Mountaineering Guide Ski Guide
A subtractive guide that draws out what participants "want to know".
Koichi Toba is a mountaineering and ski guide mainly in the Daisetsuzan Mountains, Asahidake. He has a unique background as a former member of a university’s exploration club, and is known for his wealth of experience and communication skills. His motto is “a subtractive guide who draws out the participants’ interests. I have learned over the past 30 years that you cannot be a nature guide unless you love nature and people.
Hokkaido’s Appeal of Four Distinct Seasons
Hokkaido’s distinct four seasons are the charm of Hokkaido. The value of what local residents take for granted was taught to us by foreign tourists and visitors from Honshu. The joy of spring when life sprouts, the heat of summer peculiar to inland areas, the earliest autumn leaves in Japan that stain Daisetsuzan, and the beautiful and harsh silver world of winter. I was impressed by the joy of visitors from Honshu who said, “I was able to enjoy katakuris once again this year. He emphasizes, “The location of being able to stand at the trailhead of Mt. Daisetsuzan, just 4 to 5 hours from Tokyo, is special.
Discovering Something Every Day and Keeping an Emotional Heart
Although he usually focuses on guiding mountaineering and skiing, he sometimes organizes tours specializing in canoe guiding, alpine flora, and bird-watching. Tours that introduce visitors to the culture of the Ainu people are also very popular. What is interesting is that Japanese people want to know the names of flowers, plants, and trees, but foreigners want to know about the geographical vegetation. They want to know that this is the Far East of Asia, that the climate is like this, and that this kind of flora and fauna live here. So I began to learn not only about plants and animals, but also about geography and history in general.
On the other hand, this also caused him to make mistakes when he was young. When you learn something, you want to show it off,” he said. So the tours became like classroom lectures, with one person teaching and the other being taught, and I don’t think that was an enjoyable tour.
What I am trying to do now is to “impress” the tour participants. And in order not to lose his own emotional attachment to his work, Mr. Toba also emphasizes the importance of having fun in his guiding work. Even though I climb Asahidake every day, nature is changing. He says it is important to hone one’s eye for observation, the joy of discovering such things.
Guiding is communication between people
One of Mr. Toba’s greatest strengths is his ability to communicate. Guiding foreigners is often accompanied by a native interpreter, but once someone thanked me for being happy to see Mr. Toba communicating with them anyway, in simple English. It reaffirmed for me that guides are people to people.
At university, I was a member of the exploration club and once went to Shikoku for a month to look for otters. Climbing mountains and rafting down rivers was a way to learn outdoor survival skills for the exploration club’s activities. He still keeps in touch with his friends from those days, and when he takes guests from Hokkaido on mountain climbing trips in Honshu, they are sometimes introduced by their friends to local guides.
Looking back from his days in the exploration club at university to his current job as a guide, Mr. Toba says, “I have been serious about playing around. Perhaps that has not changed since his boyhood. I feel as if I caught a glimpse of the origin of Mr. Toba’s never-losing-inspiration spirit.