I have been living in Japan for a combined total of 8 years, during which I have lived in Sapporo, Yokohama and Tokyo. The first time I lived in Sapporo was as an exchange student at Hokkaido University. During this time I joined a university hiking group and I was able to travel to many places around Hokkaido. We often went on overnight trips and sometimes day trips, but on the odd occasion we would go on a longer 2-night trip to an area in Hokkaido called `Taisetsuzan` (literally `Big snow mountain`) and stay, not in a campsite but actually on the mountain. These trips were such adventures! Taisetsuzan refers to a mountain range near the middle of Hokkaido. It has amazing scenery and beautiful alpine flowers, however, as it is a bit out of the way, it is perhaps less well-known than the mountain ranges on Honshu Island.

I went on two 2-night trips to Taisetsuzan with my hiking group and had some amazing experiences there. On both occasions we started the climb from a mountain called `Kurodake` (literally Mt. Black). You can ride a cable car part way up the mountain so it is a good place to start. I remember it being a challenging climb because we were carrying big heavy backpacks that contained water, food, tents, other equipment and so on for our 2-night stay. I remember feeling like I could fly when I took my backpack off for a break because my body had gotten so used to the weight. It was a really bizarre but amusing feeling! I also remember the lush greenery and the many beautiful alpine flowers that we passed on the way. When I climbed Kurodake with my hiking group, we went late enough in the season that, while there was still a lot of snow left on the mountain, the snow on the path had melted. However, I climbed Kurodake another time with some friends and, at that time, some sections of the path still had snow left on them. I am terrified of heights and I hate the feeling of slipping so it was a very scary experience trying to walk across the slippery icy mountain path. In the end, I needed someone to hold my hand to help me across! It was a bit embarrassing but it couldn’t be helped, it was really terrifying!

Some of the highlights of my trips to Taisetsuzan with my hiking group were the stunning mountain views during the day and the amazing view of the stars at night. I also remember a fascinating eco mountain toilet, which, after using it, instead of flushing you had to ride a bike attached to the toilet. This would move the earth inside the toilet bowl. It may sound a little strange but, as eco toilets go, it was the best I have ever used. A fun memory of our trips was when we made jelly and put it outside our tents to set in the evening. The fact that it set really well shows how cold the mountains are at night even in summer!



on the odd occasion (adverb): not often or regularly; sometimes
out of the way (adjective): far from places where many people live or usually go
bizarre (adjective): very strange or unusual
lush (adjective): characterized by a lot of green, healthy plants, grass, and trees
in the end (phrase): the final result of a series of events or the final conclusion after considering all the relevant facts