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:

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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:

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

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The third peak:

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

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There was some kind of F1 race on as well:

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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:

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Some mushrooms along the trail:

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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:

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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:

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

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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’:

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

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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:

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Ducks:

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

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The kappa-bashi bridge:

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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:

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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’:

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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:

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

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Kamikochi D1-5

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

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

Kamikochi D1-6

Sunset:

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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):

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The Seven Gods of Luck stand watch:

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The start of the trail proper:

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

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Ladies enjoying a day out:

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

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There are stepping stones up the middle of the stream:

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 Camouflage:

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Summer flowers along the trail:

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View from the top of the mountain:

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And then back to the concrete city…

Mt Gongen/ Mt Kobo

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:

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View of Fuji from Mt Gongen:

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Cherry blossoms along the way:

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Japanese ‘nature’ perfectly disected by the trail:

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At the top of Mt Kobo:

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Wildflowers on the trail:

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Near Tsurumaki Onsen:

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An ivy-covered house near Tsurumaki Onsen with lilac blossoms:

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Kirifuri Falls

This is a hike we did during Spring vacation across 霧降高原 (Kirifuri Plateau) and down to Kirifuri Falls near Nikko. We wanted to hike up Mt Oyama but the path had been washed out/landslide so we had to change route. It was kind of lucky in a way as there were some gorgeous waterfalls that we may not have otherwise seen.

The start of the hike was not particularly interesting. It was just the wrong season – too late for mountain cherry blossoms but too early for Spring flowers so mainly just this grass:

Kirifuri 1From there we walked down the mountain to 丁字滝 (Teiji Falls):

Kirifuri 2Kirifuri 3 From there we climbed back up to マックラ滝 (Makkura Falls):

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Then we followed the course along the Kirifuri River:

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And up the inevitable stairs:

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This is the view from the Kirifuri Falls lookout. The middle mountain is where we started from:

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霧降の滝 (Kirifuri Falls):

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Kirifuri 9

Oyama 2

As a warm-up for Mt Fuji we climbed the aptly named Oyama (大山 – ‘big mountain’) just out of Yokohama. We’d gone half-way up before but were blocked by too much snow. This time, we made it all the way but when we reached the summit it was shrouded in cloud and a fine mist. It was all very atmospheric so I shot in black & white.

View across the ridge:

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The path to the summit:

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At times, we could barely see ten metres ahead:

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The summit:

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