Mt Maru (960m) & Mt Dodaira (876m), Tokigawa Town, Saitama Prefecture, Saturday February 4
Mt Dodaira – the antenna at the top is an NHK relay
I had already climbed both of these peaks separately in the past. Mt Maru 丸山 (climbed twice) was a short and easy loop hike from Ashigakubo station on the Seibu Chichibu line, and Mt Dodaira 堂平山 was a longer hike along a horseshoe shaped ridge in Eastern Chichibu (bus access from Ogawa station). This was a hike of my own creation aiming at linking the two mountains, as well as and explore some new ridgeline trails. I could see from my maps that it involved some road walking but I didn’t mind since the area was easy to reach for me, I knew that both peaks have excellent views.
The start of the hike involved getting a bus from the Tokigawa town hall located between Ogawa and Ogose towns, and reachable from the Ogose station on the Tobu line. I got off at the last stop Hinatane, near a tiny hamlet on the side of the mountain. First I went on a short round trip to closeby Mt Arazaku (409m). There was no trail on the map but it was marked on a guidance board near the bus stop. Mostly level walking through forest, it made a good warm up even though the top was without view. After quickly retracing my steps, I started climbing in the opposite direction along a forest road up to a pass, where I turned right to follow the ridge to the North, this time along an asphalt road, half iced over.
Cute fake bus stop for the “mountain cat electrical railway bus”
Soon I reached another pass called Kabasaka toge (818m). There were some people here since there is a parking lot. There were good views of Mt Dodaira opposite. Here the trail left the road and followed a narrow ridge to another pass. Mt Maru was about a 45 minute round trip to the left and I decided to go for it since the weather was good. There is an observation tower at the top and the previous times the visibility hadn’t been great. This time, visibility was fantastic, and this is probably one of the best views one can get of Mt Buko and of Chichibu city. Mt Asama, Mt Akagi and Mt Haruna were clearly visible.
View of Mt Buko and Chichibu city from the top of Mt Maru
After a quick lunch and a short chat with other hikers, I made my way back to the intersection and went right towards Mt Dodaira. There was another section of road walking. You can actually walk on the road all the way to the top but halfway there is a hiking trail that goes up a ridge to the left. The rounded level top is also accessible by car and there is an observatory for night sky gazing. It is also a popular place for paragliding in the warmer months.
View from Mt Dodaira – It’s a 500m drop down to the bottom of the valley
The views from the summit of Dodaira were just as good as from Mt Maru. You could also gaze down into the deep valley of East Chichibu (North) and the take in the vast expanse of the Kanto plain to the East. Unfortunately it was already past 3h30, and it was nearly two hours to get down to a bus stop so I couldn’t linger much. I followed a very nice path called the Tokigawa trekking trail, some portions of which followed asphalt and forest roads. I finally emerged at the scenic Jikoji Temple, past 5 pm, and too dark to get any good photos, so I hurried down to the bus stop, in the valley opposite my morning starting point. Total hiking time was nearly 7 hours.
Mt Atago (305), Mt Nandai (553m) & Mt Wagakuni (518m), Kasama City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Sunday February 12
View of Mt Nandai, the midway point of the hike
This was my first Ibaraki hike that wasn’t on Mt Tsukuba. It’s a fairly long hike (6 hours) connecting three mountains, starting with Mt Atago 愛宕山 Southeast near Iwama station on the Joban line, passing by Mt Nandai 難台山, and finishing at Mt Wagakuni 吾国山 Northwest near Fukuhara station on the Mito line. My start time got pushed back due to delays on the Joban line. I also lost some time around Mt Nandai because of unexpected wet snow on the trail – my boots got completely wet since I didn’t bring my gaiters.
Observation tower along the trail
The first part is fairly straightforward. The path zigzags up the mountain and ends at Atago Shrine with good views to the East – Ibaraki is quite flat outside the mountainous parts! From the top there is a short walk along an asphalt road to reach the start of the trail for Mt Nandai. The trail through woods was level at first but soon it started to rise gradually, offering excellent views of Mt Tsukuba, Mt Kaba and Mt Hokyo to the West. There are wooden observation towers, rocky formations and minor peaks along the trail.
View of Mt Tsukuba
When I reached the top, mostly enclosed by trees but with some views to the West, I was ready for a short break and lunch. Afterwards the path descended gradually, with views of the Oku-Nikko mountains at one point, before crossing a road and bringing me to the final ascent for Mt Wagakuni. There were good views to the East on the way up – I could see most of the trail that I had hiked during the day. More excellent views towards the East and the North greeted me at the top, where there was a small shrine, although it was a bit lonely and cold there. I made my way down the mountain as quickly as I could in order to reach the train station just around sunset.
View to the North from the top of Mt Wagakuni
Mt Ohira (341m) & Mt Teruishi (419m), Tochigi City, Tochigi Prefecture, Saturday February 25
The hike follows most of this ridge
I so enjoyed my first hike in Southern Tochigi that I decided to go again as soon as possible, this time a little more to the East, one station past Tochigi City. The hike up Mt Ohira 大平山 starts from Ohirashita Station meaning the station under Ohira. From there it’s a fairly easy walk to the top and Ohirasan shrine (also accessible by road), a sort of deja-vu from my hike 2 weeks ago. I got to see some nice views of the Kanto plain, and also some early plum blossoms.
View of the Oku-Nikko mountains to the North
From there it was a fairly easy hike to the next summit, Mt Terui 晃石山. Apparently the whole area is inside a prefectural national park, not to be confused with a national park. From the top of Mt Terui, there were excellent views of the Oku-Nikko mountains. The visibility was much better than the previous month when I hiked nearby Mt Daisho. After that I gradually made my way down through to plain level. The surrounding nature was quite wild and it was hard to believe that I was so close to civilisation.
Hiking down Mt Teruishi
While I was walking to the station (more plum blossoms on the way), I couldn’t resist going up nearby Mt Iwafune, meaning “rock ship”. Although the way up was along a road, the top part was quite interesting. First of all I was able to check out a temple called Koshosji. Next, there were a couple of good viewpoints to the North and the South. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a summit marker for the highest point. I ended the hike at the very small Iwafune station on the Ryomo line.