I've never seen mountains like these before, and before climbing Okuhotaka-dake, Japan's third-highest peak, I didn't understand the term mountaineering, or the reason all Japanese hikers have trekking poles. In my lifetime, I have walked to the top of many mountains, but summiting Okuhotaka was an entirely different experience. The trail consisted of boulders and hardscrabble with spraypainted suggestions for directions. Chains were bolted to rock faces in particularly difficult places so that one might pull oneself up or rappel back down. And I found out later that I took one of the easier ways up!
It was all worth it at the top, though, where, in the thin air, a diminutive Shinto shrine crowned the monumental peak, a reminder of the mystical quality of great heights and wide horizons.