It was my third trip to this multi-peak mountain just south of Mt Fuji, and my first trip of the year to Shizuoka. This time, I planned to climb a secondary peak after which this ancient volcano is named. To get to the start of the trail, I would use the same bus I had taken at the end of my hike on Mt Ihai. From the summit, I would walk all the way down to the base of the mountain on Suruga Bay, and then walk along paved roads to a bus stop. To do this as a day trip, I needed to take the shinkansen there and back; it seemed worth it, since the weather was supposed to be quite good the next day. I was hoping to see plenty of “Sakura” and also get a glimpse of Mt Fuji.
A view of “floating Fuji” on the way down
It took less than an hour to travel the 100 kilometers between Tokyo and Mishima stations. I rode the bus all the way to Momozawa Onsen (桃沢温泉), the last stop. It had been sunny when I left in the morning, but now the sky was overcast. I started hiking at 10am inside a river park following the Momozawa river up the mountain valley. The path crossed the rushing river over several suspended bridges and went through a barbeque area with several cherry blossom trees in full bloom.
A nice place for a BBQ
All too soon I reached the end of the park and the lovely river walk. I then followed a narrow paved road for a short while to the start of the hiking trail and the Ashitaka Water Shrine, which I decided to check out quickly. It was interesting to see a shrine right next to a river. The sun had come out of the clouds and there was a slight breeze. The combination of sun, wind and water, as well as the new green of the surrounding vegetation was enchanting. At 11h30, I finally started hiking up a steep mountain trail.
Waterfall at the end of the park
It was a brand new path not shown on my map. I soon reached the ridgetop, completely in the trees, where I turned right along a flatter section. At 12h30, I emerged onto a level forest road, which I followed for a hundred meters. I then left it to follow a smaller path up the side of the mountain. This area was cleared of trees; looking back, I had a view of Hakone to the east. I reentered the forest and was now walking next to a dry riverbed. I saw some “Mitsumata” flowers in full bloom, the petals facing down, making them hard to photograph.
Walking the ridgetop among the trees
It took me an hour of climbing through a dark forest to reach a windy pass with a view west of Suruga Bay. I took a short break before heading up the round summit on the left. Ten minutes later I was standing at the top of Mt Ashitaka (愛鷹山 あしたかやま ashitakayama). Turning around, I could see the snowy summit of Mt Fuji, playing hide and seek in the clouds. I could also see the two highest peaks of this volcanic complex, Mt Echizen and Mt Ihai. I explored the tree-covered summit and found a small shrine.
View of Mt Fuji from the top of Mt Ashitaka
After lunch and a short rest, I started to head down on the other side. It was nearly 3pm and I had to make good time if I wanted to catch my bus. The path was mostly in the trees, but I got another view of Mt Fuji, now free of clouds, and later on, a view of the entire Hakone area. On this side, the trail had suffered from erosion and at times was hard to walk on. I saw another interesting flower, the Japanese Andromeda, growing from a tree. The air was filled with birdsong and it felt like spring had finally arrived.
The Hakone mountains behind Susono city
Suddenly, I spotted a pheasant next to the path. I had seen these birds before but they usually fly away. This one, however, was in ho hurry to get away. I soon found out why: behind some bushes was a brown chick, almost as big as the mother (see video). I left them in peace and continued on my way. It was 4pm and I was out of the forest, walking along the tea fields for which Shizuoka is famous. Soon I reached the Ashitaka 600 Golf Club from where I had a hazy view of the Numazu Alps with the Izu peninsula in the background.
Mother pheasant trying to lead me away from her chick
I walked down a steep road, stray white golf balls littering each side, and passed under some superb cherry blossom trees in full bloom. The sky was cloudy again but the temperature was still comfortable. Using Google Maps, I walked thirty minutes to the bus stop inside the Fujitsu Numazu Plant. As I stood all alone inside the empty parking lot, I really wondered whether a bus would come to pick me up on a Saturday afternoon. However, it arrived right on schedule and dropped me off at Numazu station, for a short train ride to Mishima and my shinkansen ride back to Tokyo.
See the sights of Mt Ashitaka