Mt Takatsuka (216m), Minamiboso City, Chiba Prefecture, Tuesday, December 20, 2022

This is a hike from my mountains of Chiba guidebook. Although it can be done as a day trip, by walking one hour from Chikura station on the Uchibo line, I decided to drive from Tokyo and spend the night at Nojima cape, the southernmost point of the Boso peninsula; from there, it was a short drive to a parking near the trail entrance. I had done many hikes on the Boso peninsula, but it would be my first to hike in Minami-Boso.

View of the Pacific from the summit

Walking to the trailhead through the fields

I had been wanting to climb this low peak for several years, but had to be patient since the hiking trail was closed for a while after the powerful typhoons of 2019; online reports showed that the path was now more or less back to normal. After heading straight up the mountain, I go down following the ridgeline, and then walk back through the countryside. The weather was supposed to be sunny and so I was looking forward to new views in a new area.

View of the forested ridge through a break in the trees

Late autumn leaves on the summit

I drove along the Pacific coast under the late morning sun to the nearby Nanbo Chikura Bridge Park Parking (南房千倉大橋公園), from where it was a 20 minute walk to the trailhead next to a temple. At 1230, I started up a series of steps, following the winding path through the evergreen forest of Japanese stone oaks (マテバシイ matebashii). Very soon the trail became level and the forested summit ridge appeared through a break in the trees.

Fantastically shaped trees along the summit ridge

Summit shrine (left) / Valley bottom lake (right)

A little further, I passed under a stone Shinto gate at the top of a flight of steps, looking like the entrance to some long-lost ruin. I then made my way up a steep, muddy path, being careful not to slip, and at 1pm, emerged onto the flat summit of Mt Takatsuka (高塚山 たかつかやま takatsukayama), a kanto 100 famous mountain; the summit marker, wrecked by the typhoon, and had yet to be replaced and was nowhere to be seen.

Shinto gate at the mountain base (different from the one on the mountain itself)

Temple at the base of Mt Takatsuka

I was surprised to see a towering oak above a tiny shrine, its yellow trees still clinging on at the very end of autumn. On one side was a bench in the sun, with a view of the Pacific ocean, the perfect spot for lunch on a cool day. Before heading down, I explored a path behind the shrine building leading to a view point from where I could make out the faint outline of Mt Fuji. Once back down at the stone gate, I took a small path on the left side.

Mt Takatsuka in the late afternoon sun

Heading back through the fields

I marveled at the fantastic shapes of the tall trees as I followed the ridgeline northeast, here and there broken branches sill on the ground. The path descended gradually into a quiet, forested valley and ended at a peaceful lake, next to a paved road. After enjoying this magical spot, I walked down the road to the base of the mountain. From there, I followed a footpath through fields, golden in the late afternoon sun, past the starting point of the hike, and arrived back at my car just after 3pm.

See the views of the Mt Takatsuka hike

Slideshow of more photos from the Mt Takatsuka hike

Mt Futamata (570m), Kanuma City, Tochigi Prefecture, Saturday, December 10, 2022

I found this hike in my mountains of Tochigi guidebook. Although easily accessible by bus from Kanuma station, I hadn’t done it before since it was only 3 hours long. However, I had a vacation coming up in the next few days and since I didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, I decided to give it a try. I planned to follow the route in my guidebook, traversing the mountain from east to west. I had done several hikes from Kanuma before, so I was familiar with the area. The weather forecast was typical for December around the Tokyo area: blue skies and mild temperatures.

View eastwards from near the north summit

It was a sunny winter day as I rode the Nikko limited express to Kanuma station, where I boarded a bus for the short ride to the base of today’s mountain. While walking to the parking near the trailhead, I passed a nice-looking cafe called Chiki, still closed at this time, and an unattended jam stand; I couldn’t resist buying a small pot of blueberry jam, made with locally picked berries, inserting the money into a small box attached to the stand.

