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Ascending Kumotori


Mt. Kumotori is one of Japan's famous peaks, and it's a nice overnight excursion from Tokyo. Takeshi said you could climb it in winter. So now, fourteen months after he told me that, I have gone to the top, and it was well worth the effort.

The trail head is at the end of a bus route that departs from Okutama Station. You could theoretically take early morning trains from central Tokyo to make this connection, but it would involve waking up at some obnoxiously early hour. I stayed at a hotel in Mitake, got up at 6:15, and went on my way. I took a leisurely morning and got to the trail head around 9:00, the summit at 12:30, and then got back to the trail head by 3:00. 22 kilometers in 7 hours is a fairly relaxed pace, but I wouldn't want to go faster because if you work up too much of a sweat, you get cold when you stop.

The views were spectacular. Mt. Fuji to the southwest, the Alps to the west, and Tokyo itself off to the east, it was all crystal clear today. There was a little wind but not much. It's February, so it's cold outside, and you definitely need spikes to do this climb in the off season, but if you can find a day like today, go for it.

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Cold Breakfast Oatmeal


This is a recipe for cold breakfast oatmeal. It's a variant of Cathy's recipe.

Put oats in a 1 L mason jar, filling it 90% full. Then add the dried cranberries, nuts, and cinnamon. Put on the lid and shake to mix. Then add the honey, and finally add milk to fill the entire jar. Put on the lid and shake to mix. Store refrigerated. Wait 12+ hours before eating.

The oats will gradually absorb the milk. Each morning, after you spoon out your breakfast, add more milk to cover the oats.

Steel cut oats are chewy. You might prefer rolled oats (non-instant & uncooked). For rolled oats, around 300 g are needed. Pecans and apple slices are also delicious.

It takes me 4-5 days to finish off a batch. A pre-made high fiber tasty breakfast is great for those on the move.


Camping in Yamanashi


For winter break I rented a van and went camping in Yamanashi with a side trip to Nagoya. Late December is a questionable time for camping with my 3-season gear, but the weather was cooperative. I first stayed at one free campground with a steep approach road that looked to be dangerous as hell if it ever froze over, especially in the large rental van with regular tires, and later found a spot at a nearby commercial campground.

Mt. Minobu is a mountain with a massive temple complex on it. You can walk around for free. I took the cable car up to the summit and leisurely strolled down the side of the mountain, before having hoto, a Yamanashi soup, for lunch. Because the weather for most of the trip was sunny, with almost no precipitation, walking around outside was great. As long as you don't go too fast and work up a sweat, you're good to go for hours. Another good point of the location in southern Yamanashi is the frequent views of Mt. Fuji to the south and the Japanese Alps to the north. Many of the smaller valleys have parking lots with trails leading up local mountains, and the scenery is nice wherever you go.

In early January I drove down to Nagoya, stayed in a hotel there for a couple of nights, and took a trip into the city. Marjorie told me to go see the ikemen gorilla at the Higashiyama Zoo. Later in the day I walked down to Nagoya Castle, which is quite majestic.

On the last day I drove halfway back to Tokyo, did another short day hike, slept overnight in the van at a rest area overnight, and finished off the jaunt.

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My old plan was to travel with my parents during the break. Sadly, Omicron struck in late November and the Japanese government extended the quarantine for re-entry in Japan. As a result, people with in-person full-time jobs such as myself found it impossible to travel abroad. On the one hand, the Prime Minister's anti-foreigner policies are frustrating and accomplish little. On the other hand, domestic tourist spots are less crowded than they otherwise would be, and international travel during the Covid Era has always been a dice roll. So it goes. That aside, it was a nice break.

Rethink Fufeng


The following is a letter I wrote that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald on December 4, 2021. The title it was given is, “Grand Forks should rethink the Fufeng ag project”.

Last month, the Herald lauded an upcoming massive agribusiness project as “historic” because of the “large private capital investment,” but details suggest the project would make Grand Forks a massive polluter.

Natural gas use in the city will rise to double the current levels. Imagine that – the Fufeng Group plant would use as much natural gas as the rest of the city combined. All of that natural gas furthers climate change, at a time when we should be taking action in the opposite direction. In fact, the plant would be the worst polluter in the state, other than coal power plants.

Sadly, environmental concerns are only the beginning of the worries. Gov. Burgum and other leaders are happy because the project would bring in money through property taxes, but the company will also be offered a “temporary” tax break, for years or decades to come. Rather than boosting the local economy, the plant will be leeching off of it. Jobs will be created, true, but of what quality? Low-paying plant jobs would hardly improve the quality of life for most North Dakotans.

The agribusiness plant is guaranteed to damage the environment and is unlikely to make life better for residents of Grand Forks. Now is a great time to say “Stop!” and rethink all of the important details of this risky endeavor.

Written By: Douglas Perkins, Tokyo, Japan, formerly of Grand Forks


Kanagawa Geography Flashcards


This is a deck of cards showing maps of cities, towns, villages, and wards in Kanagawa Prefecture. Kanagawa Prefecture is just south of Tokyo, and it's part of the urban sprawl. There are nineteen cities in Kanagawa. Three of those cities are divided into wards. There are also over a dozen towns and villages.

Here's the 58-card package for Anki.


Hiking in Gunma


For summer break I rented a car and went camping and hiking. In the COVID era, it's nice to be outdoors for daily activities and lodging, and camping and hiking are fun regardless.


There are two free campgrounds NE of Numata, 自然の森野営場 and 川場谷野営場. The former is a nice little campground along a narrow mountain road that sees almost no traffic. There are a few dozen campsites, plus two restroom buildings with running water. The latter is not a great place to stay, because it's at the end of a beat-up gravel road and has tons of bugs but no views, although because of these factors it's quiet. Neither campground has cell service for me, although that tends to happen in rural areas if you use one of the cheap cell providers.

It rained every day I was here, except the day I took the train to Tokyo for the COVID-19 vaccine. I got drenched climbing Mt. Nantai in a torrential downpour complete with thick fog and high winds. Mt. Nantai is quite the climb — it's mostly straight up, few switchbacks, and the trail becomes a stream when it rains. A few days later, during a break in the weather, I got a nice ascent on Mt. Shibutsu. This trail is well-maintained, and it was a nice morning 10 km.

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不動滝キャンプ場 is a free campground SW of Itoigawa in Niigata. Unfortunately, the campground rules banned visitors from prefectures in a State of Emergency. I stealth camped there one night and then moved to the non-free (but still cheap) 能生海洋公園 荒崎キャンプ場. This campground is just up the hill from a rest area complex with restaurants and a convenience store, and it even has a cheap hot shower — great for the continuing rainy weather. One day I hiked up Mt. Amakazari. Another day I took a long walk down the walking and bike path that parallels the coastal highway. The town is famous for crab, I ate some, and it was good.

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On the way back to Tokyo I overnighted at 和平公園, a free campground way up the side of a mountainside roughly south of Nagano City. It was a nice way to break up the long drive.