Thursday, June 2, 2016

Three takes on Harinoki Pass

Images-and-ink accounts of a historic mountain crossing

Climbing a snow valley at Harinoki, woodprint by Yoshida Hiroshi (1926)

I. From A Handbook for Travellers in Central and Northern Japan by Sir Ernest Mason Satow and A. G. S. Hawes (1884)

From Nagano to Toyama over the Harinoki Pass.

The greater portion of the following itinerary and of the description given below must be regarded as approximate only, the difficulty of keeping communication open across so rugged a country being peculiarly great. There is no possibility of crossing the pass before the yama-hiraki, or "mountain opening", on the 20th June. Even during the summer months, communication is often entirely interrupted, and none but the most experienced mountaineers can hope to succeed in forcing a way for themselves.

Difficulty is sometimes experienced in obtaining the services of hunters to act as guides, the Harinoki-toge being now seldom crossed even by the natives, and the huts formerly existing on the way being nearly all destroyed, whilst the central portion of the original track has, owing to avalanches and landslips, been practically effaced. Still, the route remains one of the grandest, as well as one of the most arduous, mountaineering expeditions in Japan.

II. From A Diplomat In Japan Part II: The Diaries Of Ernest Satow, 1870-1883, edited by Ian Ruxton

July 23. Left Noguchi at 5 a.m. The clouds gradually rose, and disclosed Yahazugatake, Rengedake or Gorokudake. Jiigatake and Tsubeta or Tsumeta, going from left to right. The Harinoki pass, over which we go, is just north of Rengedake Pass, through Oide, which is on the left bank of Takazegawa and across a stream which does not flow out of the three lakes. Then over a moor covered with woods for a long distance.

Hemerocallis flava (Wikipedia)
Ex-voto on trees, either inscribed "In honour of the mountain god'', or else two rusty iron spear heads, this kind of thing several times. Left the valley of the Takaze and continued up that of the Kagawa at the head of which our pass lies. Immense quantities of Funkia ovata, Hemerocallis flava, Magnolia hypoleuca. Through over-luxuriant brushwood, tall umbellifers and itadori over twelve feet high to the house at Shirazawa, where one can easily pass the night.

Here the river has to be crossed to the right bank, and the path goes on continually ascending thro' woods; large adenophera and yellow Tricyrtis (?) abundant; proceeding on, we shortly crossed the bed of the torrent. Here I found a (species of?) dianthus in quantities, a large arenaria and a hypericum.After this a splendid specimen of Lilium cordifolium in full flower, over six feet high, and another tall lily, unknown.

Lilium cordifolium (source ?) 
We then came to the hut called Kuroishizawa, where is an excellent little stream of pure cold water. Some time after this we arrived at the foot of the snow, and started boldly on it, but after a while, perceiving a path on the bank, we betook ourselves to it again, & ascended until said path disappeared under the snow. At this point, which is 5,500 feet above the sea, found Schizocodon Soldanelloides [ko-iwa-kagami], two kinds of vaccinium Diewilla in bud and a bed of what is Glaucidium palmatum. Birch just struggling into leaf.

Schizocodon Soldanelloides (Wikipedia)
We ascended the snow to a point where it seemed to end, and took our lunch, about 6,500 feet. After this, we did a little more snow, and found ourselves on a very steep zigzagging path, which led up to the summit ridge by the side of the snow, which filled the bottom of a narrow watercourse. Great variety of new & curious species along this path & and most of all at the top, anemones. Ranunculus, saxifrage, vacciniums. Height about 7,500 or 8,000 ft. It began to rain. We had been nearly I0 hours getting to this point, being much kept back by the baggage coolies …

Roofs at Ohmachi: looking towards Harinoki-toge
(illustration from Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps)

III. From Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japanese Alps, by Walter Weston (1896)

During the first few years after the path – such as it was – was opened, several parties of foreign travellers, including Satow, Chamberlain, Atkinson and others, crossed the pass without much difficulty. Soon, however, the ravages of those influences we call the tooth of time began to tell; avalanches and landslips, with the heavy autumn rains, before long had battered the track out of all recognition, and the Harinoki-tōge became a mere wreck of its former self. For practical purposes, it was soon abandoned – indeed, almost buried – and its epitaph has been already written Tōge fuit….

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