View southwards from near the north summit

View of the Oku-Nikko mountains from the south summit

A little after 10am, I started up the trail, following a stream, and soon turned right up the Shimozawa trail (下沢コース). A steep switchback path through the forest led to the ruins of Shimozawa castle (下沢城跡 368m) where I had view north of the other side of the valley through a gap in the trees. The path then descended for a while to Fudo rock (不動岩) before heading up again. Around 11h30, I arrived at an area clear of trees around a small white building that served as a TV antenna.

View of Yokone highland from the south summit

The rocky summit of Mt Kogashi from the south summit

Looking south-east, I could see summit of Mt Tsukuba, poking through the haze on other side of the Kanto plain. A short distance away was the north summit (北峰 kita-mine) of Mt Futamata (二股山 ふたまたやま futamata-yama), a Tochigi 100-famous mountain, from where I had a great view of Mt Kogashi, directly to the east. The path dived down a steep ridge, so I decided to backtrack a few meters, and take a detour path on the west side., soon rejoining the main trail at a saddle between the two summits.

Viewpoint of the Ashio mountains from below the south summit

A newly created trail along the southern ridge

I turned right, up a steep rocky path, and a little after noon, arrived at the south summit (南峰 minami-mine) of Mt Futamata. To the north, I could see the snow-capped peaks of Oku-Nikko: Mt Nantai, Mt Taro and Mt Nyoho; on the west side was Yokone Highland (横根高原). I continued along the trail, heading downhill for a short while till I reached another viewpoint. From here, I could see the Kanto plain spreading to the south, and the Ashio mountains extending westwards.

View through the trees from the new ridge trail

There were several viewpoints on the west side

After a short break, I retraced my steps back to the North summit and followed a trail on the west side. I had planned to descend via the Shimokuga trail (下久我コース) but it was no longer in use. Instead, I followed signs for a new trail leading to Kazono (加園), created in June 2022, and simply called the “Ridge” trail (尾根コース one-kosu). The path was faint, but thanks to the frequent signposts, and my phone GPS, I was able to follow it without hesitation, along the narrow, southern ridgeline.

A quiet view spot above the Arai river valley

Traditional house at the end of the trail

I was pleased to have stumbled onto a longer hike, adding about 2 hours to the original time; I was the only one on the trail, enjoying the sun through the bare trees, and the occasional views on the west side. Around 2h30, the path turned left, descending in zig zag under towering cedars. Soon after, I was walking along the bottom of a quiet valley, the surrounding forest bathed in the late afternoon sun. A little before 3pm, I arrived at a road, a couple of kilometers south of my original route. After a short wait, I caught a bus back to Kanuma station, where I boarded the Tobu Revaty limited express for the comfortable ride back to Tokyo.

See the views along the Mt Futamata hike

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

Mt Izugatake (851m), Hanno City, Saitama Prefecture, Sunday, November 27, 2022

I had climbed this peak over ten years ago, starting at Shomaru station, passing by Nenogongen Tenryu-ji Temple and ending at Agano station. This time, I wanted to climb it again as a station to station hike on the north side, which would also include a section of the Kanto Fureai no Michi. I could also take advantage of the direct limited express to Nishi-Agano, the last one running during the autumn season.

View towards the Green line from above the Old Shomaru Pass

Doraemon’s “anywhere door”, near Shomaru station

It was a sunny autumn day as I rode the Seibu Laview from Ikebukuro. At Nishi-Agano, I transferred to the Seibu-Chichibu line for the one-station ride to Shomaru station. A little after 10 am, I set off on a paved road along a stream, and soon reached the start of the hiking trail under a massive, orange Japanese maple.

