This is not a mountain that strikes terror into the heart of most climbers. But then most climbers are grateful to take the cablecar followed by bus up to 2400 meters, without having to conceal a dog.
Of all the hyakumeizan involving public transport, I had been most nervous about Tateyama. Having long ago decided I would not traverse across from Tsurugi because of the logjam of hikers on its heavily chained walls, and the concomitant risk of causing an accident should a hiker have a fear of dogs, Murodo was the only feasible access.
I was not fearful of being told off by the bus or cablecar attendants, but the resulting 14 hours of additional hiking that would result, which might mean being unable to do both Tateyama and Tsurugi the same weekend. And that would mean another long, long drive to return here. I simply had to avoid detection.
So the dog carrycase was wrapped in a rucksack rain cover and almost indistinguishable from a 70-liter pack slung over my shoulder. But inside, Hana was panting heavily. I waited till the last minute, then rushed up to the ticket gate, past the guard, into the cablecar, stuffed the carrycase under the seat, covered it with my jacket, then spread out a map. Stage 1 – All clear.
There followed a nerve-racking 10 minute changeover to the bus. While everyone waited in line, an exceedingly fat woman waddled past us: “All big packs, come this way!” she barked. There was no way Hana could escape detection if her bag was hoisted onto the weighing scales, and even if she did, I would not let her go in the luggage compartment of the bus. One dog-owner who took a night bus to Kamikochi arrived to find his dog had died from the heat.
The case was pulsating as Hana panted, so I pretended to do stretching exercises, anything to keep the case moving. It worked, and we were able to board that wretched bus.
I kept her in that case for the first 10 minutes hike from the horrendous place that is the Murodo tourist trap. Finally, out of sight, I could release the dog. She had been cooped up for 7 hours.
But the risk was not over. After being stopped at the temple entrance just short of the summit of Gassan, the same was likely to happen on this religious mountain. So when the temple hut came into sight after an hour of hiking, back in the case for the dog, on with the cover. I had to get past that hut. As I slapped down the required 500-yen coin on the counter, the priest pulled out his wand to give me a blessing. I couldn’t risk Hana sneezing with the incense, so I made a sign of the cross, pretended to be horrified at being blessed under a different religion and scuttled away.
Thus we made it up Tateyama, bringing the greatest sense of elation of all the peaks. After this, I knew I could get up Tsurugi tomorrow.