Jogasaki Coast, Ito City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Tuesday, February 11, 2020

This hike was unusual because I wasn’t hiking up and down mountains, but along a beautiful coastline. The suspended bridge on the Northern end is a popular sightseeing spot, however few people wander down the hiking trail that extends Southwards along the coast. It took me five hours at a leisurely pace to reach a second suspended bridge near the end of the trail. Although there are no mountains, there were many small ups and downs along the way, and lots of great views of the ragged coastline.


Halfway point of the jagged Jogasaki Coast

I took the Odoriko Limited Express from Tokyo station to Izu-Kogen (2 hours), and then hopped onto a local train to travel back one station to Jogasaki-Kaigan station. This small charming station was entirely made of wood and had a spacious comfortable waiting room. There was a small foot bath next to the platform, and a view of Sagami Bay and Oshima Island from the entrance. The famous early blooming cherry trees were still completely closed, but would be opening very soon.

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Oshima Island from Jogasaki-Kaigan station

Kadowaki Suspension Bridge with Oshima island in the background

I walked 20 minutes to the Boranaya restaurant, which is right next to the start of the Northern end of the trail. Across the bay, I had good views of Futo Hot spring, the next stop after Jogasaki-Kaigan. In the far distance, I could make out the faint outline of the Boso peninsula. It took me less than 30 minutes to reach the wobbly Kadowaki Suspended Bridge 門脇つり橋 (48 meters long and 23 meters high). A little further was the Kadowaki Lighthouse 門脇埼灯台 (25 meters high). I climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the observation floor (17 meters high), but since it was indoors, I couldn’t get any good photos through the glass.

Spectacular rocks near the Kadowaki Suspension Bridge

Grey cliffs and blue sea

It was already past 11am, so I quickly started hiking South along the coastal trail, leaving the sightseers behind. It was a warm sunny winter day; to my left was the dark blue sea sending its foamy waves roaring and crashing onto the ragged coastline; to the left were the mountains of central Izu, under the shadow of thick grey clouds. There were few other hikers, and most of the time I had the trail to myself.

The sparkling sea in the morning

Dark clouds got the upperhand in the afternoon

According to my map, the trail should take about 4 hours. However, every rocky promontory had a small path, branching off the main trail, going to its very tip. Since it would have taken too much time to explore them all, I had to decide which ones would yield the best views, and which ones to skip. I had just started down one such small path, when I was rewarded with a glimpse of a squirrel scampering through the trees. Walking another one, I spotted a couple of adventurous rock climbers on a secluded cliff. There were other climbers in several spots along the way, and I was reminded that the Jogasaki Coast 城ヶ崎海岸 was a popular place for this activity. A lot of these paths went close to the edge of cliffs, so I had to be careful, since unlike the rock climbers, I had nothing to protect myself from a fall!

This squirrel posed for a few seconds so I could take its picture

Climber nearing the top of the cliff

The trail was very well maintained. Fallen trees, no doubt from last year’s powerful typhoons, had been sawn through and removed from the path. There were frequent excellent Japanese / English signposts along the way, as well as information signboards on the various local sights, like the jagged Igaigaine いがいが根 rock formation. The main thing I learned was that the rugged coastline was created from lava flow when nearby Mt Omuro erupted long ago. When exploring the rocky terrain off the trail, I had to be careful not to trip and fall on the sharp lava rock!

Most of the time, the trail was easy to walk

Fallen trees have been removed from the trail

Around noon I passed by Renchaku-ji temple, and was lucky to finally see some early blooming cherry trees. At 2h30, I reached the Tajima no Taki observation platform, from where I could see quite a unique sight: a waterfall over the sea. A little further away, I could see a rock bridge with waves washing through it from both sides, and meeting at the center with a thunderous crash (see video below).

Pink cherry blossoms with a background of blue sky

The rock bridge surrounded by frothy waves

Along the trail there were many beautiful pine trees, possibly Japanese red pine. They were especially prominent along the second half, soaring high in the sky above. According to Wikipedia, they can grow up to 35 meters in height!

Many pine trees along the trail

Walking among the tall pine trees

A few minutes later I reached the Hashidate Suspension bridge 橋立吊橋 (60 meters long and 18 meters high). The trail ends just a little further at a small fishing village. I retraced my steps to the river above the waterfall, and followed it to a parking area and Izu-Kogen station, less than thirty minutes away.

The Hashidate Suspension Bridge

Mt Mihara on Oshima island, an active volcano that last erupted in 1986

One constant throughout the hike was the view of Oshima Island directly opposite and only 20 km away. Some of the other Tokyo islands (Toshima and Ni-jima) were faintly visible further to the South. I could even make out the outline of Kozu-jima about 75 km away. As the day progressed, and the sun moved further west, the details of Mihara volcano on Oshima island became more clearly visible, and I was reminded of my trip there in 2018.