Hiking in the sun near Kame-iwa

Steps leading to Mt Gorin (left) Approaching Mt Kawagoshi (right)

I followed the narrow path as it wound up the mountain side through a dark cedar forest. Just after 11am, I passed Kame-iwa (かめ岩), now walking in the sun; soon after, I arrived at Mt Okura (大蔵山 720m), a minor peak surrounded by trees. Here, I turned left, following the ridge; after climbing some log steps, I reached the top of Mt Gorin (五輪山 770m, meaning 5 rings), also within the forest. A little beyond, I stopped at junction, below the summit of today’s mountain.

Autumn colours near the summit of Mt Izugatake

View of the Kanto plain from just below the summit

I chose the gently sloping right branch, skipping the steep, rocky path of the other approach; I had already done my first time up this peak. A little before noon, I reached the summit of Mt Izu (伊豆ヶ岳 いずがたけ izugatake). Through the trees on the east side, I could see the low hills of Oku-Musashi, and beyond the Kanto plain; on the west side, the snowy top of Mt Asama was visible in the distance. After a short break lunch, I went back the same way.

A trail marker for the Kanto Fureai no Michi

Easy walking along the ridgeline

I followed the gently undulating ridgeline, the bare forest surrendering occasional glimpses of forested hills. I was now walking on the well-maintained Kanto Fureai no Michi. At 1pm, I reached a teahouse at Shomaru Pass (正丸峠) where I had a view of the valley leading to Shomaru station. I crossed the road, rejoining the hiking trail, and passed an arbor, the surrounding view mostly blocked by the trees.

Hiking between the Shomaru and Old Shomaru passes

Steps leading to Mt Shomaru (left) Steps leading to the Old Shomaru pass

I continued on the relaxing, easy trail, the autumn sun now below the treetops; I passed the minor peaks of Mt Shomaru (正丸山 785m) and Mt Kawagoshi (川越山), and at the bottom of a long series of log steps, arrived at the Old Shomaru Pass (旧正丸峠), just before 2pm. Here, I turned right, leaving the Kanto Fureai no Michi, heading into the forest and down the mountain. After crossing a road, the trail ran alongside a small stream.

Last autumn colours of the season under a rocky outcrop

Approaching the end of the hiking trail

I passed by some trees in beautiful autumn colours, at the base of a rocky outcrop, probably the last time to see autumn leaves while hiking this year. At 3pm, I exited the forest and followed the road back to the nicely-designed Shomaru station, just a short distance away. There, I boarded the local train for the one-stop ride to Nishi-Agano and then transferred to the limited express for the one hour ride back to Ikebukuro.

See a video from the Mt Izugatake hike

Mt Odake (1267m), Okutama Town, Tokyo Prefecture, Saturday, November 19, 2022 [Mitakesan Station to Okutama Station]

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

Mt Tanze (1398m), Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, Saturday, November 12, 2022

Hiking in the Nikko National Park 日光国立公園

I chose a beautiful sunny autumn day for this hike from my mountains of Tochigi guidebook. I had been keeping it for the autumn, since it was mostly along a forest road and required dry conditions. I used the Nikko limited express to get to Tobu-Nikko directly from Ikebukuro.

Mt Nantai, a 100 famous mountain of Japan

Road walking, enhanced by the autumn colours

A short bus ride from Nikko station brought me to the trail entrance, ten minutes past the Toshogu shrine. I followed a forest road up the mountain side via a series of zigzags, spotting several “kamoshika“, or Japanese Serow, along the way. It took about an hour an a half to reach “numa no daira” (沼の平) in the midst of the orange larches.

Resplendent colours in the autumn sun

Pine trees could be found higher up the mountain

I continued hiking through the beautiful forest of the Nikko National Park, and reached a junction at 12h20, where I turned left. I walked along the gently sloping dirt road as it continued its zigzag up the mountain, enjoying views of Oku-Nikko on the west side, and scaring the occasional “kiji” or Japanese pheasant.

