Drawings Sketchbook

Mountain Sketches: Houousanzan with Fuji

In 1998 my dear friend Sally and her boyfriend Jim came to visit me and my wife Yumi here in Japan. Initially we were supposed to walk the South Japan Alps, but due to a huge landslide that took out the road going up there, and time constraints at my job, we had to cut back the walking time, and ended up walking the Houousanzan traverse instead. On the second day, moving faster than we had planned, we had time to stop and take our time to enjoy the scenery. I did this sketch on a small peak just past Kannon-dake.

Sketch Houousanzan
Houousanzan a small ridge of mountains at the northern edge of the South Japan Alps with surrealistic rock outcroppings and a direct panorama of some of the highest mountains in Japan, including the highest peak, Mt. Fuji, and the second highest peak, Kita-dake. I’ve done the walk three times, and it is relatively easy, with easier access than most of the mountains in the South Japan Alps, but still the wild, weathered, more remote characteristic of the South Japan Alps.

11 replies on “Mountain Sketches: Houousanzan with Fuji”

Pascale, ho ho! No! I was married back in 1998 when this picture was drawn, but haven’t gotten married again. If I ever do, you can be sure that I will shout it from the mountaintops and Facebook will be awash with the news (o_O”). I wouldn’t hide something like that.


Miguel, I really like this drawing!! That’s a tricky thing, to get the perspective and atmosphere of a complicated scene, and choose what to emphasize to lead the eye into the scene. This one seems really successful to me.


Thank you, Beth! I’m glad the drawing made a good impression.

I think the hardest part about doing an intricate landscape is knowing where to start. You look at this spread in front of you and feel overwhelmed, partly because it is so much, much bigger than you are. But, I guess like with all big projects, you start small, right where your brush can make sense of a minor detail, and move on piece by piece from there. Before you know it, the landscape is finished! And very often hits you with surprise… often I don’t even realize that the landscape actually fits together in a coherent whole until I am done. Naturally I haven’t posted a version here where all the lines don’t match up and it looks like some scene from The Time Machine!



What a wonderful surprise to stumble upon your tale and drawing from our wet trip in the mountains! Very nice! I’m going to pull this up on my computer and print out a copy if its ok with you. I remember that being a really steep hike, and in my memory steeper than anything I’ve hiked elsewhere. I forgot about that incredible ridge, pass.
Ok we will need to hike again some day!


Sally, so good to see you hear again! Yes, I remember that trip well. I’ve always wondered if Jim was angry when he stomped off way ahead of us. Perhaps the trip wasn’t what he was hoping? Or it was too easy for him? Or I was too wishy washy about the planning? Sorry about that. 🙂

Yes, we have to hike again. I miss our times together. So many interests in common!


Hey Miguel, I love the sketch and wish I had the skill and time to sit back and draw as a break from walking and photography.

I have dim but good memories of Houousanzan, the first high mountain I climbed in Japan – and ever. I think it would have been in 2000 with my friend Andrew. I remember freezing on the first night in a dirt-floored hut with a very inadequate kerosene heater. And the ridge with all the little stone figures. It was cold and foggy and there was deep snow. If I recall correctly, the name means “phoenix” or similar?


Hi Goat, I’ve been so sick for the past two weeks that I haven’t checked my email properly. I missed your comment. Sorry.

I love drawing, but hen I’m trying to get some distance into a walk, stopping to draw is often not possible. Drawing just takes too much time. That’s why I have to find a way to intersperse some time out in the woods and mountains that only entails slow meandering, with lots of time to stop, look around, sit still, contemplate, and draw. It’s hard to do when you live in a city like Tokyo and you can never get away from people.

Houousanzan is an eerie mountain. The stone figures along with the weird rock formations make for an otherworldly atmosphere. But it’s a good walk, and not too hard, so just right for a 3-day jaunt.



Hi Gary,

I appreciate your liking the image, and I don’t mind your putting up a link on Facebook, but one thing I never do is put full content of my blog onto Facebook, and never put images there that are important to me. This is one of those images. I do not want Facebook claiming ownership of my content, and would also prefer if people came here to look at my work, since I worked hard to create the blog. I hope that you are not offended by this reaction. Images that I put up on Facebook please feel free to use.

Have to get back to writing articles for the blog!



Looking at your drawing again as I pack for my Peru trip that starts next weekend. Do you remember what pen(s) you used for that drawing? i don’t want to take fountain pens due to the high altitude of the Inca Trail.
Also I don’t remember Jim acting that way but I’m not surprised; he acted much the only-child-stereotype (although many only-children are the Opposite!). Funny what we each remember over time.


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