Steviekun Foto: Life in Japan

A blog of Stephen W. Small

Panoramic View From Oyama

Oyama Panorama

View of the greater Tokyo area to include Yokohama as seen from Mt. Oyama.


Kurobe Gorge Hiking Trip

Here are some pictures from my two day hiking trip through the Kurobe Gorge. Kurobe Gorge is a gorge that’s located in the Kita Alps of Japan. It starts at the Kurobe Dam and follows the Kurobe River. Starting from the Kurobe Dam, you can hike the gorge for a little over 30 km which will get you to the Kurobe Gorge Railway. At about 18 km there is a camp site and hot spring that you can set up camp for the night and soak in a nice open air hot spring.

Here is the group of hard core hikers I hiked with.

DSCN1344 Kurobe Gorge 061

The hike starts at the dam. The gorge is only open for hiking one month out of the year and the colors from the trees are just amazing.

Kurobe Gorge 001 Kurobe Gorge 009 Kurobe Gorge 015

There are a lot of very rocky sections to the gorge with very large boulders that you must climb over.

Kurobe Gorge 023

Here we take our first break.

Kurobe Gorge 034

Some sections require you to climb a little bit.

10417434_716162631798833_6202867090381956271_n Kurobe Gorge 033 Kurobe Gorge 036

At our second break point, one of the hikers drops their water bottle. Luckily we had an experienced rock climber with some gear that was happy to retrieve it.

Kurobe Gorge 060

There was a rope way bridge that we had to cross to get to the other side of the gorge. It was only two planks wide and pretty scary to cross.

Kurobe Gorge 057 Kurobe Gorge 063 Kurobe Gorge 064

The majority of the trail going through the gorge was carved into the side of the canyon wall. Many sections are only a couple feet wide with a few hundred feet drop straight down. Along the canyon walls a wires that have been anchored to the walls for people to hold onto. The views of the gorge are simply amazing. No words to describe and the pictures taken here do it no justice.

Kurobe Gorge 059 Kurobe Gorge 058 Kurobe Gorge 053 Kurobe Gorge 050 Kurobe Gorge 047 Kurobe Gorge 041 Kurobe Gorge 040 Kurobe Gorge 031 Kurobe Gorge 030 Jason Kurobe Gorge 05 Jason Kurobe Gorge 04 Jason Kurobe Gorge 03 Jason Kurobe Gorge 02 Jason Kurobe Gorge 01

At the end of the first day we pitched our tents at the camp site. The price for a spot to pitch and hot spring was 1,200 yen. When we got there the place was already packed with people. There was barely enough space for us to pitch our tent.

Kurobe Gorge 0701

The second day of the trip was a 13 km hike to the Kurobe Gorge Railway. This is a small train that goes through the rest of the gorge. Some of the cars on the train are open air cars and let’s you enjoy the views of the rest of the gorge. Unfortunately, the train spends a lot of time in tunnels.


Here is an interesting structure we went by towards the end of the line.


Last Station on the Kurobe Gorge Railway. From here, you get on a real train to get back to civilization.


Hoosan Hike (鳳凰山)

Here are some pictures from my hiking trip to Hoosan. Hoosan is a mountain which actually consist of three separate peaks and is located in the Minami Alps mountain range. Of the three peaks, I only had enough time to get to one of them on this trip. The three peaks are Jizodake (地蔵岳), Kannondake (観音岳), and Yakushidake (薬師岳). The peak I made it too was Yakushidake and has an elevation of 2,750 meters. From the summit of Hoohsan, you get an excellent view of Mt. Fuji and the rest of the mountains in the Minami Alps to include Kitadake. Hoosan is also different from the rest of the mountains in the Minami Alps in that it was formed from granite rock giving it a greyish white appearance.

Me at the summit of Hoosan on Yakushidake.

Stephen Hoosan 03

Unfortunately, the day did not start off well for me. The road that I had planed to take to the trail head was closed and I did not know any alternate routes. Lesson learned. Be a little more prepared next time. I ended up having to park my car at an earlier rest area which added a great deal of distance to my hike, but I wasn’t about to go back without a hike.