View from the near the start of the summit trail

Fiery larch in front of Mt Nantai

After about an hour, I reached a fantastic viewpoint of Mt Nantai, towering above fiery larches. After some searching, I found the trail entrance for the final climb to the summit, a ten-minute scramble through thick vegetation. At 1pm, I was standing on top of Mt Tanze 丹勢山(たんぜやま tanzeyama). It was completely in the trees, so I quickly retraced my steps to a viewpoint of Mt Nantai and Mt Nyoto, and sat down on some rocks for a quick lunch.

Mt Nyoho (right) in the clouds

The mountains of Nikko

Feeling satisfied with the views, I walked back the same way, but went left at the junction, following an alternate route down the mountain. The switchback forest road quickly descended into a deforested valley bottom, offering good views to the west of Mt Nakimushi. It was already 3h30 and most of the valley was already in the shadows. I crossed two bridges, surprised a deer at a bend in the road, and finally emerged from the forest into a residential area at 4h30.

Looking west, Mt Nakimushi

Autumn colours could be seen along the entire hike

After enjoying the setting sun, I decided to walk back to Tobu-Nikko station, less than an hour away, to avoid the usual traffic jams around the Toshogu. There, I boarded a Revaty limited express for the 90-minute ride back to Tokyo. Although most of the hike was along forest roads, I saw no other hikers, and was rewarded with beautiful autumn colours and glimpses of wild animals along the way.

See the beautiful autumn colours of the Nikko area

Mt Koasama (1655m) & The Shinano Nature Trail, Karuizawa Town, Nagano Prefecture, Saturday, November 5, 2022

Hiking with the Tokyo Wide Pass

Hiking in the Joshin-Estu Kogen National Park


View towards the Nishi-Joshu mountains

Autumn colours were at their peak on the Shinano Nature Trail

This was the second of two hikes using the Tokyo Wide Pass. On the first trip, I went to Shiobara. This time, I decided to visit the Karuizawa area; I created my own hike, since I couldn’t find anything suitable near a shinkansen station in my hiking books. I would ride a bus to the east side of Mt Asama, go up and down a small protrusion there (I did one on the south side during Golden week), and then follow the Shinano Nature Trail back to the outskirts of Karuizawa town; on the way, I would pass by the Shiraito Falls. It was my first time to visit Karuizawa in November, and although I was concerned about crowds, I was looking forward to seeing its beautiful autumn colours.

View of Mt Hanamagari (left) and Mt Myogi (right)

View of Mt Asamakakushi (left) and Mt Haruna (center)

It was overcast and cold when I reached the start of the trail near Mine-no-Chaya (峰の茶屋) at 11am, after a 30 minute bus ride from the station. At 1400m high, autumn was already over. I followed a gently rising trail through leafless birches up the side of the miniature volcano. Very soon, I was scrambling up the exposed, rocky summit cone, and just before noon, I was standing on top of Mt Koasama (小浅間山 こあさまやま koasamayama). The name means “little Asama” and turning around, I could see the much bigger summit cone of Mt Asama opposite, its tip already covered with specks of snow.

View of the eastern side of Mt Asama from Mt Koasama

Trail for Mt Koasama (left) / The Shinano Nature Trail (right)

I had a glorious view of the surrounding forest, forming a multicolour patchwork of red, orange and yellow. To the south, I could see the mountains of Nishi-Joshu fading into the midday haze, although the jagged top of Mt Myogi was clearly visible. After enjoying the panoramic view, I retreated to the relative warmth of the forested lower section. By 1pm, I was at the start of the Shinano Nature Trail (信濃自路然歩道 shinanoji shizen hodo), just a few minutes from the base of the mini-volcano. It felt even colder than before, and I was surprised to see a few snowflakes float down from the sky.

Yellow larches along the Shinano Nature Trail

A relaxing hike along the side of a river valley

I followed a well-maintained and easy to hike trail through a wintry white-birch forest (白樺 shira-kaba), and after descending a series of log steps, reached the the Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝 shiraito-no-taki, meaning “white thread”). There were quite a few people here so I didn’t linger. I continued along the trail, as it followed the side of a narrow river valley, occasionally crossing the water over small wooden bridges, the sound of rushing water always in the background.

