Posted tagged ‘Kanto hikes (関東地方)’

Mt. Kumotori (雲取山)

May 8, 2008

Mt. Kumotori is the highest peak in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, and part of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. The views out to Mt. Fuji aren’t half bad either.

The hike: Mitsumine shrine is one of the most beautiful mountain shrines in Japan, and it also happens to have its own hot spring bath (did anyone mention doing this hike in reverse?!). The trail towards Mt. Kumotori starts from the parking lot, and it’s very clearly marked. You’ll be on the ridge the entire day, so just keep following the signs. Your first target will be Kirimo-ga-mine (霧藻ケ峰), which has fine views out to Mt. Asama. Continue on the ridge, passing up and over Mt. Shiraiwa (白岩山). You’ll pass by Shiraiwa hut (白岩小屋), which makes for a good place to stay if you’ve gotten a late start or if the weather is bad. It should take another 90 minutes or so to reach Mt. Kumotori, passing by the old, rotting Kumotori hut before reaching the newer, luxurious one. If you’re hiking in the winter you’ll appreciate the kotatsu tables in the tatami rooms. It costs 7500 yen with 2 meals or 5000 yen without meals. Click here for the hut web site. If you’re short of money and would like a free place to stay, continue another 10 minutes and stay at the emergency hut on the summit. It’s in good shape, but you’ll need a sleeping bag and food. There’s a water source at Kumotori hut, but nothing between Mitsumine shrine and the hut, so bring plenty of water for the first day. If the weather is good, then you’ll have a stunning view out to Mt. Fuji for most of the hike to Okutama. You’ve actually got 2 options from the summit. You can descend via Mt. Nanatsuishi (七ツ石山) by taking a left at the emergency hut, or take the trail behind the hut to descend to Sanjo-no-yu (三条の湯), a hut with its own hot spring. If you take this alternative route, then you’ll have to walk on a forest road for about 2-1/2 hours before reaching route 411. Either way, you’re in for a 4 to 6 hour hike before making it back to civilization. Okutama has a great hot spring bath called Moeginoyu (もえぎの湯). Click here for the website.

When to go: Because Kumotori Hut (雲取山荘) is open year round, this hike can be done any time of the year. Bring crampons if hiking before April. I did this hike in March and there was about 1 meter of snow on the summit.

Access: From Ikebukuro (池袋) station in Tokyo, take a train on the Seibu line to Seibu-Chichibu station (西武秩父駅). From there, take a bus bound for Mitsumine Shrine (三峯神社) and get off at the terminus. Click here for the bus schedule. Please note that the Mitsumine Ropeway has ceased operation, so you can either get off at the Owa (大輪) bus stop and hike on the trail next to the gondola, or start your hike from the shrine. The hike ends at Okutama (奥多摩), where you can easily take a train back to Tokyo.

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~500m). It’s a 4 out of 5 if you do this hike in reverse, as you’ve got a 1400m vertical climb.

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Mt. Kinpu (金峰山)

April 22, 2008

Mt. Kinpu, straddling the Nagano-Yamanashi prefectural border, is a majestic peak with superb panoramic views of the surrounding countryside (including Mt. Fuji) and a quaint shrine on the rocky summit.

The hike: From the bus stop, head into the forest across from the hut. The trail is very clearly marked and well trodden. After climbing for about 45 minutes or so, you’ll reach a hut and junction. This hut is called Fujimidairakoya (富士見平小屋). There’s a water source just below the hut (you should have seen it on your way up to the hut). This is the branch off to Mt. Mizugaki, so drop your pack off for the 2 hour detour, or keep plodding along toward Mt. Kinpu. You should reach Dainichi hut (大日小屋) in about an hour. There’s another water source here, as well as a few campsites nearby. Keep climbing up until you reach Dainichi boulder (大日岩), a huge rock formation. You’ll see a trail branching off to the left, but ignore it and head for the summit. The trail will become considerably rockier and steeper from this point onwards. The ridgeline should be reached in about 45 minutes, where you’ve got a somewhat precarious traverse over to the top. If there’s any snow on the ground then be very careful about breaking through unstable layers and watch out for the huge drops on the right. If you look over to the left the Mt. Kinpu hut should come into view. There’s a spur trail off to the left, and also another one at the summit, so I’d recommend going to the top first if you plan on staying there. The views from the top are brilliant, with lots of huge rock formations to climb around or hide in. You have 3 options from the summit. You can descend to the left for 10 minutes to Mt. Kinpu hut (金峰小屋), take the trail on the right for about an hour to Omuro hut (御室小屋), or head on the trail in front of you for 2 hours to Oodarumi hut (大弛小屋). If doing the 3-day traverse over to Mt. Kobushi, then I’d recommend staying or camping at Oodarumi, but if you’re climbing only this peak then I’d stay at the Mt. Kinpu hut and head back to Mizugaki the following day. There is no public transport at Oodarumi, so you’d have to gamble with hitchhiking on a seldom traveled road.

