by walls and ceilings and unable to perceive and open itself to the expanse of the sky must somehow go through a kind of neurosis.

Julian! So wonderful to have you here! I’ve been following your 100 Mountains posts and quietly cheering you on as you and Hana pocket one peak after another. You’ve truly inspired me to attempt to bag the 100, too, and may actually start officially walking them this autumn as my 1 to 2-day sanity restoration therapy that you suggest. I’ve actually already walked quite a number of the 100, but never really counted them before. One problem is that I don’t have a car or a driver’s license (my American one expired a while back) and so getting to some of the mountains is expensive (I can’t take paying Â¥15,000 one way to get to the trailhead and then another Â¥15,000 to get back down. $300.00 just for access? Oy weh!)

Everyone, you just have to check out Julian’s site, “Hanameizan”. It’s a joy to read, especially if you like hiking and dogs!


I was delighted to find your fascinating from-the-heart site when I accidentally clicked on your name on your post to cjw’s site. I look forward to reading more of the posts.

Mmm, how to get to the peaks without a driver’s license. Short of hitching and nightbuses, I’d be tempted to retake the test. A Canadian friend in the same position eventually went to a school in Tokyo that teaches the test entirely in English (the same school where Charles Jenkins took his!), but it was not cheap.

For me, doing the 100 has become more than just peak-bagging. I had got into a rut of hiking in Okutama almost every weekend. Having to travel across the country has opened my eyes to the far-flung beauty of Japan. May you take the same plunge!


Love your descriptions…makes me miss rolling in the elements, Miguel. For the 18 years in Idaho…pretty much was immersed in the immediacy. Chopped wood for heat. Nearest neighbor was far. Last walk I went on before I moved to Moscow, I saw a bull moose, a black bear, two deer and a coyote in 40min.
My life now in Seattle seems to follow the grid of the sidewalks…though, I do walk them a lot.


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