Mt Kogashi (583m), Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture, Saturday March 4
A rocky mountain at the edge of the Kanto plain
Continuing to explore Southern Tochigi, I moved again to the East but also somewhat to the North, to Kanuma station between Utsunomiya and Nikko. There, I boarded a bus to within walking distance of Mt Kogashi 古賀志山. The approach is quite nice since this low-lying rocky mountain cuts quite an impressive figure when seen from below. After walking on a road through fields and forests, I reached Akagawa dam and lake, where I got to see countless paragliders floating around in the sky above me.
The mountains of Oku-Nikko
The start of the trail is at the end of the lake but at first it was a little hard to follow since it had been damaged in a recent typhoon. There are other paths up but I was keen to follow the one in my guidebook. After crossing a river, I followed a steep zigzagging path that quickly took me to the ridge. Before continuing to the right, I followed another small path to the left for a few minutes till I reached a lookout point. There I got good views of Akagawa lake as well as Mt Akagi and the mountains of Oku-Nikko.
Ready to jump off?
I continued up the steep, narrow ridge heading West. Eventually I reached another ridge and turned left (South) along it – the path to the right (North) leads to Mt Kuratake which I climbed last year. This part had some nice exposed sections with good views of the Oku-Nikko mountains, and some interesting rocky formations on Mt Kogashi itself. I finally reached the summit just after 2pm (no views). After a lunch break, I continued along the ridge, gradually losing altitude and occasionally getting good views on both sides. At one point I reached a rocky prominence that had to overcome with the help of some rope – nothing technical but surefootedness was vital. The views from the high point were totally worth the effort.
Decipher this sign!
I reached the final peak of the ridge, Mt Akaiwa (553m), just before 4pm. After that the path started to descend quickly. On the way I passed the launching point for the paragliders that I had seen in the morning. Going down I took a wrong turn at one point and had to retrace my steps. However I got some nice views from that mistake. After I got back to level ground, I continued walking along a road through fields till I reached an onsen and a bus stop just before sunset.
Mt Kaba (709m) & Mt Ashio (628m), Sakuragawa City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Saturday March 11
Mt Kaba rising above the fields
Mt Kaba 加波山 and Mt Ashio 足尾山 are two peaks located along the same ridge, North of Mt Tsukuba. I had a good look at them when I climbed Mt Nandai and Mt Wagakuni the month before. I opted to go by car this time, and I parked close to the colorful Kabasan Shrine. The climb to the top was uneventful, with occasional glimpses of Mt Tsukuba to my right.
Mt Tsukuba in the shade
The summit of Mt Kaba is occupied by a shrine complex. The view from the highest point is obstructed by trees which may not be cut down, or so I was told by another hiker. The clouds had rolled in temporarily and it was cold so I didn’t linger. After some up and down, and passing a lone wind turbine, I arrived at the top of Mt Ashio, with better views to the South – Mt Tsukuba – and to the West – the Kanto plain.
The eerie top of Mt Kaba
After some lunch I continued to the next summit, Mt Kinoko (mushroom mountain), passing on the way a paragliding spot with actual paragliders preparing to take off. Here something interesting happened: there was a cat, and this cat followed me once I started going down the mountain. It had the traces of a collar around its neck, so I assumed that its owner had simply abandoned it (there is a road that runs along the ridge). Halfway down, the cat was falling behind so I waited occasionally, and fed it some cheese and water.
View of the Kanto plain
As I was approaching the bottom of the mountain I was starting to wonder what I would do if it followed me all the way to the car. However after we entered the village, the cat went after the first person I passed – problem solved! It was a short walk through fields back to the car with good views of the mountains I had just climbed in the late afternoon sun.
Cat that befriended me (?) on the top of the mountain
Mt Ono (723m), Yamakita Town, Kanagawa Prefecture, Sunday March 19
Tanzawa range and Tanzawa lake from the top of Mt Ono
Mt Ono 大野山 is a bald grassy rounded mountain sitting at the edge of the Western part of the Tanzawa mountains. It’s not a very long climb but the views from the top of Mt Fuji, the surrounding mountains and Tanzawa lake are fantastic. Mt Fuji is already visible shortly after leaving Yaga station on the Gotemba line. This is a popular climb but luckily there is lots of space at the top. At this time of the year, I could also see snow on top of the highest parts of the Tanzawa range.
Mt Fuji can be seen from several viewpoints during the hike
I decided to flee the summit and the hordes of hikers shortly after arriving, and headed North along a peaceful path through beautiful forest. My plan was to extend the hike by heading towards Tanzawa lake. Eventually I reached a T junction. Left was a path that led down towards the lake but first, I decided to explore the path going up a ridge to the right. At first the path was quite good, if steep. However it soon got difficult to follow because of tall bamboo grass. I finally reached an open space with some views, and after eating some lunch, I called it quits and retraced my steps.
Walking down to Tanzawa lake
I had some good views of Tanzawa lake while descending. After reaching the lake and its dam, I was lucky to find a hotel there that allowed hot spring entry for day trippers. After a nice refreshing bath, I caught the bus back to Matsuda station. An exciting thing happened then – a bird of prey (maybe a black kite or “tonbi”) made a very low swoop, and nearly collided with the bus, giving all the passengers, myself included, quite a scare!