Mt Myougi, 1104m, Gunma area

Even though the title of this post mentions the height, I didn’t actually summit this mountain (I thought about it though). The reason being that despite its low altitude, this is a dangerous and difficult mountain to climb. I used to think that you could walk up every mountain in Japan (chains and ladders being placed in the more sketchy parts) and that Mt Tsurugi was the most difficult of the peaks. However Mt Myougi has proven me wrong. All the summit paths are marked with dotted lines which means “experts only” with multiple danger signs and worrying comments added into the mix (“50m chimney – a lot of people have died here”).

So I ended up doing the scenic and safe tour along of the base of the mountain – not only were the views fantastic but there were some thrilling parts as well. Let’s not forget to say that Mt Myougi is one of the 3 sacred mountains of Gunma prefecture (the other two being Mt Akagi and Mt Haruna) and belongs to the 200 famous Japanese mountains.

HOW TO GET THERE: I had been putting off going to Mt Myougi for a while, imagining that it was hard to get to. I first saw this mountain while staying overnight with friends in Tomioka and while it seemed exciting to climb because of its ragged peaks it also seemed quite remote. Nothing could be further from the truth. I managed to get there in just over 2 hours from Ikebukuro station. Take a train to Takasaki station (you could go by Shinkansen but the saved time is not really worth the extra money in this case), get on a train for Yokosawa and get off at Matsuida, about 25 minutes away.

The view from the station exit is stunning – there are no surrounding mountains and Mt Myougi is quite close. I could also see a snow covered peak just behind it, maybe Mt Asama. I didn’t take a photo unfortunately hoping to get a better view from the mountain but never did.

Also unfortunate is that there is no bus from the station to the start of the hiking trail. You could walk along the road or take a taxi to Myougijinja (Myougi shrine). It takes about 10 minutes and costs about 1400 yen. I’m not really sure about the exact price since I shared the taxi with 3 other people and we split the fare – I paid only 400 yen. There aren’t that many taxis and although there weren’t many people, we still had to wait for one taxi to do the round-trip. Still I was at the start of the trail just before 10 am – two hours and a half after leaving Ikebukuro station.

There is a bus running from Joshutomioka station on a different line running south of the mountain but not only does it take forty minutes to reach that station by train, the bus also takes forty minutes, basically adding one hour to the travel time so I wouldn’t recommend going this way.

THE ROUTE: From the taxi drop off point, I headed up the street on the right to the Myougi shrine and through to the start of the hiking trail beyond it. In some respects the base of this mountain is similar to Mt Tsukuba – many people visit it to see the shrine and pray. My original plan was to walk the Chukan Michi along the base of the mountain however I wanted to tag along a loop that would take me close to the easternmost summit and which had some good views according to the map. Since I would also return by taxi, for  once I had no concerns about having to hurry to catch a bus at the end of the hike, except maybe getting off the mountain trail before it gets pitch black (after 5pm in this season).

The first part of the route. Note the chains and the danger signs in red.

The first part of the route. Note the chains and the danger signs in red.

The 2nd part of the hike.

The 2nd part of the hike (my path is the upper blue one).

I left the sightseers behind once I exited the Shrine grounds and I soon encountered a beautiful momiji (maple leaf tree) displaying vibrant autumn colours (there were a couple in the shrine as well). Although the Kouyou season has already ended on the top parts of the mountain, it was now it full swing around the base of the mountain. The path soon started climbed and before long I was pulling myself up steep inclines with the aid of chains. Nothing dramatic though – you could easily walk it up but pulling yourself does take make it easier on the legs.

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Shrine surrounded by golden maple trees

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Sugi and Momiji (Cedar tree and Maple tree)

At one point I reached a huge boulder with chains that supposedly had a viewpoint on top. Thanks to my long legs and arms I clambered to the top in a matter of seconds. I was at the “Big” kanji that is on the mountain (the Kanji’s size is big and it is also the kanji for the word big). The view was really good, especially since it a blue skies type of day. In front of me, the Kanto plain. I couldn’t see all the way to Tokyo though since in truth I wasn’t very high, perhaps 800 meters. To the south was a mass of peaks that forms the Northern part of the Chichibu mountains. Apart from My Ryogami, most of this area is virgin territory for me. To the north I could clearly see Mt Haruna and Mt Akagi.  These mountains are so massive, I really must visit them more often. In the far distance I could make out the snow covered peaks of Mt Hotaka, Mt Tanigawa and various other connected peaks. Winter has arrived definitely to that part of Japan. And of course, just behind me, one of the steep and rocky peaks of Mt Myougi, Hakuunsan.

