My Sweet Hououzan (Part I)


Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji from Mount Houou blue sea of clouds dawn long exposure_4E02109Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA ART 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM

The South Alps (of Japan) is sort of a sacred area for landscape photographers specialized in Mount Fuji. Fuji does look really awesome when seen from other high mountains.  Needless to say that the most important sacred place is Mt. Fuji itself for us. But we can’t shoot Fuji when we are on the top of Fuji, you know?

According to my brief research on the South Alps, the Mount Houou is the best destination for me, because it isn’t too hard to get to the top even if you aren’t very experienced in climbing but the view of Fuji from this mountain is really superb.  I concluded this mountain should be my first target in the South Alps area. There are some course options. The easiest route runs from Yashajin-Touge but I chose the Dondokozawa (ドンドコ沢) route, which features a couple of waterfalls, for ascending, and the Chudou (中道) route for descending. As I forgot to record a GPS log, the line showing the route in the map is not very accurate.

スクリーンショット 2014-10-15 午後2.16.23©2014 Google, ZENRIN

It took nearly two hours from my house to Aoki Kousen where I parked my car.  I arrived there at 6:30AM and started walking up the trail. The Dondokozawa route features four spectacular waterfalls, namely, Minami Shoujin, Houou, Shiraito and Goshiki waterfalls. According to the course map provided by Houou Mountain lodge, it takes two hours to reach the first waterfall, the Minami Shoujin waterfall.

IMG_0027Canon PowerShot S200

I walked across a stream after walking for 90 minutes. It looked like a small waterfall. So I thought it should be the first waterfall and the course may be easier than I originally thought. But I was wrong. It was just a rapid stream. I had to walk some more to get to the first waterfall.

南精進ヶ滝 ドンドコ沢 鳳凰三山 Minami-Shoujinn-ga-taki IMG_0036Canon PowerShot S200

I arrived at the Minami Shoujin waterfall at 9:00AM. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t very much interested in the waterfalls as my main purpose is shooting Fuji from the peaks of the mountain. I expected they would be small waterfalls like Kaneayama waterfall in my neighborhood. But it was spectacular! If you like waterfalls, choose this route when climbing Mt. Houou. AU’s 3G connection was available at this place. So I called the Houou lodge to reserve my bed and made a tweet.

The next milestone is the Shiraito Waterfall (of Mt. Houou). There are many Shiraito waterfalls in Japan. Shiraito means white threads. So it should be made of multiple waterfalls. The standard time spent to reach there is 90 minutes according to the route map. Shortly after I left the first waterfall, I found a guide post saying that there is another waterfall called Houou waterfall. But I decided not to go there and took the path directly leading to the destination, because the post didn’t say how far I had to walk. I googled it  after I returned home. It looks like a very charming waterfall too.

Dondokosawa Shiraitonotaki Yuga Kurita IMG_0044Canon PowerShot S200

I got to the Shiraito Waterfall at 11:15AM. It took just 30 minutes more than the ‘standard time’ but steep slopes made me very tired. I ate lunch here. It feels really nice to take lunch seeing and feeling the beauty of nature.  I wanted to have a longer break but I left there after eating lunch because it gets cold when not walking.  The next milestone is the Goshiki waterfall (means the waterfall of five colors).

Yuga Kurita Goshikinotaki Dondokosawa 五食の滝 ドンドコ沢 IMG_0049Canon PowerShot S200

According to the route map provided by the Houou lodge, it should take 80 minutes from the Shiraito waterfall to Goshiki waterfall. But I arrived there within an hour. It was easy. I was nearly finishing today’s course. I felt encouraged and went ahead.  I spent 90 minutes to get to the Houou lodge. It was pretty easy hiking after passing the Shiraito waterfall. The standard time of the course is 6 hours but I spent 7 hours and 30 minutes. I want to shorten the time next time I try this route.

Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji Sea of Clouds Hououzan Jizoudake Fujimiiwa_4E02015Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA ART 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM

By walking down the trail leading to Gozaishi Kousen from this lodge for 5 minutes, you will arrive at a place called Fujimiwa, which provides a nice view of Mt. Fuji. I left my luggage at the lodge and went there only carrying my D800E with me.  Then I eventually saw Fujisan for the first time in this mountain over a huge sea of clouds. I’m moved by the view as I was struggling through that sea of clouds.  After I took this shot, the clouds moved up and hid Fuji. I gave up and went back to the lodge.

I relaxed at the lodge. I was very tired but wasn’t sleepy at all. I decided to go up to the top of the Jizodake peak (the closest peak to the lodge). I just put my Powershot S200 into my pocket and left the lodge.  The signpost says it takes 50 minutes to the top. I don’t quite trust it but I will probably reach there by the sunset.

IMG_0077Canon PowerShot S200

I anticipated it would be easy to get to the top as I didn’t carry my backpack. But the slope towards the peak is made of sand and very steep! I saw the peak just there but I couldn’t get closer to it. The sky was gradually getting dark. I turned around to see the landscape behind me and realized that Fuji was gradually emerging from the left shoulder of the Kannondake peak as I go up. It must be clearly seen from the top. I hurried. I mean I try to hurry up but my body didn’t move up quickly. The time went by and the sky got darker.  When I somehow reached to the top, the sunset is already ending. Oh I had only a PowerShot! I didn’t carry my tripod! It was too late. I had to do something. I placed my PowerShot S200 on a rock  to minimize camerashake and took this shot.

