Yamabito Profiles: Yasushige Narusawa


Hello again, readers.  Welcome to the third in our series of Yamabito Profiles, today featuring Karuizawa’s own Yasushige Narusawa.  As we prepare for the second annual Mountain Day, we will once again bask in the insights of a true mountain veteran.


Naru-san tackles Waterval Boven, South Africa (photo: Dieter Rohrs)

(Yasushige Narusawa hails from the east of Nagano prefecture and has been active in some form of mountaineering from a young age.  As a world class rock climber, sponsored Telemark skier, and all around alpine superman, Naru-san is clearly an ideal candidate for one of our profiles.)

Q: Naru-san!  Thanks for your time.  May I ask you some questions about your experiences in the alps?

A: Of course. It would be my pleasure.

Q:When did you first experience hiking in the Kita Alps?

A: The first time I experienced hiking in the Kita Alps was when I went to Chougatake with my high school alpine club.  But bad weather prevented us from reaching the summit that time. I also used to go climbing in the mountains around Saku with my dad quite often from about the age of seven.



Everyone loves a good Brocken Spectre! (photo: Yasushige Narusawa)

Q: In brief, what are some of your favorite hikes?

I like hiking the Hotaka peaks via the Juutarou Shindou.  Beginning in Kamikochi, you quickly ascend 1,700 vertical meters making for a very sudden gain in altitude.  The route covers three 3000m points from Mae-Hotaka to Tsurione and Okuhotaka and allows you to enjoy fantastic scenery and a sense of elevation beyond compare.  A walk in the clouds with panoramic views of Kamikochi and Karasawa below.

Q: Tell us about one or two of your most memorable experiences in the Kita Alps.

A: Sometimes, due to changes in the weather I see impressive Brocken Specters from ridge lines.  I understand the scientific cause for their appearance, but somehow I still get this strangely sacred feeling when I see them…

Q: What time of year do you like best for hiking?

A: I enjoy the changing seasons throughout the year.  In winter, I break out the Telemark skis for some backcountry skiing.  In seasons without snow, I enjoy rock climbing and hiking.  Spring sansai (mountain vegetables) and autumn mushrooms are among the many ways to enjoy the blessing of the mountains.  Winter can be a lonely time indoors, but the silence I can enjoy on a winter hike in the mountains is why I love the season so much!

Q: If you could do any hike again, which would it be?

A: Kurobegoro-dake. It’s deep in the mountains, making it difficult to set aside time for a return trip, but I definitely want to hike from Kurobegoro to the Kumonodaira area again someday.

Q: We’ve all been sitting on some mountain plans for a while now.  What would you like to do next and what’s your basic plan from start to finish?

A: While I’ve climbed Yarigatake numerous times, I would really like to go rock climbing at the nearby Koyari.

Q: What style of hiking climbing do you enjoy most?

A: What I like best is rock climbing.  I just love the feeling of elevation you can get from multi-pitch climbing in particular.

Q: Can you think of a particularly memorable animal sighting on one of your hikes?  Is there any animal you’d like to see, but haven’t yet?

A: I’d have to say that my favorite animal in the Kita Alps is the Raichou (Japanese Rock Ptarmigan).  It’s worrying to see their numbers decreasing with each passing year.  The way their plumage changes color with the seasons as well as those plump, powerful legs are among their charming characteristics.  I can’t think of any particular animal I’d like to encounter, but as a general comment, I think people should keep their distance from mountain wildlife so as not to disturb their environment.

This guy again: a lone raicho strikes an evocative pose.

Q: What’s your choice for sustenance food on the move?

I like dried fruit, with those lemon slices they sell at Tsuruya being a particular favorite.

A little bit of what you fancy: an eclectic selection of dried fruit from my local. Add them to trail mix or eat them on their own. They go well with beer too.

Q: Any plans for Mountain Day?  (Failing that any other summer hiking plans?)

A:  If the weather’s good, I’d love to head out for some rock climbing at a nearby rock face.

Q: Well that’s all for now.  Thank you so much for your time and have a great Mountain Day!

A: Always pleased to be of service  See you around.

(Translation: William Habington)

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A big thanks to Narusawa-san for his mountain musings.  We’ll be back tomorrow with yet another profile, so stay tuned!