National

Nagano mountain hut owner hopes emperor will not give up passion for trekking

Kyodo

The owner of a hut on the Yatsugatake mountain range hopes newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito will not give up his passion for trekking.

The 59-year-old emperor, who ascended the throne Wednesday, is known to be very fond of outdoor activities including skiing and jogging, but might be forced to quit most, if not all, of them because of a significant increase in his imperial duties.

His father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, for example, gave up horse riding when he was enthroned in 1989, saying any injury resulting from his long-loved hobby could interfere with his duties.

Masatoshi Yonekawa, 77, who runs the Kuroyuri Hyutte hut for trekkers in Chino, Nagano Prefecture, accompanied then-Crown Prince Naruhito as a guide during a September 2017 hike up 2,646-meter Mount Tengu and realized the prince did not have much freedom even during private visits because he is always followed by escorts and bound by a precise schedule.

Yonekawa surmised that he enjoyed “having a greater sense of solitude than usual” during his time on the mountain range, which is on the border of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures.

During his stay at the hut, he was accompanied by about 50 people, including police officers, Yonekawa said. Places to rest, take pictures and fix his hair were precisely set in advance.

His stay came after his father made a rare video message aired in August 2016 hinting at his desire to abdicate. When Yonekawa invited the then-crown prince to come back with his wife to see the mountain range covered in snow, he replied that it would be “a little difficult,” Yonekawa said.

“I wondered then if he thought it was going to be his last opportunity to climb a mountain,” he recalled.

Yonekawa later heard that the crown prince, a member of the Japanese Alpine Club, told a club official he wanted his membership to remain as it is when the club offered to make him an honorary member.

“I then figured he just meant he could not come during a snowy season,” Yonekawa said. “I truly hope he will manage the restrictions he has (as emperor) and continue to enjoy the mountains.”