Mt Haruna, lots to explore

Mt Haruna, lots to explore

Mt Hakuun

Mt Hakuun

I had to wait a little to clamber down again since the only route down the boulder was being ascended by a much slower Japanese hiker. Finally I was able to get back onto the hiking trail. Very soon I reached a junction where the top route continued to the summit and the left train looped around down the mountain and connected with the Chuukan path. I decided to continue along the summit trail as far as possible.

Within minutes I was scrambling over rocks again and holding on to chains, but nothing I hadn’t done a hundred times before on other mountains. Finally a reached some steps leading to a ladder leading into a cave. I climbed into the cave which turned out to be a sort of shrine but couldn’t see the next part of the path. It was  a dead end. There was an opening above me but it was for Spiderman only.

I retraced my steps thinking that somehow I had overlooked the trail and found it to the right of the steps just beyond a towering cedar tree. I wasn’t surprised I had missed it since it wasn’t a path but a steep rocky incline with a chains and some footholds. Now I’ve done a few of these before but none quite as long or steep. I pulled myself up halfway but didn’t really feel all that safe – a fall would result in more than a few bruises – so I decided to go down again. I had no intention of completing this route, I was just curious to see what is was like and my curiosity was satisfied.

I went back down to the trail junction and started down the mountain. There were another passage with chains, a few nice sunny view points and I stopped at one of them to have lunch. Eventually I got to the Chuukan michi. It was a very pleasant up and down path (more up than down though) through the autumn foliage  There were some truly fantastic autumn colours along the way and I couldn’t believe how few people there were. I saw later on the web that there were thousands of people at Mount Takao the same day.

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Framed View

The Southern part of the Myougi range

The Southern part of the Myougi range

Autumn Colours galore

Autumn Colours galore

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Believe it or not, there is a ridge route following the top

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Myougi’s craggy peaks

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Sunny day, autumn colours: a great combination

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My destination: beyond those peaks

After a while I got to a series of steps that took me very close to the top of one of Mt Myougi’s peaks. I didn’t expect the trail to go that high, perhaps 1000m but hard to tell from the map. At this point the skies had clouded over a little but the views were still good. I ended walking along the base of a cliff just below a summit. At times the path was carved inside the cliff and I had to walk bent double. Quite a fantastic path and one of the highlights of the hike!

The long staircase

The long staircase

The low overhang

The low overhang

Getting cloudy

The highest point of the hike

Later on I got to a viewpoint that could be reached by a series of rocky up and downs fitted with chains. There were somewhat more people here since this spot is closer to the other end of the Myougi range that has another shrine and a car park. While waiting for my turn to go down the chains I took abundant photos of the mountains stretching away to the south. There was one especially that caught my eye – Mt Arafune. It had a very long flat top like a table, quite an intriguing sight.

The best panorama of the hike

The best panorama of the hike

Lots of hiking possibilities

Lots of hiking possibilities

Endless mountains

Endless mountains

On the right, Mt Arafune or tabletop mountain as I call it

On the right, Mt Arafune or tabletop mountain as I call it

When I reached the end of the path, I was also able to enjoy a great view of Mt Myougi to the North. The sun had come out again and the whole range was bathed in a late afternoon sunlight, perfect for taking pictures. After I while I headed back to the main path, went down some more, under a rocky bridge, through a picnic spot and then up to another viewpoint where I could admire the rocky crags I had clambered over just a few minutes before.

