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Nihon Kawanezumi

May 06, 2016

Tenkara Fly Fishing, Off Piste Skiing, and Nihon Kawanezumi

This week started out with one last ski tour before the end of the '15/'16 season. I went to Norikura Kogen, which is a 3026 meter tall mountain in the Northern Japanese Alps. This week was Golden Week - the most popular holiday in Japan. Consequently, the crowds were insane at Norikura Kogen. There is nothing quite like side slipping down a steep icy slope in 50kph winds while passing a hundred or so people skinning, snowshoeing, and hiking up the same slope. Thankfully after the first run our guide traversed north and we left the crowds behind.

A few days later I went Tenkara fly fishing with a friend. I had been eyeing a certain blue line on the map for nearly a year. I was 99% certain it contained fish. The Golden Week highway traffic was horrific but thankfully Google Maps found a route through city streets that shaved one hour off of the commute! We parked at the "trail-head" and after an hour of hiking we found ourselves waist deep in a frigid mountain stream.

Rather than give a full blown trip report I will just let my photos do the talking for me.

After working our way up the main stream for a few hours we came upon the little blue line that was our intended destination. The entrance however was heavily guarded by three large waterfalls and several deep pools. Ascending the last two waterfalls was only possible by the presence of a few manky and rusty pitons hammered into crevices with  bits of rope hanging from them. Down-climbing to get back was impossible and so we had to jump.

The river was teeming with fish though and we brought to hand around six (6) Yamame and Iwana. All were released.

Throughout the day I spotted several Nihon Kawanezumi (or Japanese River Shrews). Last year I accidentally caught one. This time there were no such incidents. It was wonderful to spot so many as they are on the threatened species list due to pollution and environment encroachment.

The whole day we only saw four or five people, down by the trail-head at a fishing co-op there were thousands of people fishing and BBQ-ing their catches. It was great to find such a beautiful and untouched river that we had to ourselves and no one to witness our passing but a few fish and of course a few Nihon Kawanezumi.

Getting ready to jump the first waterfall on the way out

Written by Isaac Tait who now lives in San Diego but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter