Last day in Tsukuba north of Tokyo, and Bun, Watanabe, and Akira took me on a pilgrimage trek up to Mount Tsukuba. The shrine there is quite famous, and Dr. Nishiyasu (my host here) actually got married here. It was a beautiful sunny day and not bad at all at about 16oC at the starting point partway up the mountain, so we were crossing our fingers that we might actually see Mount Fuji in the far distance. I had managed to see only the bottom half on the way up to Tsukuba thanks to the deep clouds!
Left is the shrine entrance at the base of the mountain. Right is the shrine atop Tsukuba. In between was quite the steep and arduous hike up of 2.4 km and about 600 m elevation gain. Think "Grouse Grind" type of hiking straight uphill, with lots of tricky roots and rocks everywhere. All good fun and games though, especially getting to relax and steam up in a hot springs afterwards.
Watanabe, Akira, Bun, and myself atop Tsukuba. There are actually two separate peaks, the "woman's peak" and the "man's peak." Like many cultures, mountains are holy places in Japan, so there are usually shrines atop most mountains. Despite it being nice and sunny, there was still too much haze to see Tokyo or Mount Fuji.
Rock formations are big here on Mt. Tsukuba. The frog is the mascot of the mountain, and here's why on the left. At the top of the mountain sits this rock formation that looks quite a bit like a frog's mouth. The story is that if you can toss a pebble into the mouth and it stays there, that will bring you happiness - I got it! And on the right is the "Buddha Rock" partway down the mountain.