The Shiraito falls, the highlight of the Shinano Nature Trail

Walking next to a river (left) / Walking among the autumn leaves (right)

I was surrounded by towering yellow larches, and it felt like autumn had suddenly returned. At 3pm, I took a break at Ryugaeshi no taki (竜返しの滝), a few minutes off the main trail. As the hiking path gradually descended, the trees regained their colours and the sunlight burst through the clouds. I met few other hikers, and after another hour of relaxing and peaceful hiking, arrived at the Mikasa (三笠) bus stop. There, I caught a bus just after 4pm for the short ride back to Karuizawa station, where I boarded the shinkansen for the one-hour trip back to Tokyo.

See the views from the top of Mt Kosama and along the Shinano Nature Trail

See a slideshow of more photos of the hike

Mt Yasuto (1151m), Nasu-Shiobara City, Tochigi Prefecture, Thursday, November 3rd, 2022

Hiking in the Nikko National Park 日光国立公園

Hiking with the Tokyo Wide Pass

View of Mt Yasuto near the start of the hike

River crossing near the start of the hiking trail

The weather was supposed to be good for the 3-day period starting with Culture Day, a national holiday in Japan, so I decided to buy a Tokyo Wide Pass. For my trip I decided to climb a mountain from my Hiking in the Tochigi mountains guidebook located between Shiobara and Nasu mountain, inside the Nikko National Park. Apparently the previous emperor also climbed it at one time. I rode the shinkansen to Nasu-Shiobara station where I transferred to a local train for Nishi-Nasuno, the next station on the line; there, I caught a bus for Agripal Highland which I reached a little before 11am.

Beautiful autumn colours below the summit ridge

Stunning momiji tree just before the steep climb to the top

I had some good views of today’s mountain as I walked 40 minutes along country lanes to the trail entrance. I followed a well-maintained, but poorly signposted trail up the side of the mountain. At 1pm, the trail connected with the end of a forest road, which I would later follow on the way down. For now, I followed the trail through a stunning forest of yellow, orange and red leaves. After climbing a steep slope, roped for safety, I arrived at the narrow top of Mt Yasuto (安戸山 やすとやま yasutoyama), a Tochigi 100 famous mountain, just before 2pm, a peaceful place surrounded by trees.

More colours along the undulating ridgeline

A peaceful trail through the forest

The trail continued along the undulating ridgeline and eventually, a little before 3pm, merged with the forest road, which I followed for about half an hour, before leaving it for an easy-to-miss hiking trail on the left side. It took another half an hour of relaxing hiking to reach Takahachimangu shrine (鷹八幡宮) at the foot of the mountain; supposedly, there was a viewpoint along the way but I completely missed it. From there, it was a short walk through the fields back to the roadside station at Agripal Highland, which I reached at around 4pm.

Merging with the forest trail below the summit

Walking through the fields back to the bus stop

The amazing autumn colours more than made up for the lack of views on this hike. Moreover, I didn’t see a soul on the trail, apart from a small brown frog hiding among the fallen leaves. After catching the bus back to Nishi-Nasuno, I had a quick soak at the nearby Nogi Onsen before heading back to Nasu-Shiobara for the 90-minute shinkansen ride back to Tokyo.

Watch a video of the autumn colours on the Mt Yasuto hike

View a slideshow of some more photos of the Mt Yasuto hike

Mt Yogai (780m), Mt Fukakusa (906m) & Mt Daizokyoji (715m), Kofu and Fuefuki Cities, Yamanashi Prefecture, Saturday, October 15, 2022

View of the Kofu basin from near the summit of Mt Yogai

This was a hike from my mountains of Yamanashi guidebook. I chose it mainly because it seemed to follow fire breaks through the forest and would thus be free from spiders and their webs (or so I hoped), a real problem when doing low altitude hiking in the autumn. I also chose it because it ended at Isawa Onsen, a hot spring town and a limited express station; I hadn’t been there since 2020 so I was looking forward to visiting again. Finally, I could reach the trail entrance next to Yogai Onsen via a short taxi ride from Kofu station, making it almost a station to station hike.