The northern part of the Myougi range

The northern part of the Myougi range

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End of the path

For once posing with a summit I didn't conquer

For once posing with a summit I didn’t conquer

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A great hike nonetheless

Not an easy path

Not an easy path

The view of the 1st viewpoint from the 2nd viewpoint

The view of the 1st viewpoint from the 2nd viewpoint

Typical Myougi landscape

Typical Myougi landscape

Mt Kondou the other main Myougi peak

Mt Kondou the other main Myougi peak

The sun was slowly but surely heading for the horizon so I continued my descent and very quickly reached the other shrine. There is something really nice about starting and ending at  a shrine. It feels like you are combining hiking and sightseeing and the feeling is very similar to the one you get in places like Mt Takao and Mt Tsukuba. However I couldn’t linger and hurriedly left the shrine and got back on to the road for the last part of the hike. I had to return to my starting point but fortunately the return path was more direct and easier, and I expected it to take less than a hour.

Along the road there were excellent views of some of Mt Myougi’s craggy peaks and of the mountains to the south. The blue skies had returned so even though the sun had already set it was still light. Soon I entered a hiking path that went down through a forest. That was really the only way back since the roads going by both shrines did not connect directly  It was slowly getting dark but I could still the see the way clearly. Very soon I was back on the road. At one point there, I took a right along a slowly rising curving road that took me to Momiji no Yu, a very conveniently located onsen. There are no buses going to the station after 5pm so I had to call a taxi afterwards. It was more expensive going back to the station, about 2300 yen but since I had paid peanuts on the way there I didn’t mind at all.

Nearly full moon tonight

Nearly full moon tonight

Great views on the walk back as well

Great views on the walk back as well

Myougi #1

Myougi #1

Mt Kenashi (1964m), Mt Fuji area

Mt Kenashi is a famous mountain but not part of the original one hundred. It is part of the famous two hundred mountains, which isn’t bad considering that there are thousands of mountains in Japan. It sits opposite Mt Fuji and thus has some excellent viewpoints of the volcano. In consequence, due to the 2 above factors, there are quite a few people climbing this mountain.

HOW TO GET THERE: The main drawback is that this mountain is tough to get to from Tokyo. You will need to shell out 5000 yen to take the Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Shinfuji station in Shizuoka (about an hour), and then add another 1300 yen for the bus to the Asagiri Green Park entrance (also about an hour). There are a lot of great views of Mt Fuji on the way.

However the way back is cheaper. At the end of the hike you can catch the bus in the same direction and get off in Kawaguchiko. From there the train is 3000 yen back to Tokyo or you can take a bus to Shinjuku station for less than 2000 yen. However if you are going back on a weekend, beware of traffic jams. There are 2 reasons I didn’t go through Kawaguchiko on the way there: first the bus going the other direction would get me to the start of the hike half an hour later and second the train to Otsuki (where you need to change for Kawaguchiko) is so crowded that you may have to stand.

THE ROUTE: Once again I was the only person to get off the bus. Actually that is not entirely correct – a lady hiker hopped off the same time as me, however I soon left her behind. It seems that most people come here by car. I had to walk along a flat road for about half an hour to reach the base of the mountain and the start of the hiking trail. The view of Mt Kenashi towering above me was impressive and I wondered if I really was going to be able to manage this apparently long and steep 1100 meter climb. On the way I passed a wide and grassy camp site on my right with some excellent views of Mt Fuji. I definitely want to camp here some time in the future.

Mt Kenashi with the camp site at its base

At the end of the long asphalt road I turned left following the sign for Mt Kenashi. Eventually I entered the forest, passed numerous parked cars and started climbing along a rock path. There were two main paths up Mt Kenashi and I chose the shorter one so that I would have enough time to take the long ridge route down. The path was divided into 10 stations each marked with a sign, similar to the Mt Fuji stations. I passed quite a few people going up and down the mountain. The weather was sunny and not too cold for a November day although it seemed that autumn was already over on this mountain.

Pine tree forest at the base of Mt Kenashi

As expected the climb was long and seemingly endless. Similar to when I was climbing Mt Takanosuya in the mist, the top ridge always seemed to be slipping away from grasp, always just beyond my level of vision. Every time the path levelled and I thought I was there, it would surprise me by rising steeply again. I was slowly rising above the ridge to the left and right and there was no end in sight to what was increasingly starting to look like some kind of spire.

