After 3 hours’ sleep, it took a while to get going on Utsugi. At the top, there was a like-minded hiker in his fifties, in shorts and half-sleeve shirt, who perked up when I arrived. He had driven up from Tokyo the previous night, got an early start, and was driving back to Tokyo in the afternoon. After a brief chat, I started to run the descent as usual, but soon became aware of laboured breathing behind me, and was startled to find the man running a short way behind. “I just love your dog,” was his explanation.
The same was not the case on the next mountain, Kisokomagadake. I had intended to take the long ridge route from Utsugi, but the logistics of getting back to the car prevailed. So with reluctance, I joined the crowds of day-trippers for one of Japan’s fastest gondola rides up to 2600 meters, listening to the ironic commentary about preserving the beautiful natural environment.
Yes, women in high-heeled shoes and short skirts were tip-toeing daintily through the final remnants of snow. Children’s screams of “Ya-ho” echoed back from the impassive, grey-faced mountain walls. And the crowds. Oh, what had the fine weather and convenience of the cablecar brought? On the track of just a few hundred meters up to the ridge was a solid stream of assorted hikers, inching their way up or down, each one within whispering distance of the next.
As I started up, suddenly an almighty voice boomed down from the top of the line. “DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED. GO DOWN. NOW!” He was practically screaming. A hundred heads turned around in unison to stare. The background chattering ceased.
In an instant, I was carried back to my schooldays and the awful bullying, dormant feelings of dreadful revenge resurfacing after all these years.
No one said a word as I walked up, not until I reached the owner of that vitriolic voice, a stocky, aggressive man in his sixties. He was livid. “Get back down!” he shouted again, his face a menacing puce-red. “You’ll scare away the mountain animals.” He had to be kidding, but he was not. I swept my arm around in the direction of a mountainside filled with hikers, “That’s why there are no wild animals here,” and carried on.
But the whole day had been ruined and my nerves shattered. Regardless of the legality, and the whole hypocrisy, he firmly believed that dogs are not allowed in the mountains. If I had not taken the dog, the ugly scene would not have happened. It has taken me a couple of days to regain my nerves.
I generally try to avoid trouble, so I shall have to choose my remaining routes and times more carefully.