Mt. Senjo (仙丈ヶ岳)
Mt. Senjo, situated across the valley from Mt. Kai-komagatake in the Minami Alps, rounds out the top 10 for the tallest peaks in Japan. The views are awe-inspiring, with an excellent vantage point of the entire string of mountains in the Minami and Chuo Alps clearly visible on a nice day.
The hike: From Kitazawa-toge, you’ve got two options, but I’ll describe the more popular route that starts directly across from the Chouei-sou hut (長衛荘). The trail enters the forest and starts climbing almost immediately. You’ll pass by trail markers set up to divide the mountain into 10 stages (I’m not sure why the number 10 was chosen, but it’s consistent no matter what peak you climb in this country). It should take about 2 hours or so to reach the 5th stage (五合目), where you’ll find a trail junction. Both paths lead to the top, so consider doing a loop hike to minimize the environmental damage. I recommend taking the left fork towards Little Senjo-ga-take (小仙丈ヶ岳). You’ll break above the tree line pretty quickly after leaving the junction, so pray that the wind isn’t howling or that it’s not hailing. I had rainy weather but miraculously it wasn’t foggy at all, so visibility was phenomenal. I could even see Mt. Fuji! Anyway, when you reach the top of Little Senjo, you’ll see the huge col below the summit come into view. The ridge line is pretty rocky, and the path pretty much stays right on top of it, so follow the paint marks and you’ll be ok. It should take an hour or so to reach the top of Mt. Senjo, where you’ll have a birds-eye view of a fairly significant number of alpine peaks. Take a break and enjoy the vista! If you’ve got several days and would like an alternative trek bypassing Kita-dake, then you can take this ridge line all the way to Mt. Shiomi. Just take a left at the summit via Big Senjo-ga-take (大仙丈ヶ岳). Otherwise, continue towards the right and drop down to the Senjo hut (仙丈小屋). There’s a water source here and you can stay in the hut if you’d like to break the hike into 2 days (and try to catch the sunrise/sunset). Otherwise, keep going on the same path for about an hour until reaching Uma-no-se Bunki (馬ノ背分岐), which translates at “the horse’s back junction”. Take a right and soon you’ll reach the Uma-no-se hut. This is also a good place to stay, and if you continue past another trail junction you’ll find yet another hut. This one’s called Senjo-yabusawa (仙丈薮沢小屋) and it’s only open between mid July and mid August. There are no meals served here, but they have futon you can use. Just past this hut you may find a lingering snow field or two. They seem to stay around this part of the mountain even in the warm summer air. In around 20 minutes or so you’ll reach the trail junction at the 5th stage (where you started the climb above the tree line towards Little Senjo). Take a left and head back down to Kitazawa-toge. The entire hike should take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours depending on the weather and your speed.
When to go: As with Kai-koma, this hike can be done anytime the road to Kitazawa-toge is open. I’m not sure of the exact dates, but probably from Golden Week to early November. If you can make it to Kitazawa-toge, you can try a winter ascent just like these people did on New Year’s Eve!
Access: From Kofu station (甲府駅), take a bus bound for Hirogawara (広河原). From there, change to a bus bound for Kitazawa-toge (北沢峠) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule (in Japanese).
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1003m).