From the Archives: Ten Tokyo Day Hikes (2016)

I’ve been kept from the mountains the past few weeks because of work, a tendinitis in my left ankle and a summer cold. It was a good opportunity to look back at the hikes I did in 2016, a busy year during which I made very few blog posts, from which I made a selection of ten regular Tokyo day hikes; I did many more hikes that year, but they were hyakumeizan peaks, well-known mountains near Tokyo I had climbed before, and half-day hikes.

At the time I hadn’t discovered all the great hiking in Southern Tochigi and Ibaraki, and thus nearly half of these hikes are in Yamanashi prefecture, arguably the best place for hiking near the capital. All these hikes required access by bus, except for one when I went by car. All these hikes are perfect for the upcoming Autumn and Winter hiking season.

Mt Ou (1623m) & Mt Oni (1738m), Fuji-kawaguchiko City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Sunday, January 3, 2016

Amazing view of Mt Fuji and two of its five lakes

The first hike of 2016 – how could it not be with a view of Mt Fuji? If you want to get spectacular views of Japan’s most famous mountain, I‘d recommend hiking the surrounding peaks in December or January. The start of the trail near Lake Saiko, is a bus ride away from Kawaguchiko station – luckily the buses were running on schedule during Shogatsu. A short climb brought me the top of Mt Ou 王ヶ岳 (“King mountain”), from where it was a pleasant, snow-free hike along the ridgeline to Mt Oni 鬼ヶ岳 (“Demon mountain”). After admiring the wonderful views of Mt Fuji, and the South Alps on the other side, I descended through forest back down to the lake where I caught the bus back, after a relaxing onsen.

Dramatic view towards Kawaguchiko city

Mt Goten (364m), Mt Takatori (364m) & Mt Dainichi (333m), Minamiboso City, Chiba Prefecture, Sunday, February 21, 2016

View West towards double-peaked Mt Tomi

With the snows of February, I retreated to the Boso Peninsula in Chiba, a wonderful area  I discovered the previous year. Although the views aren’t as spectacular, I was able to enjoy some quality snow-free hiking under the warm winter sunshine. I drove from Kisarazu station to the start of the trail. After reaching the summit of Mt Goten 御殿山, I continued a little further to the top of Mt Takatori 鷹取山, and then further still to Mt Dainichi 大日山. The last two peaks had nice views Westwards towards Mt Tomi and Tokyo bay. Since I had come by car, I had to return along the same way. Afterwards, I had a little time left, so I dropped by a short hiking path near the highway, where one could see “suisen” flowers (a kind of daffodil) that bloom at this time of the year. Although it’s a popular trail, since it was late in the day, I saw only two other people, so it was a nice stroll with great views from the top of the hill overlooking Tokyo Bay.

Nice views westwards at the top of the “suisen” path

Mt Takago (330m), Kimitsu City, Chiba Prefecture, Sunday, May 15, 2016

Mt Takago is also a Kanto hundred famous mountain

A hike on a hidden mountain in the middle of the Boso peninsula – I had trouble finding it again on the map while writing this post. This time, I took a bus from Kisarazu station, then hiked along a small road, through a hamlet with many cats, and finally reached the start of the trail: log steps heading up the side of the hill. At the top, I admired the views of Mt Kano to the North, before continuing southwards. The views of central Chiba aren’t really all that amazing, but I find the sight of green rolling hills in all directions is very impressive. It was a fairly easy hike with occasional views – the rocky top of Mt Takago 高宕山 is the highest point in the area, so there are nearly 360 degree views of a sea of trees from its summit – do people even live in Southern Chiba, I wondered. At one point, hungry for more views, I extended the hike by doing a short there and back along a lonely ridge. After returning to the main trail, I made my way down, running and walking since it was getting late, and ended up at a bus stop in the middle of the countryside not far from Lake Mishima, after a very satisfying seven-hour hike.

The Southern part of Chiba is a very very green place

Mt Mikuni (1328m), Kanagawa, Yamanashi & Shizuoka Prefectures, Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mt Fuji and Mt Mikuni

A great hike that follows two prefectural borders, first between Shizuoka and Kanagawa, then between Shizuoka and Yamanashi, Mt Mikuni 三国山 (“Three Country mountain”) being at the convergence of all three. A seasonal hiking bus running from Suruga-Oyama station took me up to Myojin pass (900m), from where I first hiked East along the ridge in to the top of Mt Yubune 湯舟山 (1041m). It was a cloudless and hot May day, but fortunately I was mostly under the shade of trees. I then retraced my steps to the pass, and continued Westwards to Mt Mikuni. After a bit of road walking and a short steep climb, I reached the peaceful flat summit, surrounded by cool green forest. After that, it was a nice ramble along a descending ridge with occasional views of Mt Fuji, mostly covered in cloud except for its snow-covered summit. I passed the minor peaks of Mt Naraki 楢木山 (1353m), Mt Obora 大洞山 (1383m) and Mt Hatao 畑尾山 (1365m). I finally reached a section I had hiked a few years ago in December, but had to abort because of a freak snowstorm. There seemed to be a serious war game taking place opposite on the lower flanks of Mt Fuji: I could hear explosions the entire afternoon (the foothills of Mt Fuji is a training place for the self-defence forces). I ended up at a very nice hot spring near the bus stop for Gotemba station.

Mt Fuji straight ahead!

