JAPAN-1: BY TRAIN & SCARY HIKE
Wow, so this has been my first time in Japan (Tabea). I flew to Japan on 22.April, 2017 and arrived there the day after. I planned to stay about 8 days before Top and his family would arrive. I heard a lot about Japan and how many people live/work in Tokyo and how crowded the trains are. But just hearing about it or even watching a video or documentary does not do it justice. OMG there are sooooo many people, it is a must see and experience but I would never want to live in a city like Tokyo, it would be way to crazy for me. Don’t get me wrong, Japan is amazing to travel to and there is so much to see but if I would live there I would choose to live more on the country side.
I was staying with Top’s friend near Chofu station which is on the keio line, with easy access to Shinjuku. On my first full day I took the train to Shinjuku, from there I walked to Yoyogi Park – Harajuku – Shibuya. It was windy and much colder than I expected but I was well equipped.
Watch my first Japan video right here:
If you plan to travel to Japan I would really suggest to not only visit the major city Tokyo but also travel through the country by train. On my 2nd day I went again to Shinjuku station and bought a 18kippu (Ju-Hatchi-Kippu). This is a special ticket that is only available in certain seasons during a specific time. I was lucky to travel during the spring season where you can buy and use the 18kippu (kippu means ticket). This Ticket is basically 5 Day Tickets that you can use on all local and rapid trains, but not on express and bullet trains. If you plan to travel with this ticket you should definitely plan your trip before. Check your connections on HyperDia and maybe even print the timetables or plans out. I also translated the station names from English into Japanese, so I could go by eye in case in some more rural areas the trains would not be announced or written in English. A great thing in Japan is, the trains are almost always on time, so you can really also just go by the time that is written in your plan and you will most likely be on the right train. The 18 kippu costs 11850 YEN (about 120 CHF). And if you don’t use all 5 days and there is still like a week left for the ticket to be used, you can sell it at one of the ticket shops outside Shinjuku station, near UNIQL.
My plan was to travel from Tokyo to Osaka- Ashiya where my friends lives.
Distance 528.3km, 6 changes, 567 Minutes
I met my friend Kaori and we went for very delicious Okonomiyaki that night.
The next day we went to Osaka and I could explore the area, we had TakoYaki for lunch and Sushi for dinner. I love food you know that, and Japanese food is amazing.
The next day I planned to go on a hike from Ashiya over Mt. Rokko to Arima. The weather was beautiful. But I soon realised that it would not be as easy as planned, because most of the signs along the hike where in Japanese. I walked from my friends home to the start of the hike. At around 10:30 I started hiking up the hill. I was unsure of the trail a couple times, but then I would see other people and a sign and I find out that I am going the right direction. Everywhere there are signs, to be cautious of the wild boar. I though yeah sure, I never saw a elk in Norway and never saw a bear in the USA so why should I see a boar this time . But I was wrong, haha, reaching the top of one hill I saw people running away, wondering why I kept going and found a boar chasing this middle aged woman. The boar apparently surprised the couple while the had lunch. It was very entertaining to watch but it can be scary if the chase you. You should really not catch their attention, the could potentially be dangerous. But I was happy I got to see one 😉
Later on the way I met a big group of students, they all smiled at me I followed them for some time, but as they were quite slow I managed to over take them and be alone on the trail again. I found a sign that said 50min to Mt.Rokko, so I took it. But once I reached a shrine and 50min almost past, I could not find another sign. Only after walking the wrong way and asking a Jogger, I found out that I need to follow the road for some time. And there it was the way to summit Mt. Rokko. I was also very happy to see a drink vending machine, as my drink was almost empty. So summit Mt. Rokko, and from my map I knew Arima (my goal where I planned to do Onsen) must be right behind Mt.Rokko and there it was a trail right down Mt.Rokko, so I took it…
If you watched my video, you know that this was one of my worst decisions, taking this steep and quite dangerous trail. I literally slid down the mountain, the trail was super steep and the terrain was forest floor and sandstone still a little wet from the rain the day before. I fell on my butt a couple times. After 15min of sliding, hanging on to trees trying not to fall again I reached a small river. I thought if I follow the river I should find civilization, or at least a road or anything. So I crossed and followed the river. At that point I was already a little scared but still kept positive. I got to a small dam. I passed the dam and still nothing in sight. But the small pieces of red yarn kept me positive because it looked like they marked a trail. I kept going, because going back up would be crazy. I was at the point that I had to basically walk in the river in order to get through the forest of thorns. But the river turnt into small waterfalls. I paused and thought about my options, but going back was still no option, my legs were already quite tired