Posted tagged ‘Nagoya’

Mt. Yōrō (養老山)

November 6, 2015

While best known for its iconic waterfall at the base of the mountain, Mt. Yōrō is a pleasant day hike affording wonderful panoramic views and offering a quick escape from the chaos of nearby Nagoya.

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The hike: If you want to save some time, consider taking a taxi to the start of the hike. Otherwise, go out the ticket gate of the train station and out to the street running in front of the station. Turn left and then immediately right, following the road as it heads towards the mountains. You’ll soon pass by a post office on your right. Keep going straight and cross the main street, where you’ll see a sign that says 養老ランド. Continue on straight and you’ll enter Yōrō park. Go through the park (past Yōrō land) and you’ll soon see a parking lot on your left. Cross the bridge over the river and immediately turn left, following the path that parallels the river. You’ll follow this river all the way up to Yōrō waterfall, which should take about an hour to reach. The path will pass through a row of souvenir stalls before crossing the river and following a rather boring concrete path all the way to the waterfall. The falls themselves are very impressive and this is considered a ‘power spot’ (hence the insane crowds during the weekends). Just beyond the waterfall the broad path turns to the right and climbs up to a small shrine. Climb the steps to your left at the shrine and at the top you’ll reach a parking lot and the top of the chairlift. (There’s a chairlift you can take from the parking lot to here, but not worth it considering it’s barely a hundred meter vertical elevation change). Anyway, walk to the end of the parking lot and you’ll see a parking attendant there. He’s in charge of registering hikers, so tell him you are climbing Mt. Yōrō and he’ll write down your climbing details. Continue walking on the road as it leaves the parking lot and soon you’ll meet another forest road on your left with a sign that says 登山道入口. Turn left here and walk up the road a short distance where you’ll come to a signposted junction. Turn left and follow the hand-painted sign pointing towards 三方山. The forest road is closed off a bit further on, but there’s a sign that says you should turn left again. Drop down to the small creek and cross over to the other side. The trail immediately starts climbing through a wonderful deciduous forest with a fair number of switchbacks to make things easier. It’s a relentless, sweat-inducing climb for the better part of a hour, where you’ll finally reach the ridge line. There’s a junction here, with a trail pointing off to the left to the summit of Mikata (三方山). Turn left here for the short climb to the top, where you’ll have outstanding views out towards Ontake and the Chuo Alps if the weather is nice. You can also see Nagoya city and the flatlands of Mie spreading out before you. After soaking up the views, retrace your steps to the junction and continue along the ridge towards Sasahara-tōge (笹原峠). It’ll take about 10 minutes to reach the pass, where you’ll find another junction. Turn left here at the sign pointing towards Mt. Kogura (小倉山頂). The views will open up as you navigate a series of wooden steps built into the hills. The scenery is reminiscent of the Suzuka mountains a bit further to the west. You’ll reach the crest of a hill, where a small sign points to the left for Mt. Yōrō (養老山). If you turn right here and walk a short distance, you’ll reach a large open area with a gazebo and several picnic benches. This makes an excellent place for a lunch break. After admiring the views, you can retrace your steps to that junction and head to the high point of Mt. Yōrō if you like but be warned: there is absolutely no view to speak of. It’ll take about 10 minutes to reach the summit: you have to cross a forest road between here and the summit where you can see some susuki grass in the autumn. From here, you can simply retrace your steps all the way to the waterfall. If you’ve got extra time or want more of a challenge, then you can make this hike much longer by climbing Mt. Shō (笙ヶ岳). To do this, retrace your steps to Sasahara-tōge (笹原峠) and instead of turning right to head back to the waterfall, continue straight on towards the old dairy pasture (旧牧場). You’ll climb a bit through the forest before reaching Asebi-tōge (アセビ峠). Turn left here for the steep climb to the summit of Shō-ga-take. Supposedly the views are supposed to be really good but I must confess that I didn’t go to the top myself. Retrace your steps back to Asebi-tōge and from there you can simply follow the long forest road back to the start of the hike. If you’ve got extra time, then consider visiting The Site of Reversible Destiny, a park blending modern art and nature.

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but you need to watch out for snow and ice during the winter months. Bring a pair of 4-point crampons just to play it safe. Winter does bring clear air which means your chances of seeing the Japan Alps are much greater than in other seasons. Fall brings wonderful foliage but also immense crowds who flock to the waterfall.

Access: From Nagoya station, take a train on the JR Tokai line towards Maibara and Ogaki, and get off at Ogaki (大垣) station. From there, change to the Yoro tetsudo (railway) bound for Kuwana and get off at Yoro (養老) station. It should take a little over an hour if you research the train timetable and time your connections properly.

Live web cam: Click here

Map: Click here. You can download a simple illustrated map at the bottom of the page. Click on 登山道 -ダウンロード. You can also find a map on this blog.

Level of difficulty:  3 out of 5 (elevation change ~800 meters)

Total round-trip distance: 12km (4 to 6 hours)

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Mt. Sanage (猿投山)

April 3, 2014

Located on the outskirts of Toyota city in Aichi Prefecture, Mt. Sanage is the local outdoor playground for Nagoya hikers, walkers, and trail runners. The peak features ancient temple buildings and fantastic views of the Minami Alps, The Chuo Alps, Mt. Ena, and Hakusan on clear days.