Mt Imakura (1470m) & Mt Nijurokuya (1297m), Tsuru City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Saturday, June 11, 2016

Viewpoint at Akaiwa (“red rock”)

This was another very good hike in the Fuji area. Although the rainy season had already started, the weather stayed good all day. I took a bus from Tsurushi station all the way to the Michizaka Zuido Iriguchi bus stop. From there, it was a steep climb to the top of Mt Imakura 今倉山, completely surrounded by trees, although I had some glimpses of Mt Fuji through the trees on the way up. I headed west along the ridgeline, descending steeply at first. There were some great views of Mt Fuji and the surrounding mountains from Akaiwa 赤岩 and Mt Nijurokuya 二十六や山. After that last peak, the path turned Northwards, and I headed downhill first through forest, then some pleasant countryside, finally arriving at a nice hot spring near a bus stop. I returned the following year to hike the Eastern ridge from the top of Mt Imakura.

A good hike for “fuji spotting” – Mt Shakushi is on the right

Mt Keikan (2177m), Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Saturday, June 18, 2016

The highest point of Daibosatsu Rei seen from Mt Keikan

It was getting hot in Tokyo so I took a bus from Enzan station all the way up to Yanagisawa Pass at nearly 1500m. From there it was a short walk through beautiful forest to a viewpoint of the mountains of the Chichi-Tama-Kai National Park. A little beyond is Roppongi Pass, from where it was a short and pleasant up-and-down hike through the forest to the top of Mt Keikan 鶏冠山 and its small summit shrine. It’s an odd mountain since it’s not a prominent peak in the area, so it feels like standing on a ledge from where one looks straight ahead at the views rather than down. After a short break, I made my way back to Roppongi pass, following a different trail for part of the way, and then hiked through more beautiful forest all the way to the Marukawa hut, at the base of Daibosatsu Rei. It looked like a nice place to spend the night but since I was planning to return to Tokyo the same day, I quickly made my way down the mountain, to a hot spring and a bus stop.

The Oku-Chichibu mountain area – a great place for hiking

Mt Mikabo (1287m), Fujioka City, Gunma Prefecture, Sunday, October 30, 2016

A glimpse back towards Mt Mikabo (left) on the way down

I had been wanting to explore the Kanna River valley for a while. In the end, access was easier than I had thought: the small community bus that picked me up at Shinmachi station was nearly empty, and so the ninety-minute ride to the start of the trail was fairly comfortable. I set off in fairly high spirits despite the overcast weather. Unfortunately I missed a turn, and ended up losing an hour walking back and forth along a forest trying to find the trail back – I truly thought that I would have to turn back and give up on the summit. Eventually I reached the Eastern peak of Mt Mikabo 御荷鉾山. After going down a bit and back up again, I got to the Western peak, the highest point of the hike. It was mostly free of trees and the view would have been fantastic if not for the gloomy, cloudy weather. I think I saw only two other hikers the whole day. After a short break (I was hour behind schedule), I hurriedly made my way down to the road and bus stop.

Few views on this hike mainly due to the cloudy weather

Mt Shaka (1641m), Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Sunday, November 20, 2016

Things get steep near the higher parts of Mt Shaka

Amazingly, the weather was still warm enough in the second half of November for a comfortable hike above 1500m. I took a bus from Isawa-onsen – again I was one of the only passengers – and got off at Torimisaka pass (1100m). This is another hike in the vicinity of Mt Fuji, and I was able to get many good views of its snow-covered summit, as well as many other mountains of Yamanashi. It was mostly a solitary hike, under a grey autumn sky – Kofu valley below was partially hidden by a layer of fog. I thought Mt Shaka 釈迦ヶ岳 was quite an interesting mountain and deserved to be better-known. The rocky climb up was surprisingly steep and dramatic (it reminded me of my hike up Mt Suwa), and I was rewarded with 360 degree views from the summit. After a short break, I continued along the ridge to Mt Fukoma 府駒山 (1562m) before descending through the forest into the valley. From there it was an easy walk along a paved road to the bus stop near the Ashikawa Farmer’s market.

Autumn mist covering the lower elevations

Mt Chichibu-Ontake (1080m), Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture, Sunday, December 18, 2016

View North – Mt Asama is the white bit on the left

This is a hike I had been wanting to do for a while, but since it was a little short, I had to time it close to the shortest day of the year. Fortunately I was able to walk to the start of the trail from Mitsumine-Guchi station; it was a tad spooky because of all the “fake people” next to the road and in the fields (see the photo below). Some were obviously scarecrows, but not all of them. After climbing for a short while, I got my first views back along the Arakawa river valley, stunningly beautiful in the crisp December weather. After about an hour of steep, solitary climbing through dark pine forest, I reached the small shrine on the narrow top of Mt Chichibu-Ontake 秩父御嶽山, where another hiker was having his lunch. I took some time to enjoy the superb views in every direction – including snow-capped Mt Asama and the jagged peak of Mt Ryokami – before heading down a different route, to a bus stop on the road for Mitsumine shrine.

Fake villagers guarding the start of the trail

Mt Azumaya (772m), Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture, Friday, December 23, 2016

Countryside view of Chichibu with the pyramid top of Mt Buko in the back

My last day hike of the year, was the peak just to the North of the previous one. The start of the trail was a little further from the train station, so I had to take a bus. This is also a somewhat short hike, so perfect for this time of the year. Soon after starting out, I reached an observation point with nice views of the valley below. There are several paths up but the way I picked had a rocky section with chains – some unexpected fun! One can also reach the top via easier paths. I had more good views along the way, although the top of Mt Azumaya 四阿屋山 was in the trees. I only could see Mt Ryokami, and the mountain range to its North, including Mt Futago, which I climbed six months later and had a scary experience when I went down the wrong trail. This time I was completely alone on the summit. While I was having lunch, the weather turned cloudy and cold, so I hurried back down an alternate path, but which looped back to my starting point. From there it was a short troll to a nice hot spring facility and a bus stop.

Mt Futago can be seen behind the power line

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