November is the peak of the hiking season, and thanks to the usually good weather in Japan around that time, I was able to climb a mountain every weekend, and two National Holidays. Half of the six hikes already have their own write-ups on this blog. Here are the summaries of the other half.
Mt Myoho (1332m), Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture, Thursday, November 2, 2017
Hiking in the Chichibu Mountains 秩父山地
The starting point for this hike was Mitsumine Shrine, a place I had visited a few times before, but had never really taken the time to explore. Since today’s hike was relatively short, I first took some time to check out the Mitsumine visitor center, one of the starting points for visiting the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. It was a pleasant surprise – I found the displays of mounted animals and the model relief of the area particularly interesting.
View of Mt Wanakura (also known at Mt Shiroishi and climbed in 2018) from Mitsumine Shrine
After spending nearly an hour at the visitor center, I hurriedly set off along the hiking path up Mt Kumotori. The autumn colours were at their peak, and since it was a weekday, I had them mostly to myself. Very soon I reached the turnoff for today’s mountain, located on a small ridge branching left off the main ridgeline. In less than an hour, I reached the small shrine at the top of Mt Myoho 妙法山, from where I got some great views of Oku-Chichibu, with Mt Ryokami in the center.
View of the jagged peak of Mt Ryokami from the summit
After lunch, I headed back to the shrine, and since it was still early in the day, I took some time to check out the shrine grounds – it was beautiful with all the autumn colours. At the back, there was a spectacular view of the mountain I had just climbed as well as Chichibu city.
Good views from the trail heading down from Mt Mitsumine shrine
Afterwards, I located the hiking path leading down the mountain. Although there were a number of people at the shrine, no one seemed interested in hiking down, so once again, I had the path entirely to myself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to hike all the way down to the train station, and the path ended up on the road, from where I caught an express bus back to Seibu-Chichibu station.
Mt Nemoto (1199m) & Mt Kumataka (1169m), Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture, Saturday, November 4, 2017
Hiking in the Ashio Mountains 足尾山地
This was my very first visit to Kiryu City – I returned a couple more times last year in the autumn. I was again the only person on the bus, and when I got off at the last stop, I was surprised that it cost only 200 yen – probably the cheapest bus ride I’ve ever done in Japan. I had to walk another thirty minutes along the road, but I didn’t mind since it followed the beautiful Kiryu river.
Kiryu river, one of the top 100 forested valleys in Japan
I reached the start of the trail around noon – there was a well-made sign in Japanese and English explaining that the Kiryu River had been selected as one of the top 100 forested valleys in Japan – I wasn’t aware that such a list even existed! There are two trails up the mountain – the one on the left following a small mountain stream is the more challenging one. I took the more direct trail going up the ridgeline. This trail had its share of fun, with rocky sections lined with ropes for safety – it’s not really dangerous, but it isn’t for beginners either.
The autumn colours made up for the gloomy weather
The autumn colours were still at their peak, and a little before 1h30, I reached the top of Mt Nemoto 根本山 (meaning “tree root”), a Gunma 100 famous mountain. There was no view, but there was a brand new sign. The weather had been sunny and cloudy all morning, but now it was completely overcast, with a cold wind. It felt like it might snow at any moment.
Mt Akagi, looking somber
I continued along the ridgeline, circling the source of the Kiryu river, clockwise. Soon, I was walking South along an easy trail, and I arrived at Mt Kumataka 熊鷹山 less than an hour later. There was a small observation tower with a 360° view of the surrounding mountains. I could make out Mt Koshin and Mt Kesamaru to the North, where there was some sun, and Mt Akagi under a dark cloud to the West. In the East, it seemed like it was raining.
Trees marching up the side of the mountain – blue skies returned at the end of the hike
After enjoying the view and before my hands froze, I started to head down the mountain. The hiking trail quickly became a forest road, and the sun came out again. Soon, I was walking next to the Kiryu river again under blue skies. I was back at the start of the trail before 4pm, and half an hour later I was riding the last bus back to Kiryu City.
Kiryu river, also one of the 100 top forested water sources
Mt Nantai (654m), Daigo Town, Ibaraki Prefecture, Sunday November 12, 2017
Hiking in the Abukuma Mountains 阿武隈山地
This was a trip to a prefecture that I have recently come to appreciate as a great hiking destination. This was also my first time to take the Suigun line that connects Mito, the capital of Ibaraki, and Koriyama in Fukushima (I took it again this year). This was also a good station to station hike – I had to walk one hour along a road from Saigane station to reach the start of the trail, but the surrounding scenery was beautiful.
One of the other peaks in the area
Once I started hiking in earnest, I got some really great views of the rocky summit of this Kanto 100 famous mountain. The weather was perfect, and the autumn colours were still at their peak. Soon I started climbing through some beautiful forest, and I reached the top of Mt Nantai 男体山 around 1h30. From the top, there was no doubt that this was the highest mountain in the area. To the south, I could see the shape of Mt Tsukuba in the distance.
At the very back, Mt Tsukuba and neighbouring mountains
After enjoying the bird’s eye views, I continued along the ridge. First down a steep slope, then along a pleasant mostly level path. It was so pleasant that I completely missed the turn-off down the mountain. After a while, I realised I was going in the wrong direction and retraced my steps to the junction which was properly signposted – I must have looked the other direction just when the sign came into view!
The prominent bulk of Mt Nantai
The downhill part to Kami-Ogawa station was through pleasant autumn forest, then along countryside back roads. Looking back, I got some more nice views of the rocky summit of the mountain I had just climbed. I reached the station in time for the infrequent train back to Mito city.