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The hike: After checking out the shrine, walk up the narrow paved road to the right of the shrine. After 200 meters you’ll see a parking lot on your left, which is designated for hikers who drove. The mountain has no shortage of walkers, and you’ll be sharing the trail with half of Nagoya if coming on a busy holiday weekend. The official trailhead starts at Gomon-sugi (御門杉), which is a 30-minute slog on the boring paved road. I recommend taking another path that is unmarked on the hiking maps. It can be a difficult to find, but keep your eyes peeled on the left side of the road and you’ll see a faint trail with a small wooden signpost with a red arrow painted on it. If you reach the watermill then you’ve gone too far. This path climbs steeply for 5 minutes before reaching a rolling ridge that runs parallel to Mt. Sanage. Even on weekends, very few people use this path, and it’s a great start to the hike through a beautiful hardwood forest. You’ll reach a junction in about 30 minutes or so. Turn right at the junction (there appears to be a trail that runs directly from Sanage shrine to this point, but I can’t confirm for sure). Anyway, you’ll now start a long climb towards the summit of Mt. Sanage. There are signposts pointing to 山頂 or for 東宮. As long as you follow those you’ll be ok. You’ll soon reach a junction with a signpost pointed for Shiro-ga-mine (城ヶ峰山頂). Drop your pack here and turn left for the steep 2-minute climb to the summit, where there’s a fantastic view of Nagoya city and the Suzuka mountains. After admiring the views, retrace your steps and continue the gentle ascent on the ridge. The views will open up every now and again through the trees. Your next landmark will be a paved forest road, which the trail cuts a path directly across (via a steep descent and climb up the other side). Shortly thereafter, you’ll reach a junction where the main trail coming up from Gomon-sugi on your right will join the main path. Here the crowds will increase tenfold. From here the path is marked as Tokai Shizen Hodo (東海自然歩道). The route is incredibly easy to follow and virtually impossible to get lost.  Continue climbing on the wide path towards 東宮, following the signs and the crowds. In a couple of minutes you’ll see a steep spur trail on your right which climbs to an observation point. This is definitely worth the detour for the view of the Minami Alps in good weather. The trail meets up with the main trail after passing by the lookout point. If you want to save a bit of energy then you can simply ignore the spur until it reconnects with the main trail and then backtrack (the lookout point is closer here). You could always hit it on the way back, since you’ve got to take this trail again anyway. After 10 minutes or so, you’ll see a trail on your left, but ignore this and keep following the signs to 東宮. The route will once again arrive at a paved forest road, where you’ll likely to find a few cars parked from very lazy hikers. Enter the stone shrine gate on the other side of the road and continue climbing towards 東宮, which should take about 15 minutes to reach. This is a great place to take a break among the giant cryptomeria trees. From here, the path continues on the ridge for about 20 minutes to the true summit of Mt. Sanage, where you’ll have an amazing view of the Chuo Alps, Mt. Ena, Ontake, and Hakusan if you’re lucky. Most people simply backtrack after reaching the summit, but I recommend continuing on the Tokai Shizen Hodo and looping back to the shrine. To do this, simply continue on the ridge in front of you, following the signs for 雲興寺. After 30 minutes or so, the path will descend to a mountain pass marked at Aka-saru touge (赤猿峠). Instead of continuing to 雲興寺, look for the path that hooks left. There used to be a signpost here but it’s gone. The trail follows a gentle stream before reaching a dirt forest road with incredible erosion problems due to the influx of 4WD ATV and dirt bikes. Turn left when you reach the road and follow it until you reach a paved road. Again turn left, climbing up for about 15 minutes until reaching the west shrine entrance (西宮). The shrine itself is a very steep 1o-minute climb up some stone stairs. It’s mildly interesting but definitely not a ‘must-see’. Only take the detour if you have the energy. Otherwise, continue climbing on the paved road for a few minutes until reaching a trail on your left. Take this trail and it will connect back with the Tokai Shizen Hodo. Turn right when you reach the main trail and descend back to the junction you saw earlier in the hike (near the lookout point). Turn left when you reach the sign that says 猿投神社 2.8km 55分. The path is easy to follow and descends via some wooden log stairs before passing through a small rest shelter. After this it’ll spit you out at Gomon-sugi. Turn right here and follow the road back to Sanage shrine, being sure not to miss the last bus into town. Hitchhiking is definitely a possibility if you make new friends on the mountain. Most people drive here, so I’m sure they’ll be happy to give you a ride to Toyota station if you explain you came by bus!

When to go: This hike can be done year round, but bring some simple 4-point crampons if going in the winter. The best time to view the Japan Alps are in the late spring and in autumn, when the air quality is good.

Access:  From Nagoya station, take a train on the Meitetsu line and get off at Toyota-shi (豊田市) station. You’ll need to change trains at Chiryu station to the Meitetsu-Mikawa line. Alternatively, you can take the subway to Akaike station and change to the Meitetsu line there. From Toyota-shi station, take a bus from Bus Stop #5 bound for Fujioka Shisho (藤岡支所) and get off at Sanage Jinja Mae (猿投神社前). Click here for the schedule.

Map: Click here

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~500 meters)

Distance: 10km (4 to 6 hours)

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