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:
We found the start of the trail which, after a short flight of steps, turned into a 60° climb pulling ourselves up with ropes:
Some mushrooms along the trail:
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:
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:
There was some quite nice hiking in places – well I’m sure it would be enjoyable in Autumn anyway:
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’:
At some point what goes up must come down – then get lost, then go back up again, find the path and come down:
Somewhere in here there were stairs:
Moral of the story: don’t go hiking in Summer (and if you do wear long pants)!!
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:
Bridge over the river:
This side of the river is mostly wetland and you walk along boardwalks through the marshes:
Even though it’s the middle of summer there is still some snow and ice:
The kappa-bashi bridge:
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:
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’:
Once past the bus-stop and main tourist area, the hiking course winds up the slope along the river:
And then back into a birch forest:
There are small streams running through the forest – I imagine in spring they would be flooded with melt-off from the snow:
Every now and then we could catch a glimpse of the mountain peaks:
After a couple of hours walking through the forest we came back out towards the river and eventually the campsite:
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):
The Seven Gods of Luck stand watch:
The start of the trail proper:
The mountain was a popular pilgrimmage site – devotees would stand under the waterfall and pray:
Ladies enjoying a day out:
The mountain is covered with old growth forest – amazing that it’s actually inside the City of Tokyo:
There are stepping stones up the middle of the stream:
This was a short hike near Yokohama up Mt Kobo (弘法山) and across to Mt Gongen (権現山), starting from Hadano Station and finishing at Tsurumaki Onsen. It’s a very easy hike but it’s always nice to get away from the concrete for a while!
Enjoying the sunshine:
View of Fuji from Mt Gongen:
Cherry blossoms along the way:
Japanese ‘nature’ perfectly disected by the trail:
At the top of Mt Kobo:
Wildflowers on the trail:
Near Tsurumaki Onsen:
An ivy-covered house near Tsurumaki Onsen with lilac blossoms:
The day after Kirifuri, we went to the main Toshogu Shrine complex up from Nikko station. In his will, the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, requested that he be enshrined in Nikko (before he died, Ieyasu was so fat he was unable to mount a horse unaided!). At first relatively modest, the shrine and grounds was embellished and extended by the third shogun, Iemitsu, who also had himself enshrined here (the second shogun is tucked away in Ueno, Tokyo). The whole complex is now a World Heritage Site and is justifiably one of the most impressive sights in Japan.
The red bridge marks the boundary between the city of Nikko and the Toshogu:
The entrance to the complex:
A dragon welcomes:
The main torii entrance to Ieyasu’s shrine:
The Yomeimon gate:
The famous three monkeys:
Carvings beside the gate:
The inner shrine:
Dragon on the inner shrine:
We didn’t go up to the actual tomb of Ieyasu because it cost extra.