Here I will explore the stations on the Niigata/Joetsu line that are accessible with the pass.
First up, a place I had never heard of till I first started using the pass: Jomo-Kogen.
A shinkansen only stop at the lowly altitude of 450 meters and 70 minutes from Tokyo station, it sits within striking distance of a number of mountains on the northern edge of the Kanto plain that are accessible thanks to the bus terminal just outside the station.
A word of caution: there is little in the way of restaurants and shops, the Newdays inside the station closes early and there usually isn’t a food cart on this line, so make sure you don’t come back hungry, and forget about that after-hike beer.
- Mt Tanigawa 谷川岳 1977m (hundred famous mountain)
You can catch a bus to the ropeway (change at Minakami) and even do an onsen in Minakami if you come back early enough. Even if you don’t go all the way to the summit, the views from Mt Tenjin 天神山 just above the top of the ropeway are fantastic in clear weather.
- Mt Hotaka 武尊山 2158m (hundred famous mountain)
This is a tough one to do in a day trip without public transport. Unless you are a very fast walker, try to hitchhike while walking the road up to the campsite and make sure to bring a headlight for the descent – thankfully the last bus is relatively late. The famous Takaragawa onsen 宝川温泉 lies further down the valley.
- Mt Oku-Shirane 奥白根山 2578m (hundred famous mountain)
In theory it’s possible to reach the Nikko-Shiranesan ropeway with one bus change and that in turn will whisk you up to 2000m (still 3h from the summit though). I have climbed Mt Shirane but I haven’t done it yet with the pass from that side. The return could be done via the Nikko side.
- Mt Azumaya 吾妻耶山 1341m, Mt Mistumine 三峰山 1123m
I haven’t attempted these 2 yet as access is troublesome. Perhaps the easiest and fastest option is to take a taxi from Jomo-Kogen (15min) and return via Minakami or Kamikoku stations on the Joetsu line, or by bus from Sarugakyo Onsen (see below).
- Mt Mikuni 三国山 1636m and Mt Inazutsumi 稲包山 1598m
More mountains I haven’t climbed yet. There is a bus heading east for Sarugakyo Onsen 猿ヶ京温泉 where you can change buses for Houshi Onsen 法師温泉. Combining both peaks in a one-day hike seems doable but tough and requires favourable bus times. Another option would be to start or end on the Niigata side and going through Echigo-Yuzawa (see below).
ECHIGO-YUZAWA (and beyond)
A new addition since 2015 which I have yet to try out with the pass, Echigo-Yuzawa is well and truly beyond the mountains of northern Kanto, and sits in a pleasant valley firmly inside Niigata prefecture. Weather is notoriously bad here so check the forecast thoroughly and come prepared.
- Mt Naeba 苗場山 2145m (hundred famous mountain)
Another tough day-trip since there is no bus to the trailhead. The bus for the Prince Hotel will get you to the access road and then try to hitchhike and make sure to have a headlight for the return. I went there in June and there was a lot of snow left (crampons weren’t required though).
There is also the option of using the Dragon Gondola from the Prince Hotel but it only runs for a short time in the autumn.
- Mt Sennokura 仙ノ倉山 2026m (two hundred famous mountain / not done)
The start of this hike also requires taking the bus for the Prince Hotel.
- Mt Mikuni 三国山 1636m and Mt Inazutsumi 稲包山 1598m (not done yet)
This hike starts from the Prince hotel and can be done as a loop but can also finish or start from the Gunma side (see Jomon-Kogen above).
- Mt Daigenta 大源太山 1598m (not done yet)
A bus going the opposite direction will take you to Daigenta Canyon where you can attempt to climb this non-famous matterhorn lookalike.
- Mt Makihata 巻機山 1967m (hundred famous mountain)
A local train to Muikamachi (25min) will get you close enough to attempt this beautiful mountain. Totally doable in one day if you are motivated enough but bring a headlight for the return.
From Muikamachi one can also take a bus for the start of the trails for Mt Hakkai 八海山 1778m (200 hundred famous mountain) and Mt Kinjou 金城山 1369m but this is uncharted territory even for myself.