At last I reached a small rocky outcrop that was marked as a viewpoint of Mt Fuji. I decided to have an early lunch there, not because I was especially hungry but because the view was fabulous, there was a comfortable unoccupied sitting spot and I wasn’t sure about how comfortably I would be able to sit at the summit. However I only got past my first sandwich when I was forced to flee because of an annoying trio of hikers that wouldn’t stop blabbering behind me while taking photos of the view.

The first view of Mt Fuji before the summit

From this point I reached the top ridge reached quite quickly. I overtook a lady hiker for the second time, who couldn’t figure it out since she hadn’t seen me taking my lunch break on the rocky outcrop earlier on. From here on it was easy stroll to the peak although interestingly enough just by getting on the ridge, the temperature had dropped considerably and I was now breathing mist. At nearly 2000m, winter had arrived.

There were plenty of people at the summit but I still managed to find a decent spot to sit down. However the view of Mt Fuji wasn’t as good from here. Before I could tuck in however an older but experienced looking hiker told me in passable English that if I continued ten more minutes along the ridge line I would reach a much better spot for lunch with a 360 view that would include Mt Fuji and the south Alps. That seemed like a very attractive proposition, so after having him take the obligatory photo of me and the summit marker I set off to search for this amazing lunch spot.

Picture perfect view of Mt Fuji along the ridge

View to the South

I never found it and one hour later I reached the next summit Amagadake 1771 m, the last viewpoint before going down the mountain and where I decided to have a late lunch. I was lucky that I had actually eaten before reaching the top since there were literally no good sitting spots with a view along the ridge. Even when I had a 360 degree view the grass on either side was just too high to sit down. I guess the older hiker had walked the ridge in other seasons when the grass hadn’t been so high. The ridge was a mix of forest (cold) and tall grasses (warm). The views of Mt Fuji were the best I had ever seen since the sun was behind me and it was easy to see all the details of the snow covered top. Also there were far less people walking the ridge since most people just went up and down Mt Kenashi the same way.

I found a rectangular block of stone perfect for sitting and moved it into the sun and sat down to munch on the rest of my lunch while gazing at Mt Fuji. I couldn’t stay long however since  I had a bus to catch. In the end because I took some more photos of Mt Fuji I left a little behind schedule and had to run downhill to catch up. It didn’t really matter since this was easily the ugliest portion of the hike. Soon I could see lake Motsuko on my left but too many branches in the way meant that I couldn’t get a good picture.  Oddly enough I had the same kind of hallucinations going down as when going up. Three times I thought I had reached the lowest point between 2 peaks only to discover that the path dipped further down.

Finally I reached the flat part between two peaks and at another view point for Mt Fuji, I saw the escape path for the bus stop leading down to the right. Here I met a male hiker on his way up so I got him to take a photo of myself with Mt Fuji. He told me that he was going to camp at the top of the mountain so that he could see the sun rising above the summit crater of Mt Fuji the next day, also called Diamond Fuji.

After a short while I reached a junction for the Tokai Nature trail which I would like to walk one day. I had to half run half walk the last flat portion of the way and finally reached the bus stop with less than five minutes to spare. The bus back was empty at first but filled up quickly at the next stop. Despite that it was an enjoyable ride since you could see Mt Fuji from time to time.

CONCLUSION: A difficult but rewarding hike with fantastic views up a famous mountain that will see the crowds melt away during the second part.

Climbability rate: 6.2

Mt Jingasa (1486m), Mt Yakushi (1528m), Mt Debari (1475m) and Mt Miharashi (1458), Gunma area

This is a string of small peaks along the caldera that surrounds lake Ono, the main peak being Mt Akagi which I won’t discuss here since it’s part of the hundred famous mountains and is well documented. I only decided to climb them after I got down from Mt Akagi  well ahead of schedule. It was so unplanned in fact that I didn’t even had a map and I had to reply on a photo of a schematic area map. On the map you can see there are a number of minor other peaks that can be done to complete the tour of the caldera so I definitely plan to return one day.

