Mt. Hiuchi (燧岳）
Mt. Hiuchi is officially the tallest peak in the Tohoku region (although it’s just barely in Tohoku) and the crown jewel of Oze National Park. The reflections in Oze numa are mesmerizing and the views from the rocky summit spectacular.
The hike: From the parking lot at Numayamatoge (沼山峠), head into the forest across from the big hut and follow the red paint marks on the trees to the summit of Numayamatoge, which should take about 20 minutes or so. From the top of the mountain pass, you’ll see the big lake stretching out in front of you, and Mt. Hiuchi towering above to the right. Descend into the marshlands, where the trail will eventually take you to a small village with lots of huts. Check into Chozogoya (長蔵小屋), the oldest mountain hut in Japan. It makes for a wonderful place to stay, and you’ll enjoy the hot spring bath after the climb to the summit. From the hut, head back towards the way you just came from, but instead of going to Numayama, turn left and follow the forest trail that winds its way around the lake. After about 20 minutes you’ll reach a trail junction. Turn right to head up to Mt. Hiuchi. The trail starts off relatively flat, making its way through a dense forest before climbing up the spine of the volcano. The trail becomes steeper and steeper, and the views will start to open up. After about 90 minutes or so, you’ll start to see wonderful views over the lake out to Mt. Okushirane on your left, and nice vistas out to Aizu-komagatake to your right. You should also see the summit towering above you. Keep climbing up until you reach a rather large saddle just below the peak of Mt. Minobuchi (ミノブチ岳). This is the first of the 5 peaks of Mt. Hiuchi, so turn right and continue climbing up the steep, rocky spine to the second summit, named Manaitagura (俎嵓). Take a break and admire the incredible views out to Mt. Fuji on a clear day. The true summit is a rocky peak by the name of Shibayasugura (柴安嵓). Drop to the saddle between the peaks and up to the high point. It’s an easy enough climb in the summer, but absolutely terrifying during April and May when it’s a near vertical climb up a snow bank, so bring an ice axe and crampons if climbing in early summer. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. You can traverse down to Jujiro (十字路) from here and turn left to head back to Chozo hut, or retrace your steps back to Manaitagura. If you’re only up for the day, then you can descend down to Mi-ike (or start/finish your hike there). I recommend heading back to Chozo hut so you can enjoy the mirror-like reflections in the lake and the wonderful food and bath.
When to go: This hike can be done from early June to late October, when the buses to Numayamatoge are running. If you climb Hiuchi via the Mi-ike (御池) trail, then you can climb from mid-April to late November, when the buses to Mi-ike are running. The paved forest road from Mi-ike to Numayamatoge is closed to private cars, and the road doesn’t open until May 15th. If you’re climbing during Golden Week, then you can either hike up the road for 10km to Numayama (which is what I did), or plan your climb from Mi-ike.
Access: From Shinjuku station, there are direct buses to Numayamatoge (沼山峠), the shortest and easiest access route to Oze numa. Click here for the schedule and prices (in Japanese). You can also get into Oze via Oshimizu (大清水) or Hatomachitoge (鳩待峠), but it’ll take a lot longer and a lot more effort to reach Mt. Hiuchi.
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change ~700m).