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

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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:

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 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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Oku-Nikko 2 – Senjogahara

A nice walk just above Lake Chuzenji is across Senjogahara (戦場ヶ原), which means ‘battle plain’. Legend has that the gods of two mountains, Mt Nantai and Mt Akagi, fought here over control of Lake Chuzenji-ko. Nantai was losing so he consulted another god, Kashima Daimyojin, who introduced him to an expert archer called Sarumaru (who was actually one of Nantai’s grandsons – why he didn’t already know that I’m not sure). Nantai transformed himself into a white deer to lure Sarumaru out onto the plateau. The gods fought on Senjogahara where Akagi transformed himself into a giant horned centipede and Nantai transformed into a snake. Sarumaru then shot the centipede through the eye. Thus the winner was Mt Nantai who now stands watch over the lake.

There are wooden walkways that stretch across the plain:

Senjogahara - Marsh Walkway

Spring doesn’t come until the end of June so it is rather desolate at the end of winter:

Senjogahara - More Marshes

It is mainly marshland which makes you thankful for the excellently maintained walkways:

Senjogahara - Marshes

The walk ends at Yudaki Waterfalls:

Yudaki Waterfall

Mt Takao

On the western edge of Tokyo city there is an oasis of greenery amoung the grey: Mt Takao. A sacred mountain for over 1000 years, it’s amazing that an area with a network of hiking trails through wooded slopes lies within metropolitan Tokyo. It was awarded 3-stars in the Japan Michelin guide and apparently holds the Guinness record for the most climbed mountain in the world.

Unfortunately, when we went last weekend, it seemed they all decided to come at once. As the cable-car more resembled Shinjuku station, we joined the crowds shuffling up the hill:

Luckily, there were some jizo statues to keep watch over everyone:

Now that the haze of summer has started to clear, there are some great views back over Tokyo along the way:

On the way to the top of the mountain is the temple Yakuoin.  The sacred deities associated with the temple are tengus which have either long noses or beaks:

I’m not sure who this little guy is:

The main hall of Yakuoin:

The temple is richly decorated and colourful:

Temple priest. They blow horns made of giant conch shells that echo around the mountain:

Around a smaller out-building of the temple are a series of small jizo statues. If you can manage to place a 5-yen coin on the heads of all of them you will have good luck:

Although it can get a bit tricky:

Of course, the real reason for the hordes of walkers is the autumn leaves (and the fact it was on TV that week). They really are quite spectacular:

And another view from the top across Tokyo:

Mt Jinba Wildflowers

Here are some photos from a hike we did to Mt Jinba, out near Mt Takao on the very western edge of Tokyo. The hike we did was from 小仏 (Kobotoke) to 陣馬山 (Mt Jinba), around 14 kilometers. Once you get to the top of the peak it’s quite a nice walk along the ridge between the two mountains (around 800m). It’s actually the border between Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture so you straddle the two as you walk.

Summer wildflowers:

Wildflower with insect:

Wildflower with wasp:

Spider:

Mushrooms:

Kinugawa

Taking the Tobu Line from Asakusa in Tokyo north towards Nikko, the train branches at Shimo-imaichi station – the left takes you to Nikko while the right goes to Kinugawa. Kinugawa is an onsen hotspring town that inevitably became over-developed during the Bubble years of the 1980’s/90’s. Now, twenty years later, it has settled down into a quiet getaway from the tourist-bustle of Nikko itself with wonderful onsens, some stunning autumn foliage (although we went in Summer!) and boat rides down the river.

The name, 鬼怒川 Kinugawa, means devil or ogre river, which of course is reminded to visitors with all the subtlety one might expect in an ogre:

The Kinugawa river runs through the centre of town and down out to the rock formations of the Ryuou-kyou Ravine, which you can take a boat ride down:

You can do that, but we decided to hike it down. Following the left bank along the river affords some spectacular views of the ravine:

After a while you pass a small shrine with a waterfall:

Further along there is a bridge that crosses the ravine (with a soba noodle shop on the other side!):

From there you can hike back to town along the opposite bank. The path is dotted with summer wildflowers and even the occasional wildlife. After that, it’s time to enjoy a rewarding soak in an outdoor onsen over-looking the river.