When to go: This hike can be all year round if you’ve got the right equipment in winter. Otherwise, aim to go between late April and late November. I did this hike in late November and was hiking through snow most of the way. Click here for some wonderful New Year’s photos from a Japanese hiker.

Access: From Nirasaki station (韮崎駅), take a bus bound for Masutomi Hot Spring (増富温泉). From there, change to a bus bound for Mizugakisansou (瑞牆山荘) and get off at the last stop. There may be a direct bus to the trailhead, depending on the season. Please check at Nirasaki station. Click here for the bus schedule. A much closer (and easier approach would be from Oodarumitouge (大弛峠). Thanks to the yama girl boom there is now a bus running from Enzan station. Click here for the bus schedule. The bus is by reservation only and runs on the weekends. Please book at least one day in advance.

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 1089m)

Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山)

April 19, 2008

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)

Mt. Tanzawa (丹沢山)

April 8, 2008

Mt. Tanzawa is a wonderful series of rolling hills located just west of Yokohama. The night views of Tokyo are incredible, as is the unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji.

tanzawa

The hike: From the bus stop, hike up the road past some houses and Japanese inns. The road will split after about 10 minutes or so. Take the left fork. Initially a forest road, the path will eventually turn into a proper hiking trail. During the first 90 minutes or so, you’ll pass by a number of ‘teahouses’ which sell basic refreshments during the summer hiking season. Horiyama-no-ie (堀山の家), is the first actual mountain hut in which you can stay. Click here to access the hut website. There’s also a trail junction at this hut, but keep going straight, towards Tou-no-dake (塔ノ岳). After 20 more minutes another trail will come in on the right, but ignore it and keep going up and up. There’s a seemingly endless array of wooden stairs along this point, and you’ll keep seeing them all the way to the top of the ridge line. Mt. Fuji should start coming into view just behind you if the weather is clear. Around 90 minutes from the hut at Horiyama you should be sitting on top of Tou-no-dake. Take a well deserved break and check into the hut if you’ve lost your energy or if it’s late. You’ve got about 2 hours of up & down ridge hiking in order to reach the high point of the mountain range. Please note that no camping is allowed anywhere on the mountain, so be prepared to fork over some money to stay in the huts. The hut on top of Tou-no-dake, named Sonbutsu-sansou (尊仏山荘) costs 5000 yen with dinner or 4000 yen without meals. Anyway, regardless of whether you stay here or not, you’ve got to traverse the entire Tanzawa ridge in order to say you’ve truly done it. Continue on the path that goes behind the hut, which leads to the true summit of Mt. Tanzawa (丹沢山). It’ll take about an hour or so to reach the top, where you’ll be greeted with another hut. This one is called Miyama-sansou (みやま山荘) and their website can be found here. If you’re a sucker for punishment (like I was) and want to traverse to the highest peak in the range all in one day, then take the trail to the left of the hut towards Hiru-ga-take (蛭ケ岳). It should take another hour or so from Mt. Tanzawa. I timed my arrival perfectly, as the sun was sinking just behind Mt. Fuji when I arrived on the doorstep of the hut. There are also tons of deer in this area who are looking for free handouts of food. The website for Hiru-ga-take Sansou (蛭ケ岳山荘) is here. The night views of Tokyo from here are out-of-this-world, especially on a clear winter night. If you stay at this hut, then you’ve got a much shorter 2nd day compared with staying at the other huts. Continue on the trail that leads past the hut. Your goal for the day is Tono (東野), where there’s a bus back to civilization. It should take about 3 hours from Hiru-ga-take. Just follow the signposts and turn left at the 2nd trail junction you come to. The entire mountain is lacking in water, so make sure that you bring plenty. Even in the huts there isn’t any fresh water and you have to buy overpriced bottled water! Check the bus schedule at any of the huts before departing on the 2nd day.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but bring some light crampons during the winter because of lingering ice in shady areas.

Access: From the northern exit of Shibusawa station (渋沢駅), take a bus bound for Ookura (大倉). The bus takes only 15 minutes and costs only 200 yen. Alternatively, you can grab a taxi to the trailhead for around 1500 yen. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: Click here

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 1383m)

Mt. Akagi (赤城山)

March 4, 2008

Mt. Akagi is a gentle, docile peak surrounding a scenic lake. Its easy access from Tokyo brings the car-driving crowds in the summer.

