Hiking in the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park
I had hiked this mountain during my first year in Japan, following a route from my hiking in Japan Lonely Planet guidebook. Over the years, I had redone portions of it but not the peak itself. I had originally planned to do the entire route again last summer, but the weather never cooperated; this time, the forecast called for blue skies, little wind and pleasant autumn temperatures.
View towards the Kanto plain from Mitakedaira
I only had faint recollections of the hike, and no blog post, but since it’s a popular, well-trodden trail, I found plenty of information online to refresh my memory. One aspect I could recall was that it was long walk with some steep, rocky sections; fortunately, I was feeling relatively fit and nimble after 3 consecutive hikes.
Mt Nabewari, not part of today’s hiking route
I also knew it would be crowded, especially the first part around Mitake shrine. However, I wanted to go on the weekend to take advantage of the direct train from Shinjuku, a minor comfort to make up for the lack of limited express trains on the JR Ome line. I was looking forward to redoing a classic Tokyo hike inside the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.
A 60-metre high cedar (left) Hiking in the sun past Okunoin (right)
It was a beautiful, slightly chilly autumn day as I rode the “Okutama Holiday Rapid” through western Tokyo. I had arrived early in Shinjuku to make sure I could sit during the 80-minute trip to Mitake, arriving there at 9am. I boarded a Nishitokyo bus for the short ride to the base of the Mitake Tozan Railway. I tried to be quick but could only get on the second bus, added to help with the weekend crowds. I had better luck on the cable car, ending up with a front view for the ascent.
View of Mt Gozen (foreground) and Mt Mito (background)
I had a wonderful view of the Kanto plain, past some fiery larches, from Mitakedaira (御岳山平) next to the Mitakesan top station. It was nearly 10h30, so I quickly moved on, skipping the many steps to the Mt Mitake summit, climbed twice before. I soon arrived at the Nagaodaira viewpoint (長尾平展望台), a couple of minutes off the main trail, from where I could observe the Akigawa river valley. By 11am, I was back on the main trail.
Mt Fuji, clearly visible from the summit
I continued along the wide, easy-to walk path, following the mountain side. I stopped briefly to gaze up at the 60-meter high “Tengu-no-koshikake” Cedar (天狗の腰掛け杉), and also glimpsed a “Kamoshika”, navigating the steep forested slope below. After Okunoin (奥の院), the path started to climb, merging with the ridgeline around 11h30. After some small ups and downs, I reached the start of the rocky section just before noon.
A steep descent aided by steps
I carefully navigated this section, using the fixed chains for support, occasionally waiting for people ahead of me. Past the rocks, I ducked under a Shinto gate, part of the Odake Shrine (大岳神社) and started up the steep summit climb. A little after noon, I was standing on top of Mt Odake (大岳山 おおだけさん oodakesan meaning big peak). From the top of this famous 200-mountain, I had a sweeping view of the Okutama and Tanzawa mountains, with Mt Fuji in the middle. After about an hour, I headed down the other side.
View of Mt Takanosu on the way down to Okutama town
I could enjoy the peace and quiet of the surrounding forest as I saw few people on the descent. The path alternated between level and steep sections, the latter made easier thanks to steps, chains and the occasional short ladder. A little after 2pm, I reached the top of Mt Nokogiriyama (鋸山), surrounded by the trees. An hour later, through a gap in the pines, I had a spectacular view of Mt Takanosu. After a short break, I resumed my descent, quickening my pace as I wanted to be down before dark.
The path alternated between level and steep sections
I was relieved when the path became easier to walk, descending rapidly through the dark forest. At 4pm, just as the sun was dipping below the mountains, I arrived at a small shrine on top of Mt Atago (愛宕山). I took a minute to admire the nearby five-story pagoda, before tackling the final stretch, consisting of a long, steep staircase. I carefully walked down the mossy, narrow steps in the gathering gloom. At 4h30 I emerged onto a road near a bridge across the Tama river. After walking to Okutama station a few minutes away, I hopped on the direct train for the 90-minute ride back to Shinjuku.
Autumn leaves and afternoon sun (left) A long, steep staircase (right)
See the autumn views along the Mt Odake hike
See a slideshow of some more pictures of the Mt Odake hike