The crude map that was my guide

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the train to Maebashi (I took the shinkansen to save time) then a bus to the Akagi visitor centre. Some guy was handing out brochures about Mt Akagi to every person on the bus and after we departed, was giving explanations about Mt Akagi (I presume since I couldn’t really follow) through a microphone nearly the whole way. Slightly annoying but I still managed to doze off eventually.

The bus was pretty full and everybody got off one stop before the end. This was the closest stop to the lake. However the start of the Mt Akagi hiking path is between the 2 last stops so it doesn’t really matter which one you get off.

THE ROUTE: As I said above I shall pick up this account after the descent of Mt Akagi. Once you hit the main road, instead of turning left along the road back to the visitor’s centre, take the road opposite you leading to the camp site following the lake (don’t go right, up the mountain). The start of the hike is tricky to find – according the to the crude map at the camping, the trail starts before the camp site when actually it starts from within, just behind the toilets. I had actually given up after walking up and down the road looking for any trace of a trail and finally saw it when I decided to go to the bathroom.

It’s a nice signposted trail that quickly heads up past a few holiday houses and up the mountain. The lake is already at 1350m so there really isn’t much climbing to do to get to the caldera ridge. The path turns left towards Mt Jingasa but I walked about 50 meters to the right and got to a small rise called Mt Ashigara 1474m according to the map but without a summit marker.

After that I continued to Mt Jingasa which did have a summit marker and views of Mt Akagi. A little further on I reached the summit marker for Mt Yakushi. There was really no one on the ridge which was amazing considering the amount of people on Mt Akagi. After Mt Yakushi the path changed direction and seemed to go over the ridge and down the other side, and was at times a little hard to follow. I became concerned about ending up in the totally wrong place seeing that I didn’t have a map. The southern part of the Mt Akagi area has a number of peaks and it can be a little disorientating. However very soon the path turned again into the right direction and before I knew it I was on the top of Mt Debari.

Mt Debari was the most attractive summit by far with lots of sitting spots and some very nice views of Mt Akagi and Lake Ono. After spending some time there I moved on and slowly started going down the caldera back to lake level. There are a number of paths going down to the left signposted to some nature house but the correct path is straight ahead until you get to a clear T junction. At this stage, I turned right towards the lake (the other path is signposted 20 km to some far away destination).

Mt Debari

View of Mt Akagi and Lake Ono

Eventually I reached the lake and walked along the road for a short time.  With the sun in your back it’s a good place to take photos of Mt Akagi with Lake Ono. After passing a bunch of houses there is a sign for an observation platform going up a steep field on the right. After the steep climb the path becomes reasonably flatter, and after going through some forest, takes you over the treeless summit of Mt Miharashi. The observation platform is just a little down the path on the other side also you will not observe anything here that you haven’t observed before. The platform is for motorists and the road is not far away.

Lake side view

After crossing the road I had to decide whether or not to climb one last mounain. Mt Jizoh at 1673 m was significantly higher than the other peaks and had been looming in the distance for a while. In the end I decided against it since I couldn’t afford to miss the bus back. I ended up taking a nice wide mostly flat path going around the base and ending up on the main road again. From there its straight back to the bus stop.

A few meters before the Akagi visitor centre there is a nice wooden cottage that doubles as a restaurant. I popped in to get a snack and I was very warmly welcomed.  I was invited to sit in front of the fire and offered hot tea.  A nice place to wait if there is some time before the bus leaves.

CONCLUSION: An easy but fun hike up and down some relatively obscure peaks with nice lake views, this will suit anyone who wants to get away from the crowds. The main drawback is that unless you climb Mt Akagi as well (or have your own car) you will have to walk along the road to reach the start of the hike.

Mt Takanosuya (1736m), Okutama area

Mt Takanosuya is another not so famous mountain but has a good deal of people climbing it since it is on the way to the top of Mt Kumtori, one of the famous mountains and the highest point in the Tokyo prefecture. I left my place under the sun and arrived under the clouds and drizzle – how the weather can change fast!

HOW TO GET THERE: The best way is to hop on the 7:44 direct train to Okutama from Shinjuku station. If you don’t you will need to change trains an insane number of times. If possible get on at the front of the train since there is only one exit in Okutama station. If you can do that you will be at the front of the line for the bus which in turn means you will be able to sit down on the bus. The bus you should line up for its the one departing from right in front of the train station going to Nippara (which is where you should get off).