Mt. Akagi

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)

Mt. Daibosatsu (大菩薩岳)

February 26, 2008

Mt. Daibosatsu is a pleasant day hike through virgin forest, with magnificent views of Mt. Fuji and the Minami Alps. Its easy access from Tokyo makes it quite popular on weekends.

Mt. Daibosatsu (大菩薩岳)

The hike: From the bus stop, start hiking up the paved forest road and you’ll soon reach a trail junction at a place called Marukawatouge Bunki (丸川峠分岐). You can take either trail, as this is a loop hike, but it’s an easier hike if you climb the trail to the right and descend via the left trail. Anyway, the trail to the right basically follows the forest road, but goes through a beautiful beech forest, with nice views of the Minami Alps opening up between the foliage. It should take about 90 minutes or so to reach the first hut at Kamihikawatouge (上日川峠). From here it’s a very gentle hike along a forest road to 2 more huts. If you’ve got a car you can drive all the way to this point, but not during the winter season. Also, I’ve been told that only customers staying in the two huts are allowed vehicle access this far. Anyway, at Fujimisansou (富士見山荘) the trail splits and you’ve got 2 options. The trail on the left climbs directly to the peak, but take the one on the right so you can reach historic Daibosatsutouge (大菩薩峠). This used to be a famous mountain pass on the old Tokaido road, a path leading from Tokyo to Osaka. There’s another hut here. The trail splits in several directions , but stay left and climb toward Daibosatsurei (大菩薩嶺). It should take about an hour to reach the peak. Along the way, enjoy the awesome view of Mt. Fuji stretching out behind you. This place can get jam-packed on weekends, so choose your rock of choice to eat your lunch on. Just before reaching the true high point, the trail enters a forest. There’s no view from the actual peak, so make sure you take a break before getting there. After taking your obligatory photo, continue on the same trail and you’ll pass over to the other side of the mountain and start decending. In about an hour you’ll reach another hut by the name of Marukawasou (丸川荘). This is another good place for a snack break. The trail splits in 3, but head toward the left and in about an hour, you’ll be exactly where you started, at good ole Marukawatouge. When you get back to the bus stop, consider walking down the main road about a half a kilometer and you’ll reach a lovely hot spring appropriately called Daibosatsunoyu (大菩薩の湯). You probably spied it on the bus ride up. The only disadvantage of walking down here is that you’ll probably won’t be able to get a seat on the return bus because everyone got on at the trailhead bus stop!

When to go: The bus runs all year round, and the peak doesn’t get so much snow in the winter, so this one can be done any time of year.

Access: From Shinjuku station, take the JR Limited Express “Kaiji” train and get off at Enzan Station (塩山駅). The train takes about 90 minutes and costs around 3500 yen. There are lots of slower but cheaper options, so choose according to budget/start time. From Enzan Station, take a bus bound for Daibosatsutōge-tozanguchi (大菩薩峠登山口). The bus takes about a half an hour and costs the ridiculously low price of 300 yen, making it the one of the cheapest public bus in all of Japan. Click here for the schedule.  Likewise, Enzan station is only 20 minutes from Kofu station by local train, so Kansai-based hikers can do the hike in a weekend by taking a Kofu-bound overnight bus from Osaka.

Level of difficulty: 3.5 out of 5 (elevation change 1167m)

Mt. Nasu (那須岳)

February 25, 2008

Mt. Nasu is an active volcano located on the border of Tochigi and Fukushima Prefectures. Popular with families and school trips, the mountain features picturesque scenery and a hut with its own hot spring!

