Mt Naka (888m), Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture, Sunday, December 4, 2022

The observation tower at the top of Mt Naka

The summit of Mt Yatsu in the clouds

The starting point for this hike was a famous soba restaurant I had been meaning to visit for a while. Looking at my map, I found an easy loop hike nearby, ideal for the short, cold days of December: up and down a relatively low mountain, at the junction of two rivers, with an observation tower at the top. I was familiar with the area since I had hiked there twice before, once on Mt Amagoi and once on Mt Hinata. The forecast called for sun in the morning, with clouds rolling in from the afternoon; I was looking forward to the views of the mountains of Yamanashi before the weather went downhill.

A steep climb (left) Walking along the top ridge (right)

Walking among the pines

I rode the Chuo limited express to Kofu station and then drove an hour to Okina (翁), located in a hilly, wooded area, wild monkeys occasionally crossing the winding road. I arrived exactly at 11am, just ahead of the weekend lunch crowd. After a satisfying soba meal, I drove a short way to the free, and nearly empty, municipal parking lot of Dai-ga-harajuku (台ヶ原宿), an old post town on the Koshu Kaido Highway.

Dark clouds above the South Alps

Mt Kaikoma (left) and Mt Hinata and Mt Amagoi (right)

I set off a little after noon and followed a small road up the wooded mountainside, reaching Nakayama Pass (中山峠) just before 1pm. From there it was a steep, short climb up wooden log steps, the outline of the South Alps forming a dramatic backdrop. The path then followed the undulating ridge through a forest of red pines. At 1h30, I reached a clearing, in the middle of which stood the observation tower; although it was the highest point, the official summit was a little further along the ridge.

Looking down at the clearing at the base of the tower

A huge cloud perched on top of Mt Yatsu

From the tower, I was relieved to the see that most of the sky was still clear, although dark clouds had started to gather on the west side, giving Mt Kaikoma a menacing look. From its snow-freckled peak, a ridgeline extended northwards, ending at Mt Hinata, with Mt Amagoi lurking behind. On the north side was Mt Yatsugatake, with a huge cloud sitting on its head. To the east, the grey rocks of Mt Mizugaki and Mt Kinpu shone under the sun, while the twin peaks of Mt Kaya next to them were in the shade. Southwards, the white streaked cone of Mt Fuji was still clearly visible.

The mountains of Oku-Chichibu

Heading towards the official summit

Once I had finished enjoying the panoramic view, I continued along the top ridge, now heading eastwards, and 5 minutes later, arrived at the summit marker of Mt Naka (中山 なかやま nakayama, meaning “middle mountain”), completely in the trees. From there, the path descended through the forest, and half an hour later I reached a road at the base of the mountain. At 3pm, I was back at the parking lot. The clouds had finally filled the whole sky, throwing a gloomy chill on the afternoon.

Walking down through the forest

Nearing the end of a short hike

Since it was still early, I decided to check out the nearby Shichiken sake brewery shop. During the drive back, I enjoyed some fantastic views of Mt Fuji from the highway. After returning the car in Kofu, I boarded the limited express for the 90 minute ride back to Shinjuku.

See the views from the top of Mt Naka

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