The trails leading to the first mountain were very good. They were clear and amazingly smooth. I was loving life at this point.

Hoosan Trail 04

The first mountain peak I hit was Sentoboshiyama (千頭星山). No spectacular views as it was all tree covered. It mainly just serves as a checkpoint.

Hoosan Trail 05

After Sentoboshiyama the trail started getting rough. The trail dipped down into a saddle. There were many places the trail was overgrown and other places where the trail was almost non existing. There were quiet a few times that I unintentionally found my self off the trail and had to find my way back to the trail. In some places, the only way you could tel you were on a trail were the ribbons tied to the trees and spray painted rocks. There is a good reason why I was the only person on this section of trail.

Hoosan Trail 03 Hoosan Trail 02

After reaching the top of the ridge line, the trail finally improved a lot.

Hoosan Trail 01

My first rest stop was a mountain cabin. Here they had areas where you could camp as well as fresh water. I decided to stop here for some lunch.

Hoosan Campsite 02 Hoosan Campsite 01

At this point I was now officially on Hoosan. As you get closer to the summit, you see more and more huge granite boulders along the trail.

Hoosan 11 Hoosan 10

As I approach the summit, the peak is nothing but exposed granite rocks. It really is an amazing site to see.

Hoosan 09 Hoosan 02 Hoosan 01 Hoosan 04 Hoosan 06

The views from Yakushidake were simply amazing.

Hoosan 05 Hoosan 07

Mt. Fuji is clearly visible from here.

Hoosan Fuji 04 Hoosan Fuji 03 Hoosan Fuji 02 Hoosan Fuji 01

From here, you not only get a great view of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s highest peak, but you also get a great view of Kitadake, Japan’s second highest peak.

Hoosan Kitadake 01 Hoosan Kitadake 02

As much as I would have loved to stay up there longer, I knew I had a very long hike back to the car. In my way back down the mountain, I turned one last time to say good by to Hoosan.

Hoosan 03

Here is the Strava link to the hike.

Kitadake Hike (北岳)

Here are some pictures from my overnight camping trip to Kitadake with my friend from work, Jason. Kitadake is Japan’s second highest peak after Mt Fuji at 3,193 meters (10,475 feet). It is located in the Minami Alps mountain range. I highly recommend anyone staying in Japan that loves the outdoors, to place a Kitadake hike on their bucket list. It takes a little work to get there, but it’s well worth the trouble.

Here is a picture from the first camp ground and some picture going up to the ridge line. I went up on 27 September 2014 and the leaves were already starting to change.

DSCN1256 DSCN1257 DSCN1258 DSCN1259 DSCN1260 DSCN1261 DSCN1262 DSCN1265

We made it to the ridge line and decided to set up camp. The area we set up camp was right before the climb to the summit.

The tent in the picture is were I slept that night.

Kitadake Camp Area 01 Kitadake My Tent Kitadake My Tent 02

Here is the amazing view I got looking out the front flap to my tent.

Kitadake View From My Tent

Here are some pictures from our hike to the summit.

DSCN1269 DSCN1270 DSCN1281 DSCN1282 DSCN1284 DSCN1287 DSCN1289

Here are some more views of our camping area from up above.

DSCN1286 DSCN1285 Kitadake Camp Area View

Here is a large rock formation near the summit. I could not resist climbing it.

Stephen Kitadake 05

We finally made it to the summit. Here are some of the mandatory pictures by the sign.

Stephen and Jason Kitadake Stephen Kitadake 07 Jason Kitadake 01 Jason Kitadake 07

Here are some more picture taken from the summit of Kitadake.

Kitadake 08 Kitadake 07 Kitadake 06 Kitadake 05 Kitadake 04 Kitadake 03 Kitadake 02

Some pictures of Jason at the summit of Kitadake.

Jason Kitadake 06 Jason Kitadake 05 Jason Kitadake 04 Jason Kitadake 03

Here is a rock we found that just had the most amazing view.

Stephen Kitadake 02 Jason Kitadake 02

We decided to stay on the summit to watch the sunset.

