ACHI-KOCHI by Rey Ian Corpuz
Conquering Mt. Myogi
One day, our Japanese friend, Mr. Harada, told us that he planned to go to Mt. Myogi in the western side of Gunma Prefecture, bordering Nagano Prefecture. We thought that the trip was just a simple and leisure sightseeing but we were caught off-guard on what was ahead of us and thought that it was my scariest experience here in Japan.
It was quite a chilly early morning when we headed out for Gunma. We were all dressed in flat shoes, jeans, and thin jacket. It was a typical autumn attire. After exiting the Matsuida Myogi interchange in the Joshinetsu Expressway, we finally arrived at the side. First stop was Myogi Shrine.
Upon walking uphill towards the main shrine, you could see the majestic beauty of the mountains covered in yellow colors. Autumn has just started that time and it was truly breathtaking. Cool breeze of fresh air, colorful scene, a DSLR camera on-hand, and it was just truly amazing. Visitors are always greeted with huge entrance gates before entering shrines. But this gate was of pale brown color unlike the bright red oranges ones in Kyoto. From the shrine, you can see the jagged-edged rocky and bald mountain nearby. The leaves of trees nearby already turned to yellow, red and orange and have fallen already. Anyway, I don’t want to elaborate further about the shrine. I know you find shrines in Japan boring if you have been here for a long time. To summarize our so-called spiritual journey, we did not ascend further because during that time, a typhoon has just passed several days ago and the park rangers did not assess yet if the hiking course was still safe or not. To our surprise we all said, “You mean we have to walk from here going to that mountain over there?” And our host said that it was his plan to do that leg of the trek. We were like “Ooopppss…” Luckily, the course was closed so we have to take an alternative route.
Wind was quite strong and leaves flew around as we head towards the starting point for our hiking trip, which we thought initially was just a sightseeing trip. We were worried. We didn’t have the right shoes, gear and we did not physically prepare for it. All of us did not have much sleep and barely ate breakfast and we were just loaded with coffee. We did not even bring bottled water or any food to quench our thirst and hunger. There we are, standing in a huge parking lot viewing the rocky mountain which looked like hell to me. But we did not have a choice but to go. Along the way, it was fun to take a lot of pictures. We were all thrilled. Beside the rocky mountain was a deep ravine. “Goodluck,” I said.
Then our agony started. Upon ascending a few meters from the highway, our 1st hurdle appeared in our eyes. A very tall cliff with nothing but huge chains only attached! No ropes but only chains. Most of the rocks which we used to step on were etched so we could fit our foot on it. My colleague, Rose, was a bit hesitant to go. Me either. One or two maybe enough but considering there are 5 so-called hell trails like that which are more difficult to climb proved futile for us who did not prepare. All of us just went anyway. After that, I felt my hands and feet shaking because of the intense grip and footwork. “Yosh!” One down…. But Mr. Harada said there is another difficult one. “Alright,” I said.
It was indeed a scary trail. Probably the scariest and even as I imagine it up to now, I do not want to go back there ever again. Rose said that she wanted to back-out but we said “shouganai.” Even if you go back, you’ll be lost on the trail and you still go back to the 1st trail we passed by. The worst, there is no keitai signal there, so there is no way of contacting each other if she backs out from the pack. On this trail, I was even more hesitant to go because the trail was so dangerous. The steps were just an inch and beyond it was a deep gorge. Really, really deep gorge! The worst, the trail was not wide enough to accommodate both ascending and descending hikers. The trail was about 50 meters up and roughly 100 meters down. The ascend was approximately a-70 degree steep while the descend was a 50-degree rugged slope. Then, as we progressed, I felt that it was my end. I regret having to push through with the trek. Our cameras were shut-off and we never had the chance on taking any pictures because we were focusing on how to survive the pesky trail. My other colleague, Ernest was the last on the trail, while Mr. Harada’s son, Ryo led the team. Ryo is an experienced hiker just like his father. Rose was behind me. I was in the middle. We were stuck in the middle and we even caused traffic in the trail. Impatient “ojiis” and “obaas,” who were dressed to kill in their hiking outfits, were eager to get ahead of us. One hiker even scolded us that it is prohibited for two persons to hold to a single buried metal chain, which held the chains in the trail. Rose said she wanted to back out. I said you can’t go back because there are hikers behind us and it was difficult to change our direction already. Also, along the way, we couldn’t find any rock to step on. There was really no choice but to use our survival skills to step and cling to any rock we could. My stomach was already trembling and my heart was pounding in fear. My sweat was cold and my throat was dried up. My fear overtook me during that point. I figured out that if someone fell into the ravine, how can the rescue team save people?
With absolute determination, we defied everything. Upon getting down, we could not again see any near rock that we can step on. It was really an instinct for survival. One thing we did was to tightly hold to the chain to carry our body weight and let our foot progress and step onto whatever rock we could. Finally, after 30 minutes of being stuck, I was able to arrive in the safe zone. I just took a video of it. Sadly, there were no pictures. Our experience was really awful but rewarding as everyone made it.
Afterwhich, we urged Mr. Harada that we take the easiest route. He was smiling at us because we looked terrified and exhausted. Admittedly, I am not a fan of mountains and have even never climbed Mt. Apo nor trekked any mountain in my entire life in the Philippines. This was my second and probably the last after Mt. Yunomaru two years ago.
Arriving at the summit, the scene was breathtaking. Mr. Harada taught us where is Mt. Asama, Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tsukuba, Mt. Takao, etc. We noticed that all who went up brought bentos and drinks with them. And they were all in hiking attire; high-end hiking shoes, gloves, hiking canes for support, hiking suits. When we got off, Mr. Harada told us that there was a route where we don’t need to climb those tracks. While descending, we really did not have to go again through those trails. It was just rock staircase. We felt like tricked on. But despite that, we were still thankful to have made that trail where only a few people could do. It was indeed a milestone in my stagnant mountaineering career.
After that, we had apple picking in Komoro City for the 2nd time and went home in our hacienda Hanyu. Before the final stop, we had okonomiyaki before finally retiring to our beds. It was indeed a terrific autumn, after all.