An easy to follow trail at the start of the hike

Nearing the summit of Mt Yogai, the site of an ancient fort

At 10h15, I started up a well-maintained trail for the summit of Mt Yogai (要害山 ようがいさん yougaisan), the site of an old castle; signposts marked the various sections of the fort, but apart from mounds and ditches, there wasn’t much to see (except for a huge snake – see video). The summit was a grassy, rectangular area surrounded by trees, through which I had glimpses of the Kofu basin. The next part of the hike, a level trail along the mountainside, led to Fukakusa Kanon (深草観音); the main attraction is a long metallic ladder leading to a tiny cave in a cliff, also accessible via a small path on the right side (this is not part of the hiking trail).

Beautiful red pine trees along the way

The ladder leads to a small cave

After a short climb next to a rocky, dried-up river bed, I reached Iwado Pass (岩堂峠) and then followed an easy, level path through beautiful forest. I soon reached a junction at Shishiana (鹿穴) where I turned southeast along the ridgeline. The path suddenly became harder to follow. It was obvious that fewer people had followed it and I soon walked into a spider web; fortunately its owner remained dangling above my head. After some ups and downs, I arrived at the peaceful summit of Mt Fukasaka (深草山 ふかくさやま fukasamayama), also completely in the trees.

The ladder at Fukakusa Kannon, from the side and looking up

View of the Kofu basin between Mt Fukakusa and Mt Daizokyoji

Past this point, the trail started to descend steeply. I had some more glimpses of the Kofu basin on the right side, and spotted another large snake slither off the trail and into the bushes, before arriving at Mt Daizokyoji (大蔵経寺山 だいぞうきょうじやま daizoukyoujiyama). Oddly enough, the summit maker was about 100 meters from the highest point, and surrounded by thick forest. I chose to take the panorama route down, but had to wait till the lower half of the trail for some good views of the Kofu basin and surrounding mountains.

View towards the Mt Fuji area from the Panorama trail

View toward the South Alps from the Panorama trail

I arrived at Isawa Onsen at 4h30, in time to enjoy some wine tasting from the wine server at the Fukeki Tourist Office on the 1st floor of the station building (ends at 5pm). After a nice hot bath at the nearby Hotel Hana Isawa, I boarded the Chuo line limited express for the 90 minute ride back to Shinjuku.

See the views on the Mt Yogai – Mt Daizokyoji hike

Mt Kintoki (1212m), Minami-Ashigara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Saturday, October 1st, 2022 [Yuhi Waterfall to Otome Pass route]

Hiking in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park


I was looking for a hike close to Tokyo, high enough to escape the late summer heat and strenuous enough to maintain my regained form. I decided to revisit a mounatin I climbed ten years ago, which I could traverse north to south via a different route that would include a famous waterfall, as well as views of Mt Fuji. The trail up from Ashigara in Kanagawa, connected by local bus from Matsuda station, had been closed for a while due to typhoon damage; however looking online, it seemed to be in use again. I also saw that the final section was quite steep, a good test of my current physical ability. The trail down ended at a hot spring near Gotemba in Shizuoka, connected to the station by shuttle bus. The weather was supposed to be mostly sunny and warm, with few clouds and little wind, ideal conditions conditions for hiking. I was looking forward to climbing a familiar mountain via a new, challenging route and getting some good views of Mt Fuji in the autumn.