Mt Omuro (580m) Crater Walk

Before heading back to Tokyo, I decided to make a quick visit to Mt Omuro 大室山 (580m), a short bus ride from the station, and the reason the Jogasaki coast exists in the first place. It has a perfect conical shape and is visible from nearly everywhere on the Izu Plateau. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to hike to the top. I rode the chairlift up and walked around the top crater in twenty minutes. There was a spectacular 360 degree panorama of the entire area. I could see Mt Fuji (60 km away), the Hakone mountains, the Tanzawa mountains, the Miura peninsula, Sagami and Tokyo B\bays, the whole Izu-Kogen, the Tokyo Islands and Mt Amagi.

After taking the chairlift back down just before closing, and catching the last bus back, I stopped by Izukogen no Yu Onsen. After a relaxing hot spring bath, I hopped onto the Odoriko limited express headed for Tokyo.

Mt Fuji, Hakone, Tanzawa

Mt Fuji, clear of clouds in the late afternoon

Watch the crashing waves along the Jogasaki Coast

NEXT UP: Mt Sengen in Hakone, Kanagawa

Hiking in the Tokyo Izu Islands

 

These aren’t day trips, but they are Tokyo hikes, so I decided to include them in this blog. The Izu islands 伊豆諸島 are a group of islands Southeast of Tokyo prefecture – the furthest are the Ogasawara islands, a 24-hour ferry ride away! Last year, my mother visited Japan again, and together we made a visit to the closest island, Izu-Oshima 伊豆大島, and Kozushima Island 神津島, about 60km South of Oshima.

 

Mt Mihara (758m), Oshima Town, Tokyo Prefecture, Monday October 22

The impressive crater of Mt Mihara

I’ve had my eye on Mt Mihara 三原山 for a while, every since I first spotted it during one of my hikes along the Izu peninsula. It’s also an active volcano which last erupted in 1990, and thus has a spectacular crater. Although there are night ferries from Takeshiba pier to Oshima, I felt that it was wiser to take a daytime ferry and spend the night in Motomachi, the main town, so that we could leave refreshed the next day.

The final climb from the end of the road is not so high

We were very lucky with the blue-sky weather. The views of the Izu peninsula and Mt Fuji from the Mihara Sancho Guchi bus stop were fantastic. At 9h30 we set off for the summit, and from the start we had great views of the flat mountain top. First, we hiked on a level road through shoulder-high (for me) vegetation. We saw a couple of tiny deer dart into the bushes. It wasn’t until I wrote this article that I found out that they are in fact called “Reeves’s muntjac” and they are not native to the island.

Very soon the road started the climb up the side of the volcano, and in no time we reached the top of the wide caldera. From there it was a fairly easy loop walk around the crater. There was an option to walk down towards the crater, but we decided to skip it since we were on a tight schedule.

An easy hiking path on an active volcano

There were beautiful views inwards of the smoking crater, as well as outwards of the Pacific ocean, and the other Izu islands to the South. Although it wasn’t particularly cold, it got windy at the higher points of the caldera. We reached the highest point on the Southern side just before 11am, and after a quick summit photo, we completed our loop of the caldera, and retraced our steps back to the start of the trail. All in all, in was a quick and easy hike with fantastic views.

Heading down with views of Mt Amagi (left) and snow-capped Fuji (right)

 

Mt Tenjo (572m), Kozushima Town, Tokyo Prefecture, Tuesday October 23

The following day we took the slow ferry two hours South to Kozu island. The highest point is Mt Tenjo 天上山, another volcano and a Kanto hundred famous mountain. The very friendly owner of La Familia hotel gave us a lift to the start of the trail. The first part consisted of a switchback along a steep slope divided into ten stations. As we climbed, the views of Kozushima and the ocean got better and better. Once we reached the end of the steep bit, we were hit with cold gusts of wind, a little surprising considering how many kilometers South of Tokyo we were.

Climbing and climbing…

Once we had bundled up, we took in the surrounding landscape. We seemed to arrive at a sort of plateau covered with a mix of low bushes and grass, punctuated with a number of low rounded summits. Without a map, it would have been hard to know which way to go. The hotel owner of La Familia, had kindly drawn a loop course on a map, and we followed it religiously. There were a lot more clouds today and thus less sunshine, but fortunately no rain.

Fantastic landscape near the top of Mt Tenjo

First we headed to the center of the plateau to one of Mt Tenjo’s two sand deserts. Apparently, Kozu island residents think that the sands of Mt Tenjo form the only true desert of Japan, not the Tottori sand dunes. I’ve been to both, and both have merits. After some snapping some photos, we set off for the second sand desert, at the Southern end of the top plateau, where, from certain angles, you could think that you are really walking in the desert.

Walking through Tokyo’s desert

A few minutes away, there was a good viewpoint to the South. It was fun to watch a boat zip around a rocky island below in the distance. We were only 500 meters high, but it felt much higher since we were directly above the sea. We then set off Northwards, following the Eastern edge of the plateau. The path started to rise slightly, and we reached what is known as one of Tokyo’s top hundred views 新東京百景展望地. The view of the Tokyo islands we had passed the day before by ferry, sitting like white and green gems in the middle of the blue ocean, was indeed stunning.