THE ROUTE: After getting off the bus I continued walking along the road through the village at a fast pace. I knew the way since I had been here in May this year to visit the Nippara caves. Also I had a tight schedule so I couldn’t afford to dawdle, especially since I couldn’t take any photos, since the mountains were all shrouded in mist. Eventually there was a sign pointing to a footpath going down to the left. It lead through  a forest of pines over the river at the bottom of the valley and up the other side. It was lovely and slightly spooky since I was the only person.

The path eventually led to a river bed through a ravine – it was remarkably beautiful (but difficult to take in photo). The sound of bells indicated that I had company and soon I had 3 hiking companions. I lost them on a steep slope that led up and away from the riverbed and finishing at the start of a rocky outcrop that jutted above the ravine I had just gone through. As I arrived, three hikers were just returning from the top of this outcrop and they told me you could get to the top within 15 minutes.

Despite my tight schedule I decided to attempt it – I wasn’t behind schedule yet anyway. The rocky outcrop was somewhat slippery because of the rain and turned into a bit of a scramble at the end. However it was worth it – even though the surrounding peaks were hidden in cloud I could see down the valley and the Nippara village below. Trees showed their autumn colours here and there. It was hard to believe we were still in Tokyo prefecture.

View from the rocky outcrop – yes this is Tokyo prefecture.

Fifteen minutes later I was back on the path and set out immediately to make up for the lost time. Soon I was surrounded by mist. This made the climb doubly hard because it was impossible to see the summit – every time I thought I was about to arrive, the mist gave way to more forest, more path and more climbing. It was a long and discouraging climb. Silent and spooky as well.

Finally I reached the top. There were a lot of people there but it was wide and there was plenty of space to sit down and have lunch. As expected there was no view to reward my efforts – just a lot of whiteness.

After a quick lunch I started down. There was really no point wasting time at the top and then I would also be able to get back on schedule which was important if I wanted to take a hot bath at the end and catch the direct train back to Shinjuku.

I must admit, the way down was much nicer than the way up – a nice wide grassy ridge similar to a fire barrier. The mist went from spooky to mysterious. Suddenly I came to a point where the path turned right and went steeply downhill. Afraid of going down the mountain too soon, I consulted my map. Another hiker who had been checking his map just before assured me this was the right way. The direction is right, he said, we must continue to follow the ridge. He seemed to know what he was doing so instinctively I started following him. The path levelled and all seemed well again, We started climbing again and the path slowly became faint until it disappeared. We both stopped looking through the mist searching for the path. Eventually I found it twenty meters to our right. We were on a minor summit and the main path had gone round it. I said goodbye to the other hiker and continued ahead. Funny things like this happen all the time.

Soon I came close to another minor summit, 六ツ石山 , six rock mountain (1478m). It was about 5 minutes to the top so I went up. The top was grassy with some trees and I could see Mt Takanosuya where I had come down from. Okutama being 350m, I knew I still had a long way down so I couldn’t dwell there.

After that the weather cleared up a little and there was even some sun for a short time. I slipped again on some rocks on a steep slope, this time spinning around 180 degrees and landing with my chest on a rock. It knocked the wind out of me but again no damage done. Lower done I had to navigate a slippery muddy tunnel like path through a pine tree forest. At one point I lost control and crashed landed with my face into the soft dirt of one of the walls. After that I decided to leave the path and walk through the forest alongside it.

Eventually I reached gentler slopes, easier to walk path and finally an asphalt road. I was probably just above the old Okutama road which I had walked this year in May. At the entrance of the hiking path, there was a sign that a bear had been spotted at this location a few weeks ago. Always better to know this after the hike, rather than before. In any case within half an hour I was back inside Okutama town. After buying some local sake I called the local onsen and they told me it was very crowded at the moment so I decided to skip it and take the direct train back to Shinjuku.

Beware of bears

CONCLUSION: A surprisingly good hike with some great ridge walking which ends at the station. Definitely worth another shot in good weather. The official name for the hike from the summit down to Okutama is “Ishione ridge walk.”