Kitadake Sunset 02 Kitadake Sunset 01

When we got back to camp it was dark, and I decided to try and take some night shots. Here is a night photo of Kitadake summit from the camp.

Kitadake Night Photo

I then pointed my camera up and took a photo of the night sky. With no cloud cover and no city lights, the view was amazing.

Kitadake Night Sky

We woke up the next morning to catch the sun rise. Here are a few pictures of the sunrise from Kitadake.

Kitadake Sunrise 01 Kitadake Sunrise 02 DSCN1299

And the view of Mt. Fuji from Kitadake is just amazing.

DSCN1294 DSCN1297

Yatsugatake Camping Trip/ Akadake Hike

Here are some pictures from my overnight camping trip to Yatsugatake mountain range on 12/13 September 2014. Yatsugatake is a volcanic mountain range in central Japan that is very popular amongst campers and hikers due to it’s ease of access and is accessible year round making it a popular destination in the winter. Our goal for this camp trip was to make it to the summit of Akadake, the highest peak in the Yatsugatake range at 2,899 meters.

I left after work on Friday around 1900 from Camp Zama. A co-worker of mine drove out to the area. Taking the Chuo Express way, it was about 4,000 in road tolls to get there. We got to Minotoguchi (美濃戸口), the parking area around 2100.   It cost 500 yen to park a car at the parking area. From there we started to hike.  After about a 2.5-3 hour hike, we got to the camp area at around midnight and set up camp. The temps were in the 30’s that night.

DSCN1180 DSCN1181

Throughout Yatsugatake there are many mountain cabins. For about 5,000 yen, you can stay at one over night or you can pay 500 yen to pitch a tent on the grounds. The facilities are very nice. This was the first one we ran into. It was also the place we camped out for the night. These cabins also have restrooms and food/ water. This particular cabin also had an onsen.

DSCN1185 DSCN1183

This cabin is also well known for it’s beer. You pay 500 yen, and you get all the beer you can drink.


The next morning we started our hike to Akadake. After about 30 minutes of hiking we came across another mountain cabin. We decided to press on and continue hiking. After about another 30 minutes of hiking, the elevation really started to pick up. First were steps, and then the climbing chains. The chains are there to assist hikers in navigating the steep and rocky areas of the mountain.

DSCN1190 DSCN1192

Here is a picture of Yokodake. This is another mountain peak on the same ridge line as Akadake.


Getting closer to the ridge line.

DSCN1249 DSCN1248 DSCN1247

And even closer. The rock formations are simply amazing.

DSCN1198 DSCN1196

We finally get to the top of the ridge line.


Once we get to the ridge line, we are now up in the clouds. Here is a view looking down the ridge line towards Yokodake.


Here is the mountain cabin on top of the ridge line. You can stay the night here like the other cabins, but there is no space to pitch tents.


To get to the rest room, you go down a set of stairs and through a tunnel.


From the ridge line, there is still some more hiking to reach the summit of Akadake.

DSCN1216 DSCN1213

Almost to the summit of Akadake. It gets very rocky up here.

DSCN1243 DSCN1242

Once you get near the summit of Akadake, there is one last mountain cabin. At this location, you can buy drinks and they even server hot ramen. They even had beer and whiskey for sale.


We finally reach the summit of Akadake. At the summit is a small shrine. There were lots of people there that day.

DSCN1226 DSCN1224 DSCN1218 DSCN1219

The view from the summit of Akadake really is spectacular.

DSCN1225 DSCN1238

One more mountain summit to add to the list.


Many thanks to Jason, for driving out to the location and letting me use his back pack, and sleeping bag for camping.


Kamakura, 18 September 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken my D700 out to shoot pictures, so I decided to go down to Kamakura and make it a photo shoot day. Since I have been here many times before, I tried to look for new pictures and new angles, which can be pretty hard when you have been to a place a lot of times.

These are some pictures I took around Hase-dera.

Hase Statue 01 Hase Statue 02 Hase Statue 03 Hase Statue 04 Hase Statue 05 Hase Statue 07

Here are some cool looking stone lanterns around Hase-dera.

Hase Statue 06 Hase Statue 08

Here is a pig that I found near Hase Station.

