Here I will take a look at some hikes that can be done on the Tohoku Shinkansen. The main stops of interest are Utsunomiya and Nasu-Shiobara.
Nikko is known as a world heritage site but it also sits at the edge of the mountains ranges of northern Kanto and offers lots of fantastic hiking. I used to feel guilty that I didn’t visit Nikko often enough because it was just a little far and expensive to do as a day-trip. Fortunately the Tokyo wide pass has fixed this since Utsunomiya is only 50 minutes away by Shinkansen. Nikko is another 40 minutes by local line.
There are a number of minor peaks accessible from Utsunomiya, the JR Nikko line and Nikko city which I haven’t explored yet. However, since there are many other exciting mountains to climb in the area, I won’t cover them here.
The 1445 steps of Kirifuri highland with Mt Takahara in the background
- Kirifuri Kogen 霧降高原 1200m
Most people visiting Nikko tend to go to lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen. However this is great place to visit on a day trip since it is less than 30 minutes by bus. The views are spectacular since there is nothing obstructing the panorama to the south.
Mt Maruyama 丸山 1698m, Mt Akanagi 赤薙山 2010m and Mt Daisen 大山 1158m can be combined in one long day, finishing at Kirifuri waterfall, a 100 famous waterfall in Japan, a short bus ride from Nikko. There are nice views of Mt Nyoho, a 200 famous mountain.
- Akechidaira Ropeway 明知平ロープウェイ 1373m
Another to-do hike on my list, Akechidaira is the stop just before Lake Chuzenji. The ropeway will take you to the top of the ridge at 1395m which is on the far side of the lake. From there it’s possible to follow this ridge west and then return along the lake.
- Mt Nantai 男体山 2484m, 100 famous moutain
This Fuji lookalike is doable as a day-trip and offers out-of-this-world views from the top. It’s straight up and down via the same route. The path starts behind a temple that is accessed from the lake Chuzenji bus stop.
This plain pinned between Mt Nantai and Mt Shirane, offers easy flat hiking for the most part on an elevated walkway from Yumoto-onsen past a couple of waterfalls to Lake Chuzenji. Beware of crowds during Golden week and the autumn season. You can also do cross-country skiing and show shoeing here in the winter.
- Mt Shirane 白根山 2577m, 100 famous mountain
The highest peak in the area, this is a tough day hike up and down from Yumoto-Onsen. There are several paths but the one I did from the top of the ski lifts is one of the steepest, most slippery and most covered with tree roots that I have ever done in Japan.
An alternative which I haven’t done is to go up or down from the other side where there is a ropeway which connects by bus with Jomo-kogen on the Niigata Shinkansen
- Mt Nyotai 女峰山 2483m, 200 hundred mountain
I have yet to climb this one but it promises to be a tough one day hike. There are multiple routes up and down this peak.
NASU AND BEYOND
Nasu is mostly famous for its hot springs but it is also a spectacular active volcano with numerous smoking vents, as well as a 100 famous mountain. It is actually accessed from Kuroiso which is one stop away from the Shinkansen station by local train and is covered by the pass (total time 90m). From there it is a 1 hour bus ride to the ropeway which will take you up to to 1690m.
The volcanic landscape of Mt Nasu
- Sanbonyaridake 三本槍岳 1917m
This is the highest point of the Mt Nasu mountain range and can be reached by heading north from the crater (40-minutes from the ropeway). I did it in the clouds so I can’t comment on the views.
This is an easier hike to the south. It also requires going up to the crater and then going down on the north side before doubling back around the base of the crater passing several steam vents in the process. There are great views in all directions – the day I was there I could see all the way to Mt Iide
If you are motivated you can continue with the shinkansen on to Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture. This is outside the area covered by the pass so you’ll have to pay extra. A local train will take you close to Mt Bandai which is feasible in a day from Tokyo.