Back in Canada I used to do quite a bit of hiking. What can I say, I was a lucky child! I had an outdoors enthusiast for a father and lived only an hour away from some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. When I was growing up the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains was like mother’s milk and every weekend I was excited to scamper around in the vast wild yonder. I was a real wild-ling of a child, my poor parents.
Since moving to Japan I’ve been on several noteworthy hikes, such as Mt. Fuji, but that’s a nightmare I’d rather not reflect on (I may or may not have been caught in a typhoon on top of the mountain with no shelter). Yet, despite my efforts last year, the hikes I did were few and far to infrequent to keep a Canadian-blooded girl content. After being spoiled for the majority of my childhood, with amazing hikes that were practically at my fingertips, I will be the first to admit that it took FAR to long to get my butt in gear and get out to some of Fukui’s hiking spots. A constant nagging at my heart recently however, made me long for a mountain adventure.
Golden Week with it’s 4-day holiday weekend to the rescue! This weekend’s adventure to Mt. Aoba 青葉山 (In Japanese: Aobayama, “yama” means mountain) was definitely one of my favourite hikes in Japan so far. Aobayama straddles the border between the prefectures Fukui and Kyoto. The summit of Aobayama offers a sweeping view of the Wakasa coastline which makes the climb well worth your trouble. With its gentle slopes and resemblance to Japan’s most famous mountain, the locals have nicknamed Mt. Aoba “Wakasa’s Mt. Fuji.”
The day dawned sunny and full of the promise for good weather, I awoke from my slumber super early, guzzled some much-needed coffee and headed out to pick up my friends. By 7:30am my friends Lizzy, Kenny, Francisco and I were nestled in my tiny car and on our way to the southern-most area of Fukui where we were rewarded with a spectacular hike. It was challenging, exciting, and had not just one but TWO beautiful lookout points!
I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas and had a pretty big smile for the majority of our outing. Lizzy couldn’t stop laughing because it seemed like being in the mountains brought out my inner-Canadian and practically every sentence I said seemed to end with the classic Canadian “eh”!
Up to the top of the first lookout was a pretty steady incline with bits of intermittent scrambling up over rocks and tree roots. So, for anyone hoping to do this hike, I would definitely recommend proper hiking shoes. It’s possible to do it in sneakers, but I was very grateful for a little extra ankle support.
Poor Lizzy, I am always grateful for my long legs when I see what short people have to put up with when hiking. She was such a trooper, even though some of the “stairs” were almost half her height!
As we neared the top of the first peak the sea started to play peek-a-boo with us. With a budding sense of excitement we raced the final bit excited for the lookout. We weren’t disappointed… This is always my favourite part of hiking…I get to the view point, shut my eyes for a second, take a deep breath and open them. I then let that moment of perfect awe wash over me as I admire the view. I have to say, it feels pretty good!
Now, let me explain something. I’m not a competitive person. I’ve always been the “I want everyone to have fun” type, but when I see little Japanese grandmas being more kick-ass awesome than me, I feel a wee bit jealous…. surprisingly enough, it happens quite often in Japan. The obaa-chans of Japan are tiny little old women who look delicate as flowers but are actually fierce as sabertooth tigers. This little old lady takes the cake! We opted to climb down the stairs from the view point…she decided to scale the wall down using a rope we didn’t know existed! She is my hero, I want to be like her when I’m 70!
I definitely recommend this hike in Fukui! It’s a blast! After lunch we headed back the way we came with lots of fun rope scaling going down.
Looking out over this panorama I knew with absolute certainty that I couldn’t be happier in that moment than I was. For the first time in ages I was living in the moment. I didn’t want to be anywhere else, with anyone else, doing anything else or seeing anything else. I belonged in that exact moment in time to that place.
I always feel the most at peace when hiking, something many people whom I know don’t really seem to understand. After all, how can pulsing adrenaline in your system, being all sweaty, feeling tired and pushing your body to the limits bring on a sense of calm? It seems like it would do the exact opposite, ne?
I think the closest answer I can come to articulating however, is that it’s on the mountain that I feel like I’m the person I want to be. I like this side of myself. I like the girl who challenges herself, who’s optimistic about what lies ahead, who pushes her body to its physical limits and actually enjoys that physical pain. I like being the kind of girl who spends quality bonding time with her friends, who gives her undivided attention to what she’s doing, who loves natures, who takes joy in the little things in life, and (perhaps most importantly) who isn’t afraid to take risks in the name of adventure. She is the person I wish I could be all the time. Thus, it’s when I hike that I come the closest to who I truly am and finding inner peace “hanging out” with that girl.
As Lucille Ball once said “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” Cheers, and here’s hoping for more hiking adventures in the near future!
DIRECTIONS (from Fukui City):
- Take the Hokuriku Express Highway south from Fukui City to Tsuruga.
- Transfer off the highway at this point to Route 27.
- Take Route 27 south through Obama and Wakasa. Once you reach Wakasa Bay start paying attention for signs to “Matsuno-dera temple”.
- At Route 564 take a right and drive until you reach Matsuno Temple.
- There is a small parking lot there which you can park at for 400yen.
- Walk up the stairs to the temple, behind the temple to the right hand side is the start of the hike.
Approximate driving time: 2.5-3 hours
Cost: For my k-car it took a full tank of gas (3,000 yen) plus a (950 yen) toll both ways on the Hokuriku highway (Sabae-Tsuruga).
I hope this information helps hikers in Fukui in the future! Enjoy!