Kamakura Stroll Pt 1

It was nice and sunny on the weekend so we went down to Kamakura, the rival capital of Japan to Kyoto during the 12th and 13th centuries. It’s an interesting place for an aimless wander, full of little back streets, old houses and cafes. These are some shots from around town.

An old house:

TOASI Kamakura Old Japanese House

Travelling in style:

TOASI Kamakura Rickshaw

A traditional sweets shop:

TOASI Kamakura Okashi-ya

Beckoning cat:

 TOASI Kamakura Cat

I’m not sure what these flowers are but they have an interesting shape:

TOASI Kamakura White Plant

At a temple:

TOASI Kamakura Woman in Temple

TOASI Kamakura Temple Pink Flowers

Taking in the Autumn colours:

TOASI Kamakura Bridge

高水三山 – Takamizusan-zan

This was a short day-hike we did back in May but hadn’t got round to looking at the pictures. The course traverses three peaks (三山 means ‘three mountains’) in the Okutama range west of Tokyo and there are some nice views (well, from two of them anyway). It’s not a very difficult hike – basically a walk through the woods – but hey it’s not concrete (mostly) and it’s quite pleasant. The official course goes from Ikusabata Station to Mitake Station but we went the other way – rather than start with a long slog up a concrete slope we ended by coming down it. It’s much nicer to plunge straight up the mountain when you are still fresh and can really enjoy it.

This is the start from Mitake Station:

TOASI Takamizusanzan 1

The course then quickly rises and continues through the forest:

TOASI Takamizusanzan 2

TOASI Takamizusanzan 3

Mountains have always been considered sacred places in Japan and you often small shrines dedicated to them:

TOASI Takamizusanzan 4

TOASI Takamizusanzan 5

The view from the second peak (the first one didn’t have much of a view at all):

TOASI Takamizusanzan 6

The third peak:

TOASI Takamizusanzan 7

A well-protected bus-stop on the way down:

TOASI Takamizusanzan 8

There was some kind of F1 race on as well:

TOASI Takamizusanzan 9

Takao-san Guchi

Today was one of those beautiful, clear, sunny Autumn days that you get here so we decided to go out for lunch to Mt Takao and enjoy some of the Autumn leaves. It was actually still a bit early for the full Autumn colours but it was probably for the best – the crowds were bad enough as it was!

This is the ropeway station. The queue was about 1-hour long so we decided not to bother:

Takao Nov 2013-1

Still, there were some nice early flashes of colour:

Takao Nov 2013-0

Some jizo statues near the station (had the ISO up a little too high here):

Takao Nov 2013-4

Takao Nov 2013-2

Leaves on a pond:

Takao Nov 2013-3

Down by the river:

Takao Nov 2013-5

We had a delicious lunch of tempura and soba noodles at this restaurant. One of the tempura was made with dried persimmon which we’d never seen before. If you look closely the restaurant has been built around a tree that protudes from the roof:

Takao Nov 2013-6

The inside, with tree:

Takao Nov 2013-7

Foliage near the station:

Takao Nov 2013-8

Mt Kikka – Mt Gozen – Mt Kagura Hiking

We had a bit of an adventure at the weekend. We wanted to go for a hike up Mt Shoto but we missed one train connection just as the doors were closing which meant we also missed the bus connection – the one bus per hour! We decided then to keep going down the same line to Otsuki station which had a short three-hour hike on the map.
We should’ve had some idea something was up by both the “You want to go where?” look the tourist office lady gave us and the fact that we couldn’t find the start of the trail! Lost before we’d started. This was a small temple that was not the start:

Mt Gozen 1

We found the start of the trail which, after a short flight of steps, turned into a 60° climb pulling ourselves up with ropes:

Mt Gozen 2

Some mushrooms along the trail:

Mt Gozen 3

This was not the smartest thing to be doing in 33° heat and humidity but we managed to reach the top of that peak where, if you look closely, you can see Mt Fuji:

Mt Gozen 4

That was the first of the three peaks and was relatively straightforward. Generally after the initial climb you can walk along the ridge line with only some up and down:

Mt Gozen 5

There was some quite nice hiking in places – well I’m sure it would be enjoyable in Autumn anyway:

Mt Gozen 9

But it soon became clear that the city council, figuring no-one in their right mind would go hiking in the middle of summer, didn’t bother to maintain the paths and just let them grow for those months. It was like a jungle! The paths were criss-crossed with spider webs, we literally had to slash our way through overgrowth in some places, we lost the path a couple of times. We were like a pair of Dr Livingstones! Eventually, we made it down the mountain only to find the last stairs so completely overgrown we couldn’t even see the path. Here are some iPhone snaps.

This is the ‘path’:

Mt Gozen 6

At some point what goes up must come down – then get lost, then go back up again, find the path and come down:

Mt Gozen 7

Somewhere in here there were stairs:

Mt Gozen 8

Moral of the story: don’t go hiking in Summer (and if you do wear long pants)!!

Kamikochi – Day 2

The next day we set off and took a different route across the river to walk back to the station. The hiking route actually continues all the way around the river and then to the summit of the peaks but not quite at this level yet:

Kamikochi D2-1

Bridge over the river:

Kamikochi D2-2

This side of the river is mostly wetland and you walk along boardwalks through the marshes:

Kamikochi D2-5

Ducks:

Kamikochi D2-4

Even though it’s the middle of summer there is still some snow and ice:

Kamikochi D2-6

The kappa-bashi bridge:

Kamikochi D2-7

Monument to Walter Weston, a British missionary who first popularised mountaineering in Japan (previously it was mainly only for religious ascetics) and campaigned to have Kamikochi preserved as a national park. Apparently the monument was hidden during the war to save it from being melted down:

Kamikochi D2-8

Kamikochi – Day 1

We decided to escape the 35 degree heat on the weekend and go camping up into the Japanese Alps of Nagano to the Kamikochi area. The area is a National Park where cars are prohibited from entering for ‘preserving and maintaining the virgin nature’. Which, of course, brings bus-loads of tourists. But, once you get further up away from the crowds (and don’t look too closely at the bulldozed river), it really is a very scenic and beautiful spot.

With the soaring mountain peaks, it is truely deserving of its tag ‘The Japanese Alps’:

Kamikochi D1-1

Once past the bus-stop and main tourist area, the hiking course winds up the slope along the river:

Kamikochi D1-2

And then back into a birch forest:

Kamikochi D1-33

There are small streams running through the forest – I imagine in spring they would be flooded with melt-off from the snow:

Kamikochi D1-4

Kamikochi D1-5

Every now and then we could catch a glimpse of the mountain peaks:

Kamikochi D1-3

After a couple of hours walking through the forest we came back out towards the river and eventually the campsite:

Kamikochi D1-6

Sunset:

Kamikochi D1-7

Mt Takao Hike

We went for a short hike on the weekend up Mt Takao. It’s easy to see why this got 3 stars in the Michellin Guide – there’s not many other major world cities where less than two hours on the train, and still technically within the city, you can find yourself walking up mountain trails. We went on Trail #6 which runs along a small stream, so it was wonderful to escape the summer heat if only for a short time (though not the humidity!).

Getting into the spirit of it (recently trail running has become popular):

TakaoJuly13-1

The Seven Gods of Luck stand watch:

TakaoJuly13-2

The start of the trail proper:

TakaoJuly13-3

The mountain was a popular pilgrimmage site – devotees would stand under the waterfall and pray:

TakaoJuly13-4

Ladies enjoying a day out:

TakaoJuly13-5

The mountain is covered with old growth forest – amazing that it’s actually inside the City of Tokyo:

TakaoJuly13-6

TakaoJuly13-7

There are stepping stones up the middle of the stream:

TakaoJuly13-8

 Camouflage:

TakaoJuly13-9

Summer flowers along the trail:

TakaoJuly13-10

TakaoJuly13-11

View from the top of the mountain:

TakaoJuly13-12

And then back to the concrete city…