Arrival in JapanTues 6 Feb. Tom - "We arrived in Japan on Saturday night (3 Feb) and since then we have been running around the crowded streets of Tokyo, and squeezing on to packed trains, trying to sort out our finances, buy a mobile phone, extend our visas etc! We can`t wait to get all this stuff out of the way and get started on the walk! we hope to be setting off by early next week."

Sat 10 Feb
Tom and Paul took a sailboat to Kagoshima, in the south of Kyushu. From there, a ferry took them to Yakushima, a small volcanic island further south of Kagoshima, and the starting point of their 100-mountain trek.

Paul - "The ferry journey from Tokyo (10-11/2/01) to Miyazaki was wonderful, I slept, lounged (in the tatami room - room with mats on floor), had a bath, watched a video (which was rubbish, but hey), wandered around a bit and the 22hrs were over before I knew it. From there we got a train to Kagoshima (we split the journey in the middle, getting off in the middle of nowhere to camp for the night next to the railway tracks, then back on the train early next morning). Then we took the ferry to Yakushima to start walking.

The expedition begins

Mon 12 Feb.
Day 1.

Having made it down to the south of Japan over the weekend, Tom and Paul attempted to climb up to one of the mountain huts on the first of the mountains, Miya-no-ura-dake, which means 'The-mountain-behind-the-temple'. They got lost. It rained. They shivered.

A rainy view to the coastThe first Mountain was Mianouradake, on Yakushima Island where it rains 300 days a year. Needless to say it rained every day we were there. A lot. Everything, everything was saturated around us and by the end most things we owned were damp as well. We had got the ferry over in the afternoon (arriving about 3:00pm) and were met by a reporter who had read about us in the press release the charity had sent out! After a quick interview and a picture in the rain we finally set off walking. At last, after a lot of travelling and a fairly annoying week in Tokyo (which we have told you about already - problems with visas etc).

We headed confidently into the hills at 4pm, aiming for a Mt hut and a nice dry place to sleep out of the rain. Should have taken about three hours. Six hours later we found our way to a car park at the top of a road that we perhaps should have followed straight off. We were still 2.7km from the hut and in no mood to try following the tiny, irregular strips of pink tape that mark the route. The route we took was recommended in our English guide book and probably was quickest for those walking from the bottom, but it is now a route not much used and was very hard to follow in the rain and the dark.

We lost our way, bush whacked for a bit, Tom dropped his compass into the river, I almost fell in. We were drenched, and so the not-quite-drenched, tarmac-ed carpark looked like a carpeted room to us. We pitched tent on the driest bit we could find, mopped the tent floor (there was 1cm of water in the tent!), ate noodles and slept.

Miyano Ura Dake climbed
(1936m approx.)

Tues 13 Feb.
Day 2.

Take two. Setting off at 7am, they reached the summit at 4pm. It was snowing up there. On the way back down, Tom's headtorch ran out of fuel adding a bit of spice to their precarious descent. Touchdown at 11:30pm.

Deer after more banana chipsThe next morning at 8:00 we were walking towards the hut. In the day light on a route much more used we found our way quickly to a big dry free hut. We emptied bags of everything and hung stuff around the place in a vain attempt to dry things. Had some breakfast and set off at 10:00am on a reputedly 9hr hike to the summit.

To be honest, I felt ill at the prospect. But we had no alternative. We had to be back at that hut that night if we had any chance of getting back into town the following morning to catch the ferry off the island. Also we had told the reporter we were aiming to be back for that ferry, so pride was at stake! We did not want headlines like "two Gaijin aiming to climb hyakumeizan get lost on first peak!"

Very happy to at last reach the top of Miyano ura DakeOn the way up we passed some massive ancient cedars which are supposed to be as old as 2,200 years. We saw a whole load of deer some which we fed banana chips to, and a few monkeys. There were a few patches of snow on the way up. We were on the summit, where it was snowing, in 6hrs, tired and wet, with a long way to get home. Quick proof-photos, then back on down.

We made it to hut number two before dark, not quite halfway down. Shortly after leaving the hut Tom's head torch went out! (luckily my torch was still working). By turning it off for a while he could get about 1mins worth of light every now and then. It took ages to get down, again following tiny bits of pink plastic stuck to random branches, saplings, twigs.The last hr or so we were following a path that neither of us recognised from the morning. I had a sinking feeling that we were walking the wrong
way, but Tom was confident, and thankfully he was right.

