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Walking on the Moon

So the weather’s getting warmer, the sakura's blossoming and I’m working again to pay off my credit card bill. Time to plan the next snowboarding trip!! Not to the real moon but to some distant, mystical place of worship with the same name – yes, Mt Gassan!

I first heard of Gassan when I was investigating whether it was possible to snowboard in Japan in June. That was nearly 3 years ago, when I was planning my first trip here, and it prompted me to join SJF and make my first post! I made it to Japan but not to Gassan, and promptly forgot all about it until the other week when it was mentioned on the forum – thanks Metabo for reminding me!

Here are some “facts” that I’ve gleaned from the good ol’ www and as such, should be taken with a pinch of salt. Named after it’s moon shape (literally translated as “moon mountain”), Gassan is a small ski area in Tohoku region's Yamagata prefecture, about two hours northwest of Yamagata City. Along with neighbouring Hagurosan and Yudonosan, known collectively as Dewa Sanzan, Gassan is a sacred mountain which has been worshipped for centuries. There’s a shrine at the 1984m summit, which attracts lots of summer worshippers and hikers. Here’s a summer pic of said summit and shrine:-

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Gassan is the highest of the three peaks and gets so much snow that the ski area only opens to the public when the roads leading to it are accessible, usually mid-April-ish. It then stays open for as long as that snow remains skiable, usually late-July-ish. It’s got one, kilometre-long pair lift, and a T-bar that will take you part-way up Mt. Ubagadake. A further 20 minute-hike takes you to the top of Ubagadake (1670m) where, on a good day, you’ll be treated to a 360 degree, panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the Sea of Japan. From there you can ski/ride back to the lift or, so I’ve read, hike another hour or so along a ridge to the top of Gassan itself, where you can go off the back bowl or come back down the front bowl to the lift. I can’t yet vouch for that but if you ask me in a couple of months’ time, I might be able to confirm it because I think it’s about time I paid my respects to the mountain gods! Or at least go for a lunar wander.

October 2016

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