Hiking the Kanto Fureai no Michi
I wanted to explore some more of the Kanto Fureai no Michi since winter is the best season for walking these low-altitude trails. I found another promising section between Motegi Town and the Ogodo Alps that included a 1300-year old temple, a summit view, and a 20-meter high Observation Tower. It started from Mashiko station on the Moka line, requiring two transfers to get there from Central Tokyo: the first one at Oyama station on the Utsunomiya line and the second one at Shimodate station on the Mito line; for the return from Nanai, the next station on the line, I could take a bus directly to Utsunomiya station. Blue skies were forecast for the whole day, and so I was looking forward to a relaxing walk through the countryside and getting some nice views of Tochigi prefecture.
Hiking between Gongen Daira and Mashiko no Mori
View towards Nikko from the Mashiko no Mori Observation Tower
Some Japanese trains stations are quite ordinary and some are unique; Mashiko station belonged to the latter category with its soaring twin towers. I was one of the few passengers who got off there at 10am. Since today’s hike was on the short side, I enjoyed a cup of coffee at an outdoor table in front of the Mashiko Sightseeing Association. At 11am, I set off along the busy Mashiko Main Street; following the signs for the Fureai no Michi, I soon turned right onto a quiet country lane.
Saimyoji Temple Main Building
A peaceful temple on the mountain side
Soon I had views of today’s mountain on the left side, its low, rounded summit gently rising above the level rice fields. At 12h30, I reached Saimyoji Temple (西明寺) and the start of the hiking trail. I was the sole visitor and could fully enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Less than half an hour later, I reached the Gongen Daira (権現平), a grassy area with benches and a small concrete observation platform. It wasn’t the highest point, but had a view on the west side, so I sat on a bench and had an early lunch.
Approaching Gongen Daira (left) Descending from Gongen Daira (right)
View West from the Gongen Daira Observation Platform
The flat Kanto plain stretched away ahead of me, with the Nikko mountains faintly visible in the background; just a few weeks ago, I had been hiking the Fureai no Michi trail on the opposite side. After a short break, I moved on, and after a little climbing, arrived at the true summit of Mt Takadate (高館山 たかだてやま takadateyama), a Tochigi 100-famous mountain. It was completely in the trees so without delay, I continued along a trail down the other side of the mountain. After crossing a bridge over a road, I arrived at the Mashiko Forest Observation Tower.
Easy to walk trails through the forest
Mashiko no Mori Observation Tower (right) Walking to Nanai Station
I had a 360° panoramic view from the top of this wooden construction: to the south was Mt Takadate and Mt Amamaki; on the east and north sides, I could see the low hills of the Abukuma Plateau surrounding Motegi town; looking west, I had a wide view of the Kanto Plain and the mountains of Oku-Nikko. After enjoying the views, I made my way through the Mashiko forest, passing the Ajisai Suspension Bridge and ending at Suda pond. I then followed various lanes and roads, reaching Mashiko Pan Bakery at 3h3o.
View North Towards Motegi Station
Looking back at Mt Takadate
I was back on a pleasant hiking trail through the forest, a few minutes past the bakery. Just before 4pm, I emerged onto a road again, leading past Entsuji Temple (円通寺). From there, it was a short walk to Nanai station, which looked very utilitarian, the complete opposite of this morning’s station. I was surprised to discover that the Nanai-Eki-Mae (“front of Eki Station”) bus stop was actually 10 minutes away on foot. Fortunately, I arrived with time to spare and easily made it on time for the return bus at 4h30.
Ajisai Suspension Bridge in Mashiko no Mori
Walking in Mashiko no Mori Forest
I was once again surprised by how enjoyable it was to hike along the Fureai no Michi even though it doesn’t exclusively follow hiking trails. I passed many interesting sights along the way so it really felt like I was discovering the area. Since I took my time, the hike ended up taking about five hours which I felt was ideal considering that there was little up and down.
Watch a video of the Mt Takadate Hike
See a slideshow of some pictures of the Mt Takadate Hike