Photo/IllutrationA spread from the feature article titled “‘Yama-doru’ no Sekai,” left, and the cover of the “Yaku no Ashiato” magazine featuring mountain mascot Yaku Shimashima (Wataru Miura)

  • Photo/Illustraion

MATSUMOTO, Nagano Prefecture--A photographer who brought a doll to a mountain was so particular about its costume and props that a female mountaineering student he met couldn’t hold in her opinion.

“We’ve got a weirdo here,” he heard her whisper as he snapped photos of the miniature.

The photographer, who only goes by the name Shige, and his pictures were ideal subjects for the first issue of a quarterly outdoors magazine called Yaku no Ashiato (Yak’s footprints).

The unorthodox magazine is aimed at promoting the great outdoors, particularly mountain climbing, to indoor enthusiasts, such as anime fans, video game players and couch potatoes.

“Sports-oriented people go to mountains at their own initiative,” said Eiji Himeno, 33, who plans, edits and publishes the magazine by himself. “I want people who are less likely to be attracted (to mountaineering) to also come to the mountains.”

Yaku no Ashiato carries no articles about route guidance, climbing memoirs, mountaineering skills and other topics featured in regular mountain magazines.

Instead, “I want to promote the charms of mountain climbing from a unique perspective,” Himeno said.

So far, the response has been positive to the inaugural summer edition, which was released in mid-May.

Himeno, who lives in Matsumoto’s Azumi district, was overwhelmed by the sight of the Hotaka mountains when he visited the Kamikochi highland district in the city four years ago to indulge his hobby of taking scenic photos.

Since then, he has devoted himself to mountain climbing, quit his job to become self-employed, and moved to an area near Mount Hotakadake last summer.

Determined to leave a strong impact with the first issue, Himeno opted to combine mountains and dolls for feature story titled, “‘Yama-doru’ no Sekai” (the world according to mountain dolls), with many of Shige’s photos.

One shows a 50-centimeter-tall figurine of virtual idol Kagamine Rin carrying an ice ax on her shoulder and striking a pose against the backdrop of the Northern Japan Alps and its signature mountain, the Grandes Jorasses.

In another photo, a doll of Vivio Takamachi, a character from an animated TV show, is perched at the top of Mount Yarigatake amid severe winter conditions.

Shige brought the dolls to the mountains and took the pictures. He said the figurines’ clothing and the miniature ice ax are high-priced, custom-made items.

He calls the dolls “my children.”

In his interview with Yaku no Ashiato, Shige is asked, “What are the dolls to you?”

He replies, “That’s just like asking, ‘What are mountains to you?’”

That, essentially, is what Yaku no Ashiato is trying to do: Promoting the appeal of mountain climbing through the interests of indoor hobbyists.

“The more you learn about mountain climbing and dolls, the more you’ll find how deep they are,” Himeno said. “I hope people look at their earnest activities from an unbiased viewpoint for once.”

The publication is mainly sold online, but it is also available at some outdoor shops.

“We don’t know why, but it quickly runs out when it is in a stack display,” a representative from Kamoshika Sports, a mountaineering goods company that handles the magazine in its three shops in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba district, Yokohama and Matsumoto, said.

The magazine has also caused a stir on Twitter and other online forums.

“Fascinating mountain photos and adorable characters show the appeal of mountain climbing,” one poster said.

Another reader posted, “All the photos are beautiful, and I get more and more eager to go mountain climbing every time I turn a page.”

The 36-page, B5-size color magazine is sold for 1,000 yen ($9), excluding tax.