Mt. Fujiwara (藤原岳)
Mt. Fujiwara is a rotund, boulder-dotted peak on the eastern cusp of the Suzuka mountains in northern Mie Prefecture. The rolling, grass-lined plains, unique alpine flora, and unobstructed panoramic views make it a popular year-round destination for serious outdoorsy Nagoyaites.
The hike: When you exit Nishifujiwara station turn left and follow the paved road until it meets up with route 614. Cross over the small stream and take your second left (ignore the small street just after the creek). If you reach the elementary school then you’ve gone too far. After you turn, follow the road to the terminus and you’ll find a rest house with some restrooms and a parking lot most likely full of cars and hikers. The trail starts to the left of the building. Go under the shrine gate and head into the forest. You’ll soon pass by a shrine on your left and the real climb will begin. The route doesn’t waste any time gaining altitude, and the first third of the mountain is through a rather boring cedar forest. The path, like most big climbs in Japan, is divided into 10 stagepoints (known in Japanese as gōme). After reaching a fence, turn right following the arrow sign and you’ll soon reach a small rocky area known as the 2nd stagepoint (二合目). Take a quick break here if you need to, because the trail does anything but let up. Just past this the trail will veer towards the right, passing through an area with a metal handrail on the right side. There are a couple of nice beech trees in this area, and you can start to get a glimpse of the valley below in the gaps between the trees. Next it’s back into the cedar forest, past the 3rd stagepoint (三合目) and about twenty minutes further on you’ll reach a small plateau at stagepoint #4 (四合目). Luckily you’ll enter a beautiful area of deciduous trees and the contours will let up a bit. Enjoy this while you can as there’s still a lot of climbing left ahead. After a couple of switchbacks the course will veer left, following a ravine past the 5th stagepoint (五合目) before diving back into a cedar forest on the right. Here the angle steepens once again, and you’re faced with a sweat-inducing slog past the 6th (六合目) and 7th (七合目) stagepoints before reaching the crest of the ridge at the 8th stagepoint (八合目). This is a great place for a break because there is still more climbing yet to come. From here you’ll rid yourself of those pesky cedar trees for the remainder of the ascent. Turn left from the 8th stagepoint and you’ll soon see a junction on your right. This is an alternative way off the mountain that is currently (as of March 2014) closed to hikers. There was a lot of damage in a recent landslide and there’s no telling when the trail will be repaired. If it is open, then it’s an alternative way off the mountain and the path will loop back to Nishifujiwara station. Anyway, continue up the long switchbacks past the 9th stagepoint (九合目) and up a little further for about 20 more minutes until you break out of the forest and reach the summit plateau. You’ll find the mountain hut here nestled against a buffered hillside. It should have taken anywhere from 2-1/2 to 3 hours of tough climbing to reach this point, so reward yourself with a nice lunch or refreshing bottle of water that you should have packed with you. The summit of Mt. Fujiwara is still about 20 minutes away, so turn left and descend away from the hut, following the sign for tenbōdai (展望台) and over two small rises before reaching the base of the final climb towards the tall point. In the green season there are two paths to choose from, but in winter you can pretty much kickstep your own path up the broad, bald knob, but be careful of avalanches, as they do sometimes occur in this area. The summit itself does not have a signpost marking the summit. Instead there’s a sign reading 展望台, so rest assured you are on the high point. After admiring the panoramic views, retrace your steps back to the hut, where a decision will have to be made. If you continue on the trail behind the hut for another half hour, you can reach a rock formation called Tengu-iwa (天狗岩). If the weather is good and you’ve still got energy I recommend the 1-hour round-trip jaunt, as it enters a beautiful grassy plateau with plenty of wildflowers and far-reaching views. After returning to the hut, simply retrace your steps all the way down the mountain, or consider staying the night in the hut to enjoy the stars and the sunset/sunrise (but bring plenty of water, as the hut has none). All in all it makes for a great alternative to the busier area Gozaisho to the west.
When to go: This hike can be done year round, but you’ll need some 6-point crampons or snowshoes if hiking in January or February. The route is popular with hikers year round, and there’s a free emergency hut near the summit that is basically a floor with no supplies. Bring your own gear and plenty of water if you want to stay here (in winter it’s possible to melt snow). Spring and summer are famous for wildflowers while autumn brings the fall colors and immense crowds.
Access: This hike is best accessed from Nagoya, but if you get an early start or have your own transport then it’s possible to do as a day hike from Osaka. From Kintetsu Nagoya station, take an express train on the Kintetsu line bound for Yokkaichi and get off at Kintetsu-Tomida (近鉄富田) station. From here, change to a train on the Sangi Railway (三岐鉄道) bound for Nishifujiwara (西藤原) and get off at Nishifujiwara. Trains are infrequent, so make sure you check the train schedule before departing Nagoya. It takes about 90 minutes including connection times. From Osaka you’ll need to change trains 3 times and it’ll take around 3-1/2 hours to reach Nishifujiwara.
Map: Click here
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~1000 meters)
Total round-trip distance: 9km (5 to 7 hours)