I’ve discovered the Hira Mountains during this holiday break and continue to explore them. It is the closest snow to us in Osaka (90-minute drive) and I love hiking, so I’ve been “encouraging” family and friends to join me. Moving in the cold white beauty of a forest in December refreshes my soul. They say pleasures are harder to find as one ages, but our ascent/descent to Gotenyama (Goten Mountain) was not quite rapture, but pure contentment!
The Hira Mountain range is only 15 kilometers in length and 10 kilometers at its widest point. The highest point is Mount Bunagatake which is 1,214 meters (3,984 ft). They abut the eastern shore of Lake Biwa. Despite being a small range, in winter they are extremely beautiful and one of my favorite places in Japan.
My nephew and sister-in-law are visiting and along with another family of 6 people, I led a large party of winter explorers up the steep trail leaving the village of Bomura. Leaving portions of our group at two points along the way, Owen, Evan and I made it to Goten Yama, one of the landmarks of the range. As one climbed, the snow got deeper. The Japanese love hiking, so there were plenty of crampons and boots to pank the snow trail. Note to reader, the term “pank” means to tightly pack down snow and is from the regional dialect of my home on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I am a minimalist by nature and when I am walking in the forest, I do not like a lot of gear. My Nike running shoes and tracksuit served me well as I used layers of clothes to keep warm, but flexible. Hikers in Japan love the gear, so everyone we ran into had poles, crampons, heavy boots, waterproof suits and some even helmets. We got over the difficulty of descending the steep, snow-covered slopes by sliding down on our backsides or hopping through the snow.
The kids enjoyed the outing! Nadia prepared delicious sandwiches, that went well with hot chocolate. Between throwing snowballs and careening down the slopes on their bellies, I heard lots of laughter. Even Nadia had fun, feeling at ease with more time in the winter mountains and having the support of friends.