from 4-5 hours hiking. The next waterfall was higher, to high to just take a step down, but I found a rope on the side of the waterfall, so people used to go down here. It started to be fun again, at least for a moment. I thought about what would bear grillz say in that moment and made a joke out of it. I checked if the rope was still in good shape and securely attached and slowly abseiled my way down, it took about 5 steps, carefully one after the other on the slippery stone. And I was down, quite proud of myself I looked further. nothing. I got scared again, gone was my “I can do this” attitude, the reality started to come in, I realised I really am lost. I checked my phone. Oh no, no signal. I walked a little bit tried to get to higher ground. There it was, I did find signal. I tried to text my friend Kaori, I knew she was in a meeting on an island. The message could not be sent, I tried to call her but only got an automatic response. So I kept going, 2 smaller waterfalls, wet shoes and wet pants later I climbed up a small rock. The sandstone was really not stable at all, it took me while to find a small spot that was secure. I took out my phone again and called Top’s and my friend in Tokyo. He reacted immediately and told me that we would call someone and then call me back. I was relieved at least someone knows the area where I am and that I need help. Half an hour later I still did not receive a call back. When checking my phone I saw missed calls, nobody knows why my phone did not ring. So I called back my friend Beer and he told me to call the Police Station Arima 100, Emergency number. So I did. I called the police and after spelling my name 4 times and waiting in the line I got connected with a lady from the station that spoke very good English. I was so scared that my phone would shut off and I would not be able to contact anyone anymore, because I only hat 25 CHF on my sim to begin with and I already called to Beer for about 10min total, the cost of 1min was about 2.2CHF for me. So my calculations told me I should not have any money left on the phone. I did not. But it seems like outgoing emergency calls are always possible but not receiving sms or calls.
Arima police station contacted the special aviation team from Osaka International Airport, and they sent a helicopter team to find me. Sadly I could not share my GPS location anymore, as of no money left on my phone, but I tried my best in explaining my location. I waited about half an hour until I finally heard the helicopter, the helicopter appeared and disappeared again, sometimes nearer sometimes further. I realised there was no chance they would see me under those trees. Luckily the tress did not have leaves yet but still it was impossible for them to spot me. After desperately observing the helicopter and waving for 30min, I called the police station again, I was able to tell the lady exactly where I see the helicopter while she was telling the helicopter pilot in Japanese exactly that. After another 15-20min the were able to spot me in my red Patagonia jacket. One guy came down on a rope. I was so very relieved. My rescuer I think was younger than me, he did a great job, but also had to find out how slippery the sandstones are, once secured we wanted to get ready to go up but slipped and crashed into a wall of rocks, he hurt his should but thankfully he was wearing a helmet. He gave signs to the helicopter and we went up. I was shaken, shivering a little from all my emotions and my freezing feet and legs. But the view was amazing, the sun was short before setting and the hills around Osaka / Kobe look beautiful from above. But I was not really able to enjoy it, because of guilt and shock. I was already wondering, if Top knew about my situation and how much the rescue bill would cost.
We landed at Osaka International Airport, and they brought me into the Police Station, all of them were so very nice. They did not speak any or little English but checked if I was alright, turnt up the heater, brought me hot coffee and a TV. I got informed that Kaori would come to pick me up at 8:30pm, which was more than 2 hours from when I arrived. At some point the head of the Police Station came to ask me a few questions, mainly name, Nationality and why I was in Japan, how long I would stay. But he was so friendly and genuine interested. He even brought me Cup Ramen and was amazed that I could eat them, and even using chopsticks 😉 I asked the youngest guy of the team, the one who came down to get me, how many people he already rescued, his answer was 2, I was his second. 😉
At 8:30pm my friend arrived, most of the team already left work. We had to quickly report to Arima Police station by phone, the also had some questions about why I hiked there, if I was experienced in hiking and so on. On the was home I asked my friend, how I would pay for their service, but she said it was free in Japan. I could not believe it, but it is the truth, you don’t need to pay if you need to get rescued by helicopter, but that might change in the future. So if you travel there, please check in advance.
I was so glad when we got to my friends home, she made me a delicious fermented rice, cacao, cinnamon drink/dessert and heated up the bathtub. I took a nice warm shower and sat in the tub for some time. This really warmed me up and calmed me down.
I am so thankful for everyone who was involved and made me feel safe and more than sorry for all the people that I scared and worried. I am fine and will take/learn a lot from this experience.