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One Year Climbing the Mountains of Yamagata

Reflections on the first year of the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Project

This year in January, I set out to summit and document all 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata. This year alone I was able to summit 16 peaks, all but one in the Shonai area (well, technically at least), which in order were:

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Summited in 2021

  1. Exploring The Yamabushi Trails of Mt. Kinbo
  2. Sakura Mountain: Mt. Arakura
  3. Whetting your appetite for wetlands on Mt. Takadate
  4. The Hidden Side of Mt. Haguro (Haguro Kodo)
  5. The Shogun and the Falcon, How I “Conquered” Japan: Mt. Nihonkoku
  6. Dancing in the Dawn Lillies: Mt. Shogadake and The Fuji of The North
  7. Bananas and Cokes, Leaches and Pit Vipers: Mt. Kumanonagamine
  8. Reaching Peak Tranquility on Mt. Atsumi
  9. Sanze’s Little Helper: Mt. Fujikura
  10. The Dewa Sanzan’s “Mountain of Death”: Mt. Gassan
  11. The Dewa Sanzan’s “Mountain of Rebirth”: Mt. Yudono
  12. Womb Passes and Monkey Crossings: Mt. Kyogakura “The Shugendo Peak of Sutras”
  13. Mythical Beasts, Buddha’s Mother and Buried Yamabushi Treasure? Welcome to Mt. Maya
  14. The Widow’s Peak: Mt. Ubagatake
  15. The Epitome of Autumn Leaves in North Japan: Mt. Taizo
  16. Mother. Hunter. Mountain. Mt. Hokari

Documenting the climb

I started out wanting to make YouTube videos for each, and an accompanying page on my website that people could use for reference. The videos for 6. Mt. Shogadake, and 7. Mt. Kumanonagamine, were essentially ruined due to a faulty hard drive, and my lack of foresight in what turned out to be a very eventful hike on Mt. Kumanonagamine (read the story if you haven’t already). I will have to get back up there to get these two. Fortunately Mt. Shogadake is on the way up another 100 Famous Mountain of Yamagata, Mt. Chokai, and Mt. Kumanonagamine is not a particularly large mountain that is also relatively close. 

Then in summer I started waking up really early and going for walks out to watch the sunrise over Mt. Chokai. This became somewhat of a habit, and I would come back home, pour myself a cold brew and milk, and sit in my backyard where I just started pumping out my thoughts of each mountain. The in-depth articles of each mountain were born.

Video Quality

Looking back, I feel there is a marked difference in the style and quality of the videos. I have a philosophy of always doing the best job you can in creative projects, no half-arsing, and you can probably tell I did grow a lot in terms of video production. I can certainly tell, as producing and editing the videos did become a hell of a lot easier, which is very noticeable if you look at the style I was experimenting with in the latter videos (Mt. Maya, Mt. Ubagatake, Mt. Gassan, but especially Mt. Taizo and Mt. Hokari) compared to any other video really.

Where do I stand in terms of the project?

In all honesty, I am well behind where I wanted to be. I wanted to finish the project within three years, and to do that, next year I’m going to have to climb 50 peaks. I’m quite happy in my efforts over October and November, I was able to summit, document, and make videos and articles for 4 of the peaks, and the only thing stopping me from doing more was the weather. 

This year was the year of the Shonai peaks, besides Mt. Yunosawadake, Mt. Chokai, and Mt. Tsuchiyu and Mt. Yozo, the remaining peaks are quite the distance, and I’m going to have to travel further afield next year to even have a chance of climbing 50. Since some of the remaining peaks are very low and close to one another, I should be able to get a lot of them in with the right planning and execution.

What to do over winter

Now that it’s winter, only certain mountains are still open, and my camera batteries will run out fast, so I have to be very particular about climbing, and am not expecting much. This means I need to come up with other content over the next few months, which will be like a Shugyo in and of itself, or a Komorigyo specifically as training indoors is known (I have a few ideas in the works, but it is a lot of effort to get out into the world!).

Next Steps

So, there you have it. At the current point in time, I have plenty to do, and plenty to think about. I also have plenty of room to experiment and grow. Wish me luck. 

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi


Hi, I’m Tim Bunting AKA the Kiwi Yamabushi, a New Zealander who became a Yamabushi Ascetic in the Dewa Sanzan mountains of north Japan. I’m part of the Yamabushido team, and we host life-altering Yamabushi training on the Dewa Sanzan (website link). People come to us for the ultimate mindfulness experience, to reach the next level, or simply connect with nature and themselves.

I’m on a mission to summit all 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Prefecture to spread the splendour of this fabulous location, and in dedication to all those who lost their lives out in nature, including my father.

On my daily blog I post thoughts of a practicing Yamabushi that I hope people can use to better themselves and live as fulfilling a life as possible.

Sign up to the weekly Mountains of Wisdom newsletter, follow me on social (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Clubhouse, all @kiwiyamabushi), or send me an email via the link below to stay in touch.



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Get In Touch

Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 


All photos my own. Contact for more. 

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