Climability rate: 6.9

Mt Shyakushi (1597m), Mt Fuji area

Mt Shyakushi is a non famous mountain and the only reason to climb it is that you can see Mt Fuji really well from it’s summit – there are literally no intervening mountains obstructing the view, just flat countryside and forest surrounding the small Oshino village at its base. It has very few autumn colours and the peak is nothing more than one point among others on the ridge line.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take a train to Fujiyama station (used to be called Fujiyoshida until it was renamed in 2010). There is a direct train going to Kawaguchiko station (the next stop) leaving from Shinjuku station at 8:14 although I’m not sure whether it runs all year round. This convenient yet pricey train will get you to Fujiyama just in time for the bus that will take you to Oshino village. I was the only person on the bus, that is how non famous this mountain is.

THE ROUTE: Following the directions of the bus driver, I headed along a road with Mt Fuji directly behind me. After crossing a couple of small streams I started seeing signs that confirmed that I was on the right route. Very soon I entered a forest with tall beautiful trees and the asphalt road turned into packed dirt and rocks. This reminded me that I was no longer in Tokyo with its tired beaten down forests, but in Yamanashi. Another reminder was that there was literally no one else around. Eventually I did pass a family of five who had come by car.

After climbing steadily for a while I reached a pass where I turned left up the main ridge. Very soon I reached a rocky section with ropes and a nice viewpoint of Mt Fuji. After the obligatory snapshots I continued on towards the summit. On the way it’s possible to do a small round-trip to another slightly higher summit called Shishidome. I was fortunate that I happened to meet a trio of hikers at that junction and so I asked them if it was worth the side-trip. They said no since there was no view so I thanked them and continued on the path to Mt Shakushi which was now slightly downhill.

Suddenly I came upon the perfect lunch spot – a lonely rock with a perfect view of Mt Fuji. I decided to take a risk and have lunch before the summit since it seemed mostly flat from that point onwards and summits can often be surprisingly crowded even when there seems to be no one climbing the mountain.

Occasionally I had people stop behind me to admire the view but overall it was one of the best lunches of my whole hiking career. Not only could I see Mt Fuji in front of me but also the South Alps  (some of the highest peaks were already covered in snow) and lake Yamanako. Eventually I managed to pull myself away from the view and continue to the summit.

The top of Mt Shyakushi has a couple of benches that are in bad need of repair and, interestingly enough, a bell. I was so busy taking photos of Mt Fuji that I actually forgot to ring it in the end. I was glad I had taken my lunch earlier since the sun was moving behind Mt Fuji and thus by now the side facing me was in the shade and less photogenic than before. As a matter of fact it nearly looked like the sun would set exactly behind the cone which is called Diamond Fuji here. Unfortunately there was no way I could stay so late on the top.

There was 2 groups of people preparing to go down when I arrived which was perfect because first I got them to take a nice photo of me with Mt Fuji in the background and second I was able to remove my shirt and sunbathe on one of the bench seats (after they had gone of course). Even though it was November, it was warm in the sun.

There wasn’t really any rush to go down since I could walk to the onsen and I didn’t have a bus to catch. Still I wanted to get off the mountain before dark. My timing was good since just after I set off I passed a couple on the way to the top. This mountain is really that small that people can still go to the top mid-afternoon.

The descent was mainly uneventful except that at one point it got really steep and I slipped and crashed onto my shoulder. Luckily it was dirt so there was no damage. There were many open spaces with nice views of Mt Fuji, still beautiful with the sun in it’s back. There were some fine sideway views of Mt Mitsutoge to the right. I also passed a launching pad for paragliding. There was even a mini funicular to haul the material up to the top. Eventually after a few more twists and turns I got back to the asphalt road.

Mt Mitsutoge

The path down

Walking to the onsen instead of taking the bus was a brilliant idea since I was walking face to Mt Fuji the whole way. After the hot spring, the bus back was just as empty as on the way there.

Walking to the onsen

CONCLUSION: A not too long hike that I recommend doing in autumn or winter when the weather is sunny in order to enjoy the views of Mt Fuji. An onsen within walking distance of the base of the mountain is a definite plus.

Climability rate: 5.9