Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山）
Mt. Tsukuba is one of the easiest of the venerable Hyakumeizan to climb, and surprisingly close to Tokyo. The mountain is extremely over-developed, so consider giving it a miss unless you’re really intent on climbing all of the 100 famous peaks.
The hike: From the bus stop, walk up the hill towards the cable car station. The trail starts just before the station and parallels the tracks for most of the way. Despite the low elevation change, the trail is actually surprisingly steep and a nice little workout. It should take around 2 hours of moderate climbing to reach the top of the cable car station and ugly buildings/towers on the saddle. From here, you’ve got two options. You can climb to the top of Mt. Nantai (男体山) in about 10 minutes. The view towards the peaks of Nikko is excellent, and if the weather is good you should also be staring at Mt. Fuji in the distance. If you don’t fancy this detour, then head up to the high point of Tsukuba, called Mt. Nyotai (女体山). The path is very, very easy and there’s a concrete shrine on top (as well as some rock formations). Head down the other side of the summit, and you’ll see the top of the gondola station soon (why oh why did they have to build both a gondola and cable car – are Japanese people really that lazy?). Continue down the spine of the mountain, past some nice rock formations, and you’ll come to a trail junction. You have 2 options. You can keep going on the same path down to the parking lot at the bottom of the gondola, or turn right for a nice loop trail that’ll take you back to the start of the hike.
When to go: This hike can be easily done year round. Avoid weekends if you want to skip the crowds.
Access: From Akihabara station (秋葉原駅), take a train on the Tsukuba express line and get off at the terminus, Tsukuba station (筑波駅). An express train takes only 45 minutes and costs 1150 yen. Click here for information in English. From there, take a shuttle bus bound for Tsukuba shrine (筑波神社入口). The bus costs 700 yen. There are 2 buses each hour, each leaving at the top of the hour and half past the hour. Click here for the complete schedule in Japanese.
Map: Click here
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 636m)