Mt Nasu

The hike: From the parking lot you can either shell out your hard-earned money to take the gondola up to the top, or use the very easy, well-maintained path. I knew you’d opt for hiking! Hike up the paved road for a few minutes, and the trail will branch off to the left. The trail is easy to follow, and when I went I passed an entire elementary school class of 80 kids along the way! The trail really is more like a road for the initial climb. After about 40 minutes or so, you’ll hit the ridge line, and an emergency hut will be conveniently awaiting you. The hut is there in case Nasu decides to blow its nose on your journey, and staying in the hut is officially prohibited (you’re better off going to the hot spring hut anyway.) When you get to the hut, hang a left toward Mt. Chausu (茶臼岳). There are plenty of paint marks, so it’s nearly impossible to get lost, and after about 20 minutes the trail will meet up with the one from the gondola. This trail can become extremely crowded during weekends, so take a quick walk around the crater rim before descending back to the emergency hut. Once you’re back here, instead of going back down the mountain, head away from all of the crowds toward Mt. Asahi (朝日岳). It’s quite rocky in this section, so be careful of ice if you’re here in the winter. You should be sitting on top of Mt. Asahi in about 40 minutes or so, with an incredible view overlooking the crater of Mt. Chausu. Mt. Asahi is just a short spur from the main trail, so once on top head back down to the main trail. From this point, head yet further away from Mt. Chausu and the crowds. Your target is the official high point of the mountain, called Mt. Sanbonyari (三本槍岳). It should take about an hour or so from Mt. Asahi to reach the high point. Along the way, you’ll first find a trail branching off to the left, and then another one toward the right. Ignore both of these. As long as you follow the signposts to Sanbonyari then you’ll be ok. About halfway there, you’ll pass through a beautiful marsh area with some small lakes. Once you make it to the high point, break out your lunch an enjoy the scenery. Only the most hardcore hikers make it to this point, and it’ll be a pleasant change from the chaos at Mt. Chausu. From the high point, you have to retrace your footsteps all the way back to the parking lot! So much for a loop trail. However, if you’d like to check out the hot spring hut, then hang a right just before coming back to Mt. Asahi. I’ve never actually done this trail, but my friend insists the detour is worth it. Unfortunately , you’ll have to stay in the hut in order to use the hot spring. Check out this web site (in Japanese) for more info.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but be prepared for a bit of snow in the winter. The hot spring hut is open from April to December.

Access: From Ueno station in Tokyo, take either a Shinkansen bound for Koriyama or a local train and get off at Kuroiso station (黒磯駅). The local train takes almost 3 hours, but costs less than 3000 yen. If you take the Shinkansen, you’ll need to get off at Nasushiobara (那須塩原駅) and change to a local train to Kuroiso. From Kuroiso, take a bus bound for Nasudake-sanroku (那須岳山麓) and get off there. The bus takes about an hour. Click here for the schedule.

Map: Click here, and here

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 537m)

Mt. Ryokami (両神山)

February 17, 2008

Mt. Ryokami is an ancient, rocky peak sitting on the border of Gunma and Saitama Prefectures. The top offers wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding mountainous landscape and is a part of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.

Mt. Ryokami

The hike: From the bus stop, climb the stairs across the street to Ryokami Hut (両神山荘). This hut features a real kotatsu (the heater is a fire pit in the floor) and is a great place to rest after the hike while waiting for the bus. The trail goes to the left of the hut and climbs steeply past vegetable fields and enters a dense forest. During the first half an hour or so keep your eyes peeled for Kamoshika (Japanese Mountain Serow), as there are a few in this area. I saw one on the way back to the bus stop after completing the hike. Soon you’ll come to a trail junction. Both trails meet up after a few hours, but the one on your right isn’t well used, so stay on the main, well-trodden path. From this junction, it’s a gradual climb for the next 90 minutes or so in a shaded valley following a stream. The trail starts to get steeper and steeper, but you’ll have a nice big hut (清滝小屋) staring you in the face in next to no time. This hut has water and is a lovely place to stay, costing 5000 for 2 meals, or 3000 yen for a place to sleep only. (the hut is only open from April to November) Alternatively, you can camp nearby. Take a break here, as things are about to get rocky. The trail continues past the hut and then gets really steep. Some of the rock formations have chains embedded for ease of climbing. In about an hour of sweating it out you’ll reach a shrine and the trail will start to get much easier. From here to the top it’s just a matter of traversing a few “false summits”. There’s quite a bit of up and down, but a piece of cake compared to what you’ve been through. Eventually you’ll reach the true summit, marked by a signpost and a huge rock formation. Enjoy the panoramic views, with Mt. Asama staring you in the eyes, the Minami Alps and Yatsu-ga-dake to the Northeast, and Mt. Fuji poking its shy head up above Mt. Kumotori. Take a well deserved lunch break and head back the way you came. If you’d like to turn this into a 2-day hike then consider staying at the hut along the way or at the hut at the bus stop.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but bring crampons in the winter because it can get quite icy and the main trail sits in a shaded valley.

Access: From Ikebukuro station, take a train on the Seibu Line to Chichibu Station. From there, transfer to a bus bound for Hinata Ooya (日向大谷). You’ll more than likely have to change buses at Oganomachi Yakubamae (小鹿野役場前). The bus takes a little over an hour (about 15 minutes on the first bus, and then around 50 on the second). Click here for the bus schedule.

Map:

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change: 1053m)