Kamakura Pig

Some colorful fish shoes displayed at a street store.

Fish Shoes

Here is a Tobi or Kite that I saw perched up in a tree. There are lots of these in this part of Japan.


Here is the sake barrel wall near Hachimango Shrine. These are pretty common in Japan, but you don’t see modern beer mixed in very often.

Beer and Sake

Some pictures of the pond in front of Hachimango Shrine with the lily pads and ducks.

Hachimango Pond Hachimango Duck

Logan and Ava at Fernandina Beach

Ava, Me, and Logan

Fernandina Beach 09

Ava and Helen

Fernandina Beach 06

Logan, Ava, and Dad

Fernandina Beach 04


Fernandina Beach 03

Ava and Logan

Fernandina Beach 01

Ava and Logan

Fernandina Beach 02


Fernandina Beach 12


Fernandina Beach 11

Hinokihoramaru Hiking Trip (檜洞丸)

Here are some pictures from my hiking trip to Hinokihoramaru. It is a mountain in the Tanzawa Mouintain Range with a height of 1,601 meters. The hike was 18km to include 2,000 meters worth of climbing and three major mountain peaks. The hike took me about 6 hours to complete to include breaks.

Picture taken from Hirugatake. The highest mountain in the Tanzawa range with a height of 1,673 meters. It was the second major peak on the hike.


There was a lot of climbing on this hike. The trails were very tough.




Picture taken from Himetsugi. This is one of the major junction points in the area. Several trails cross at this point. It’s also a nice rest area.


A small over night cabin located prior to the peak of Hinokihoramaru.


Here is the sign post at Hinokihoramaru. It looks like its getting kind of old.


The weather was great and there was lots of great scenery to be seen.






Here is a link to the GoPro video I shot during the hike.

Daikanzan (大観山)

This year, in celebration of Memorial Day, I went on a ride with Faron Cordrey, Dean Carlson, and Billy Davis from Team RWB Japan to Daikanzan. This is my second time to the summit of Daikanzan and although I made it up in less time and with less pain, it’s still pretty hard ride. While searching for information on Daikanzan on the internet, there was very little I could find, so I thought I would briefly describe what Daikanzan for those who are not familiar with it.

What is Daikanzan ?????????

Simply put, Daikanzan is a mountain here in Japan. It is located just south of Hakone and has a height of 1,011 meters (3,316 feet). The word Daikanzan literally translates to “Grand View Mountain” and I believe this is a good name for it. On a good day, Daikanzan offers a spectacular view of Hakone, Lake Ashinoko, and Mt. Fuji.  There are two major roads that can be taken to the summit of Daikanzan and they are the Toyo Tire Turnpike, and Route 75, also known as the Tsubaki Line.  The Tokyo Tire Turnpike is a toll road which is closed to bicycle traffic, while the Tsubaki Line is free to travel. The Tsubaki Line offers a great challenge for any cyclist looking for a good climb. The climb portion is about 16-17km long at about a 7% grade with a rating of HR. How long it takes a rider to make this climb varies from rider to rider, but the average rider can make it to the top anywhere from 1:10 – 1:30. When you get close to the summit there is a radar station, and a rest area at the summit. The rest area has a fairly large parking area, with restroom facilities, a place to eat, and buy food items. Daikanzan is also very popular amongst motorcyclist and drifters. While drifters will typically not come out until late night, you will often see motorcyclist going up the mountain and meeting at the rest area at the summit.

Kuroneko (my bike) at the summit of Daikanzan.

Daikanzan Bicycle

From Left to Right: Dean Carlson, Billy Davis, and me.

Daikanzan Team RWB

From Left to Right: Dean Carlson, Faron Cordrey, Billy Davis.

Daikanzan Team RWB Japan

View of Lake Ashinoko from Daikanzan.

Lake Ashinoko Pana

Rest area at the summit of Daikanzan.


Kita Alps (北アルプス)

Here are some pictures of the Kita Alps, or the Northern Japanese Alps. These pictures were taken from route 138 coming back from Itoigawa.

Kita Alps 01

Kita Alps 02

Kita Alps 03

Kita Alps 04

Kita Alps Me