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