Looking Southwards

After pulling ourselves away from the view, we set off for the true summit of Mt Tenjo, which we reached just before 4pm, a relatively late time in the shorter days of Autumn. There we could take in the entire plateau we had spent the whole afternoon traversing. More than half a kilometer below, was the village of Kozu island – it looked so far away, and we had to walk all the way back down!

Dragon on top of Mt Tenjo’s summit marker

A well marked path

Going down and down

We were the only hikers on the mountain

We set off hurriedly as the sun slowly approached the horizon to the West. A different switchback path took us down, and soon we were walking under forest cover at the base of the volcano. Darkness was falling quickly and trail was getting harder to follow. Finally, just when I was considering taking out my headlight, we reached a road at around 5h30. Thirty minutes later we reached our hotel, where we were rewarded with a couple of cold beers.

Nearing sunset

Two beers (and a turtle) for two tired hikers

Check out the howling wind and desolate landscapes of the Izu islands

Mt Hamaishi (707m), Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Sunday June 16, 2019

I was itching to head somewhere new. A place I hadn’t explored yet. June is the best time of the year to head faraway since the days are long. I decided to head South to Shizuoka prefecture, since it had rained all day the day before and therefore there were bound to be good views of Mt Fuji. It was also the location of a good station to station hike I had recently found in my Shizuoka prefecture hiking guide book. I used the Tokaido line to go all the way to Atami, where I changed to a local line for the final part of the trip to Yui station, halfway between Numazu and Shizuoka cities.

Yui, 3 hours from Tokyo station, is apparently the capital of Sakura Ebi or Sakura Shrimp fishing in Japan. It also used to be on the Tokaido, the ancient pathway that linked Tokyo and Kyoto. I had one small problem after stepping out of the train station just after ten thirty: it was a lot hotter than I had expected. The sun was pounding down from above. Normally I wouldn’t attempt a hike from sea level in June, but the last few days had been unseasonably cool so I thought I could risk it.

Welcome to the town of Sakura Ebi

I set out as quickly, hoping to gain altitude and some coolness as soon as possible. The hike is well signposted, and soon I found myself walking up a narrow road with great views of Suruga Bay behind me. Mt Fuji was still in the clouds. After a little more than an hour a reach a flat area with some fields, toilets and a signboard. Shortly after, I spotted a hiking trail going straight up the mountainside. Although, it wasn’t mentioned in my guide book, I was glad for the opportunity to leave the road.

First good views East towards Izu one hour after setting out

The trail had suffered a bit from the recent rains but climbed steadily through the forest. Eventually I emerged into an open area with great views of Suruga Bay, Izu peninsula, and Mt Fuji, slowly emerging from the clouds. After a short break, I set off again. Instead of climbing the path started to follow the contour of the mountainside – the surrounding vegetation reminded me very much of hiking on the Izu peninsula opposite, also part of Shizuoka prefecture.

Beautiful views North towards Numazu City

Just when I was starting to worry that I was on the wrong path, I saw a signpost that confirmed that I was on the right trail. The summit was just a short way away. The vegetation started to thin and finally I reached a bald grassy hill, behind which I could just make out the top of Mt Fuji, clear of clouds! I rushed the final few meters and snapped a few photos before clouds rolled in and covered Fuji’s summit from view. The summit of Mt Hamaishi 浜石岳 is famous for its great views and I wasn’t disappointed. I could see from left to right, Shizuoka city, the Southern part of the Southern Alps, Mt Fuji, Mt Ashitaka, Hakone, and the Izu peninsula. I probably say this often, but it was one of the best views I had ever seen in Japan, especially on a day trip from Tokyo.

The majestic beauty of Mt Fuji from the top of Mt Hamaishi

After nearly an hour, I was able to drag myself away from the amazing views. I had to head back down to the signpost I had seen earlier. I decided to run since I was behind schedule, and nearly stepped on a large snake! Fortunately the snake jumped out of the way and retreated into the bushes. I wasn’t sure whether it was poisonous or not, but I was a lot more cautious from that point forward. At the signpost I had passed earlier, my path continued straight, following a different way down, Southwards. The forest I was walking through reminded me somewhat of the Southern Alps, not surprising in fact, since, looking at a map, Mt Hamaishi sits at the very end of the end of the Southern Alps (not sure whether it’s geographically part of it).

Blue sky and clouds reflected in Tachibana Pond

Soon I reached a signpost for Tachibana Pond, a short way from the main trail. It was amazing to see such a beautiful pond in the middle of the forest. After tearing myself away from the second great view of the day, I continued down the mountain. This incredibly beautiful part of the hike took two and a half hours, and I saw absolutely no one. At one point I crossed a spooky bamboo forest – even though it wasn’t a windy day, the bamboo trees swished and swayed as if I were in the midst of a storm. Finally I popped out at the Satta Pass viewpoint, just above the ocean. From there, it was another 45 minutes of fast walking back to the station, that would get me back to Tokyo.

Spooky bamboo trail

Check out the snake that was crossing the trail just below Mt Hamaishi

Enjoy the sounds of the bamboo forest swaying in the wind