Mt Settou (1736m), Mt Junigadake (1683m) Kawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture

I had already hiked parts of the Misaka mountains – the mountainous area between Mt Fuji and the Oku-Chichibu mountains (for example Mt Ou to Mt Oni). However, I had never hiked the central part, between Kawaguchi and Saiko lakes. I decided to approach from Ashigawa valley on the North side, and finish at lake Saiko, on the South side. I took the Chuo line to Isawa Onsen station, and then the bus to the farmer’s market in Ashigawa 芦川. I had a very good impression of the place since they offered me free tea while I got ready for my hike!

Kawaguchiko City surrounded by nature

I started out after 10am, and walked along the road for about 20 minutes to the start of the trail, which then went straight up the side of the mountain, through trees completely bare of leaves. I reached Oishi pass (1515m) 大石峠 around noon. I had been there once before when hiking from Mt Kuro further to the East. This time I turned right and continued Westards along the ridge.

Kofu valley and beyond the Oku-chichibu mountains

The hiking path went up and down a wide ridge through beautiful evergreen forest. I had occasional views of Mt Fuji to my left, lake Kawaguchi behind me, and the Ashigawa valley to my right. I soon reached the top of Mt Settou 節刀ヶ岳 the third highest mountain along the ridge, after Mt Mitsumine and Mt Oni. From there I could see all the way to the Southern Alps, and the Kofu valley.

Against the sun, looking back towards Minobu

After admiring the view, I started to head down towards Saiko lake. Soon, I had to negotiate a slightly tricky bit involving some rocks and chains. After that, I arrived at the top of Mt Junigadake 十二ヶ岳 which translates simply as “Peak 12”, from where I had some more great views of Mt Fuji ahead of me. I now had two options. The path to the left was an exciting ridge including suspended bridges. Alternatively, I could head straight down to Izumi no Yu, a hot spring on the side of Saiko Lake. Since it was already 3pm, I decided to head down, and leave the exciting ridge for another hike.

Mt Ou (1623m) & Mt Oni (1738m), Fuji-kawaguchiko City, Yamanashi Prefecture


If you want to have spectacular views of Mt Fuji, I recommend hiking the peaks surrounding Japan’s most famous volcano in December or January, when the weather is clear, and the most mountains are still snow-free. Considering the time and effort it takes to get to the area, it would be a shame to miss out on the spectacular views, which are some of the best in Japan.


Ridgewalking involves some ups and downs

The start of the trail is next to Iyashi no Sato いやしの里 near Lake Saiko, about forty minutes away by bus from Kawaguchiko station (it can take longer due to traffic). It takes one hour along an unused road to reach the entrance of the hiking trail, and from there it’s another hour of steep climbing to the top of Mt Ou 王ヶ岳 (“King mountain”). The reward for this effort is a wide view of Mt Fuji with Aokigahara Forest spread out at its feet.


The Tenshi Mountains to the South

Following the trail to the right, the next part is an enjoyable hike along a narrow ridgeline, past Mt Kagikake (1589) 鍵掛山, and all the way to Mt Oni 鬼ヶ岳 (“Demon mountain”) about two hours away. It’s best to factor in more time for this part since there are many spectacular views on the way: Mt Fuji, the Misaka mountains, the Tenshi Mountains, the Minami Alps, Yatsugatake, the Kofu valley, Oku-Chichibu mountains, and Kawaguchiko city with its lake.


Minami Alps (left), Yatsugatake (right) and Mt Kasuga (front right)

From the summit, the path back down is to the right (South) towards Mt Settou (1710m) 雪頭ヶ岳 (not to be confused with nearby Mt Settou 節刀ヶ岳). After this last peak and final views, the trail heads steeply down the mountain through the forest, and ends back at Iyashi no Sato 90 minutes later, where one can catch a bus back to Kawaguchiko station.


Kawaguchi City with Mt Juni in front