Mt. Akagi （赤城山）
Mt. Akagi is a gentle, docile peak surrounding a scenic lake. Its easy access from Tokyo brings the car-driving crowds in the summer.
The hike: From the bus stop, check the bus timetable so you can plan your hiking times accordingly. Follow the road downhill toward the lake. You’ll pass a campground on the left, and the trailhead will appear quickly on the right side. The trailhead will be marked Komagadaketozanguchi (駒ヶ岳登山口). The path is well-maintained and you’ll spend the first 20 minutes or so climbing iron stairs. Eventually the trail will flatten out as it reaches the ridgeline, and you’ll be sitting on top of Komagadake in next to no time (about an hour from the bus stop). The views toward Lake Ono (大沼) are beautiful, and the summit of Mt. Akagi will be right in front of you. Continue on the same trail, dropping down to a saddle, where the real climb begins. It should take another45 minutes of sweating before reaching the summit plateau. You’ll first come to a stone marker on the right side, with a trail branching off to Hanami-ga-hara (花見ヶ原). Ignore this trail and head to the high point of Mt. Kurobi (黒檜山). Along the way, you’ll find another trail branching off to the left. This is your return trail to the lake, but for now ignore it and go to the top. The views toward the Nikko mountains are fantastic, and you’ll see the peaks of Oze as well and Mt. Fuji if the weather is clear. After a well deserved lunch break, retrace your steps to the junction and turn right. This trail descends very steeply, with big drops off the left side of the ridge. You definitely don’t want to fall here, and a hiking stick will save your knees. It should take about an hour to reach the lake shore. After reaching the lake, turn left and hike along the road for 20 minutes or so and you’ll reach the Visitor’s Center where you started. It’s perfectly feasible to do this hike in reverse, especially for people who’ve got bad knees.
When to go: This hike can be done year round, but bring some crampons and an ice axe for a winter ascent. Please note that there are no buses in winter.
Access: From Ueno station in Tokyo, take either a limited express train or local train and get off at Maebashi station (前橋駅). The local train takes about 2 hours, with a change of trains at Takasaki (高崎駅), , while the limited express train will save you about a half an hour, with a change of trains at Shinmaebashi (新前橋駅). The cost difference is 1890 yen versus 3700 yen, so take your pick according to budget. From Maebashi station, take a bus bound for Mt. Akagi Visitor’s Center (赤城山ビジターセンター) and get off at the Visitor’s Center. You might have to change buses at Fujimi-onsen (富士見温泉) depending on the season. The bus takes around an hour, but if you’re short of time a taxi will get you there in about 45 minutes, but will set you back about 8000 yen or so. Click here for the bus schedule.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 468m)