Mt Fuji before it got engulfed in the clouds

Yuhi waterfall, a famous purification spot

A cloudy cover still lingered in the early morning sky, as I rode the Odakyu Romance limited express train to Shin-Matsuda station. There, I boarded a full bus and rode it all the way to Jizodo (地蔵堂), the last stop. I had been there once before on my Yamabushi-daira hike. This time, I continued on foot along a small paved road up a pleasant, green valley. The sun was now shining above, and although it was only 9h30am, it already felt quite warm; despite that, the cosmos flowers were out, a sure sign of autumn.

A 23 meter drop (left) Climbing up the Ashigara Pass trail

Moth spotted near the start of the hike

I was delighted to spot a beautiful yellow moth on a phone booth, possibly a Japanese silk moth. At 10am, I reached the entrance for the short trail to the waterfall, next to a campground. A few minutes later, I was standing in front of the thundering Yuhi waterfall (夕日の滝). The water falls from a height of 23 meters, and apparently it’s a popular place for people to stand under to get purified. At 10h30, I started up the Kintoki trail (金時コース), a gently climbing trail through cedars. After passing an open shelter, the trail went up a shady valley next to a mountain stream.

Easy hiking along the Ashigara Pass trail

The summit of Mt Kintoki, a tough climb via the north side

I was happy to be walking next to a river again, the rushing water like music to my ears. The rocky terrain made it difficult to see the path, but pink ribbons attached to branches, as well as the occasional signpost, led the way. At 11am, the trail left the river and went up a steep ridge. I met no one along this section, adding to the sense of peace and quiet. Half an hour later, after getting a glimpse of today’s summit through a gap in the trees, I reached a level dirt road, also the Ashigara Pass Trail (足柄峠コース). I turned left, and 3o minutes later, arrived at a viewpoint of Mt Fuji.

Mt Fuji slowly disappearing into the clouds

The western part of the Tanzawa mountains

I was lucky that the summit was free of clouds; just a few minutes later some clouds rolled in and refused to budge for the rest of the day. According to my map I was at the remains of the Inohara Fort (猪鼻砦跡 962m), a few stone blocks making a good place to sit and have an early lunch while enjoying the view. Directly ahead loomed the triangular-shaped summit of today’s mountain, looking steep and menacing. I soon set off again, the path now climbing straight up the mountain side, equipped with ropes and ladders for safety.

Lots of ladders to assist the hiker

Mt Hakone at the center of Hakone Volcano

I was surprised to find such a thrilling ascent so close to Tokyo; halfway up, the view through the trees to the northwest made me feel like I was hanging from a cliff. To the left, Mt Fuji was now completely in the clouds, to the right, I could see the green Tanzawa mountain range. I met several people on their way down, and had to find “passing spots” to let them by. At 1pm, I emerged onto the top of Mt Kintoki (金時山 きんときやま kintoki-yama). I had a fantastic view of the entire Hakone area; beyond the outer caldera, I could see Mt Ashitaka, Suruga bay, and a big cloud where Mt Fuji was supposed to be. As on my previous visit, the summit area was fairly crowded so I quickly moved on.

Viewpoint between Mt Kintoki and Mt Nagao

View of Mt Fuji and Gotemba city from Otome Pass

I made my way down a steep path through forest, counter-clockwise along the outer caldera rim, and now inside the Hakone part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Half an hour later, I passed the flat summit of Mt Nagao (長尾山 1150m), surrounded by trees. After some more descending I arrived at Otome Pass (乙女峠 1004m). From a small wooden observation platform, I could see the lower half of Mt Fuji and Gotemba city spread out around its base. At 3pm, I reached a bus stop next to Otome Tunnel; I hopped on the next bus and got off at the nearby Fuji Hakkei no Yu. After a relaxing hot spring bath, I took the shuttle bus to Gotemba station, where I boarded the Odakyu Fujisan limited express for the 100-minute trip back to Shinjuku.

See and hear the sounds and sights of the Yuhi waterfall and Mt Kintoki hike