We were back at the hut by 11:30pm, asleep by 12:30 having eaten in a daze

Wed 14 Feb.
Day 3

Tom eats a lot of foodDecided that there was no better way to start the day than a 12km race on foot to reach the morning ferry back to Kagoshima on mainland Kyushu. Spent the day consuming ramen (noodles) and soaking in onsens (hot baths) before camping in someone's car park overnight.

After that late night we were then up and walking again at 6:00am to get back down in time. Route marched down the hill on tarmac - painful even with poles. Made it to the ferry terminal at 10:10. The ferry left at 10:20 but we got our seats and saw the reporter.

When we got back to Kagoshima we went and had an 'onsen' (hot bath) and then in the street we bumped into Steve, The Generous and hospitable Steve with Paulan American English teacher. We were right outside his apartment block when he said "hi" to us and asked us up for a coffee, we left his place after finishing his chilli, left a load of stuff at his place (boots, crampons, ice-axes, bits and pieces). After having coffee at Steve's we went to a noodle bar. The guy who served us had had a guy walking the length of Japan stop at his restaurant only a month earlier!

Took us one and a half days to get down the coast from Kagoshima (14-15/2/01), so we took our lunch on the beach and watched Sakurajima puff away (a volcano across the bay which erupts daily).

Thur 15 Feb.
Day 4

Having not quite relaxed enough the day before, Thursday was
spent on the shores of lake Ikeda. Much fun was had by all.
And their clothes became dry.

Tom on a stick on Mt KaimonMt. Kaimon (922m)
Fri 16 Feb.
Day 5

Mt. Kaimon. Apparently a 1/4 size replica of Mt Fuji. How did they manage that? Still, this wee mound posed no problems, nor did the snow on top.

Second Mt (Mt Kaimon which looks like a 1/4 version of Mt Fuji) was much easier. Straight up 922m and back down in about 3hrs. 7km walk from camp by lake Ikeda, which is supposed to have a monster similar to Nessie, and back for a nice easy day.

On the way down we got offered a load of lifts in cars and a few people recognised us from the newspaper.

Sat 17 Feb.
Day 6
The generous sponsor with PaulWalked back to Kagoshima.

It took us one and a bit days to get back following an inland route (17-18/2/01). When we got back to Kagoshima on Sunday we got stopped by a guy who had seen the newspaper, checked the website and wanted to give us some money for the charity! He gave us about 30 pounds!

Sun 18 Feb.
Day 7

Rested even more. Went to church. Fried chicken, beer and wine at Steve's.

We found a catholic church, but the service had finished by the time we got there. So we hung out in a park writing letters, Tom mends his rucksack. Again(well, I wrote a letter, and Tom sewed up his backpack for the third time, this time with dental floss! So far it has held, and there is no way he would accept a new bag, although he now has a Lowe Alpinion of it!).

We then headed to Steve's place. When we rang him to say when we would be passing through town to pick the bag up, he offered us floor space for the night. Amazing. Now everyone who helps us unexpectedly we are going to call "Steve". He had invited friends round for the night we were there and had bought food accordingly. Only one guy and his girl friend turned up though, but he cooked all the food anyway - more fried chicken and grease than you could shake a stick at! and beer and wine!

Mon 19 Feb.

Day 8

Off again. It was a two day hike down the peninsular to the next peak, Mt. Karakunidake.

ues 20 Feb.
Day 9

Waterfall. Dreams of hotsprings. An uncomfortable and disturbed night.

The waterfall where Tom swamOn the second day we found a beautiful 20-30m high waterfall where Tom went for a swim. Then it was all up hill and past many many onsen (hotspring) resorts. We were walking through an area called Kirioshima which is stuffed full of hotsprings and so had big hopes of using at least one of them to ease tired legs. Unfortunately all springs either had a hotel over the top of them (very expensive), or were being pumped into a hotel. On the way up the hill we saw a family of 4-5 wild boar!

We camped that night behind a road barrier. It was a bad night as we had to put our sleeping mats under the tent, (uninflated to protect them), to protect the tent from punture as we had to sleep on cut bamboo grass which is spiky! Bad enough but apparently the Road we were on is a favorite race route for local bikers and hotshots in fancy cars. We are talking high speeds, racing engines, and lights, at various times between 1:00am and 4:00am. A weird night.

Mt. Karakunidake (

Wed 21 Feb.
Day 10

A little confusion, some stairs, some slag, and a dodgy knee begins to make itself felt.

Paul at the top of Mt. KarakunidakeThe next morning we set off confidently for our third Mt. We were aiming for a Mt track that was even marked on the Rd map we have. I was expecting a major path and an easy haul up to the first crater lake. It took us a while to find the trail head. In the end we headed up the most likely looking thing, thinking that at least we knew which way to head! We thought we were just heading up a stream, but half way up we saw a very eroded sign saying 2.7km to the top. We were on the path - the path just wasn't the chosen route up the hill (yet again we find that route). We made it up to the first crater in fairly good time, though after a bit of bush waking.