IMG_0089Canon PowerShot S200

There was no time for me to regret. It’s getting darker and darker. I gotta return to the lodge! Needless to say, I brought my headlight. I’m not that reckless. In addition, the moon was rising from the eastern horizon. I got back to the lodge with no problem. Landscape photographers often need to move about in pitch darkness to shoot sunrise or sunset.  We must be very careful when do it in a mountain. I immediately slept after taking a meal at the lodge. I’m gonna wake up at 3:00AM to shoot Fuji tomorrow.

By the way, the first picture on this page was taken in the second day’s morning.

Continues to My Sweet Hououzan (Part II).


Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji from Mount Houou blue sea of clouds dawn long exposure_4E02109Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA ART 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM



スクリーンショット 2014-10-15 午後2.16.23地図データ ©2014 Google, ZENRIN


IMG_0027Canon PowerShot S200


南精進ヶ滝 ドンドコ沢 鳳凰三山 Minami-Shoujinn-ga-taki IMG_0036Canon PowerShot S200



次のマイルストーンはここから一時間半で着くという「白糸の滝」で、ここに辿り着けば、今日の道程の半分を過ぎる。半分以上進むと精神的にだいぶ楽になりそうな気がするので、気合を入れて進む。しかし、白糸の滝というのは日本にいくつあるのだろうか? 実は富士吉田にもひとつあるのですが、かなりマイナーなスポットなので知っている人は少ないでしょう。


Dondokosawa Shiraitonotaki Yuga Kurita IMG_0044Canon PowerShot S200


Yuga Kurita Goshikinotaki Dondokosawa 五食の滝 ドンドコ沢 IMG_0049Canon PowerShot S200



Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji Sea of Clouds Hououzan Jizoudake Fujimiiwa_4E02015Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA ART 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM

この小屋から御座石鉱泉方面に5分ほど行ったところに「富士見岩」という富士山鑑賞スポットがある。早速荷物を小屋に置いてカメラだけ持って、行ってみた。すると大雲海の彼方に富士山が見える! 今までこの雲の中を必死で登ってきたと思うと、感無量である。しかし、この後は雲海がどんどん高くなって、富士山の頭だけがかろうじて見えるような状態になってしまったので、撮影は諦めて一度小屋に戻った。

小屋で少し休んだが眠くはならない。少し体力も回復したので、最低限の荷物を持って地蔵岳の山頂まで行ってみることにした。D800Eは小屋に置いて、キヤノンのコンデジPowershot S200だけポケットに忍ばせて小屋を出た。小屋の前にある看板によると地蔵岳の頂上まで50分ほどで着くらしい。日が落ちるまでには着くだろう。

IMG_0077Canon PowerShot S200

荷物が少ないので楽勝だと思ったのだが、地蔵ヶ岳の山頂近くは急勾配の砂地で、まるで蟻地獄のようだ。山頂はすぐそこに見えているのになかなか辿り着かない。山頂まであと少しのところで、空が徐々に暗くなってきた。そして、そこで振り返って気がついた。観音岳の左肩から徐々に富士山が見え出している! ここからだと稜線が隠れるが、山頂からだとちゃんと見えるはずだ。急がなければ! しかし、気が焦るばかりで、なかなか前に進まない。なんとか登頂した時には、かなり暗くなっていた。コンデジしか無い! 三脚持ってきてない! まさか、こんな見事な富士山にお目にかかるとは思わずに、油断していた。一生の不覚である。仕方ないので、コンデジを岩の上に載せて、なんとかブレを抑えて撮ってみた。

IMG_0089Canon PowerShot S200

もっと早くD800Eと三脚を持って出ていれば! と後悔する時間はない。どんどん暗くなっているので、さっさと山小屋に戻ることにする。もちろんヘッドライトはちゃんと持ってきていた。帰り道の途中で明るい月も登ってきたので、夜の登山道だったが問題なく帰還できた。写真家というのはどうしても朝夕に撮りたいものなので、暗い時間に動く必要が生じることがある。当然ながら山では慎重にならなくてはならない。山小屋に帰ったら、ご飯を食べてすぐに寝た。明日は3:00には起きてガッツリ撮るつもりだ。


鳳凰山に登ってきた! (2) に続く。

2 thoughts on “My Sweet Hououzan (Part I)

  1. Raymond Lara

    Great story Yuga san! I am glad to have found your website. You have taken some outstanding photographs of Fujii! I am totally impressed and now understand what you meant on FB by being self employed. Are you a well know photographer in Japan? Forgive me for asking, as I am only a beginning amateur who has recently fulfilled a long time dream of visiting Japan. I want to come again! The food was delicious! Your country is beautiful and so different from the quiet island that I live on. There is Mauna Kea mountain, but perhaps I don’t see it as I should. I enjoy your FB posts and look forward to seeing what you have next….



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