The second half of the walk was up much more well used tracks - in fact the last 1.1km was wooden steps! They make for easy walking but are hard on the legs and backside. We are going to have legs of steel. For the third time there was mist on the top,
not allowing us any views.

This hill was a bit of a volcanic slag heap, especially on the way down. My knee hurt to straighten it at all, which made it very hard-going getting down. It was then downhill for hours on tarmac, heading towards a town in the valley that never seemed to get any closer.

Paul does a bit of washingThur 22 Feb.
Day 11
Stroll by the river, washing and fishing.

The next day we took a small mountain trail over some mountains to avoid some big tunnels on the main road. This track took us along a beautiful river where we washed our clothes and got washed (very cold) and Tom tried a spot of fishing but didn't catch anything.A long road

Fri 23 Feb.
Day 12
Mountain passes and appreciation of Japanese road-building.

The next two days took us over some high mountain passes (1000m+) which were really tiring. The bends in the Rds (the Japanese are incredible road builders - they can put a road anywhere) certainly reduce the gradient, but make it take ages to get anywhere.

Sun 25 Feb.

Day 14

Another English teacher - a chance meeting, a second rest day, access to the internet (hence these updates), and thoughts on the journey so far.

Penny with TomThis Sunday we are actually staying at another English teacher's house. We are now at a little village by a dam in the middle of wooded hills. We're on our second rest day. She is someone we bumped into unexpectedly, and someone who was in Tom's class at School! A Christian as well - how amazing is that!? We were just walking into a town looking for a food shop, when a girl pulled up in her car and said "hello". It was amazing enough to see a 'Gaijin' (foreigner), as we are in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, but when Tom shouted out "Penny, its Tom!" I almost fell over. We stayed here last night, are chilling out today and will stay here tonight as well. It is beautiful. And she has internet access.

Mists over mountan and hill crestsWe have had some really special moments so far. Meeting Steve, the sunset over Lake Ikeda, the views on the way up Mt Kaimon, seeing the wild boar, swimming in the rivers, meeting Penny, getting given a bag of food by a couple who lived a house next to where we camped, getting given the money for the charity by a complete stranger, having a group of 30 school kids run along the schools gates shouting "Gambete!!" (keep going!) as we walked past ...

Some quite forboding terrainTom is by far the stronger member of this team. I realise now that over his lifetime he has done immesurably more long-distance walking and it is making a difference. My legs still lack strength, but then so do Tom's a bit, what I am really stuggling with is the mind game, keeping going and thinking of things to think about while walking. Tom seems pretty sorted in the head game department.

My Scarpa trainers are perhaps half a size too small for wearing decent hiking socks, a fact I didn't work out until I had about 3 decent blisters in various places on each foot. I spend my time now in the Bridgedale coolmax liners, unfortunately I only brought one pair to this beginning section as I was expecting to use hiking socks. I am washing them whenever possible but they are still pretty smelly and I do not think they will last much longer. My blisters are calming down. My right ankle is sore but fine when strapped up. My right knee hurts in various degrees depending on the amount I have to bend it and how tired I am. I am fairly sure I will be able to walk through both. Tom is in fine fettle although for the past two days has been walking at about my speed as he has been carrying more than his fair share of food!

Paul fixes up his footI am the one who nearly always asks for breaks first, and I am the one who usually needs to stop first at the end of the day. I did say however that I would need a good couple of weeks at least to break myself in. Tom was fairly certain we could hit 40km straight off - the nutter! I think really my knee and ankle are because we didn't really give ourselves decent recovery time after the Yakushima nightmare three days - well that is what I like to think.

This last week has been very humbling for me, I am not used to being the one holding up progress, or hobbling down Mts. This rest day has been wonderful though. Penny meeting us in the Rd must have had God's hand on it. The pain of walking is quickly forgotten. It is always possible to get started the next morning no matter how much pain was experienced the next day, I am sure that this is in answer to all those praying for us."

Mt. Sobo (1757m)

Wed 28 Feb.
Day 17

Tom and Paul, reunited, at the top of Mt. SoboThey lose each other, find each other and make a quick ascent.

Sobo was a trial as it was shrowded in cloud, ice covered tracks and thick bamboo grass. They briefly lost each other, something for which they now have a contingency plan in case of future hiccups. However, still got to the top in under 2hrs. 30km that day which set them up well for Mt Aso-San.

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