Mt Sekirou 694m, Takao area

This was my second visit to Mt Sekirou and the first time with a group – I discovered it last year in the autumn – and so the photos will be a combination of both trips. I feel that this mountain is really exceptional because not only is it close to Tokyo and easy to climb, it has beautiful nature, great views, including Mt Fuji on a clear day, a temple with local legends and the clincher – no crowds since it is not a famous mountain.

Mt Sekirou from Sagamiko Station

Mt Sekirou from Sagamiko Station

HOW TO GET THERE: Hop on the Chuo line to Takao station and switch to the Chuo line again by simply crossing the platform. Get off at Sagamiko station, the next stop. The only tricky part here is catching a bus to the start of the Sekirou trail. Departures normally coincide with some train arrivals but if the wait is too long, I believe it would be possible to take a taxi since it is only ten minutes away.

THE ROUTE: From the bus stop, we crossed the road and headed up the road that leads away from it as a straight angle. There is a sign saying Sekirousan iriguchi 石老山入口 or entrance to Mt Sekirou and also a big rough panel showing the route. Additionally there are toilets and a vending machine. After walking along the road for about twenty minutes we reached the start of the trail behind a hospital. The weather wasn’t great but it didn’t matter so much since we were inside a forest and it was autumn colour season.

Huge map at the trailhead

Huge map at the trailhead

The highlight of the first part of the hike were the ancient massive boulders lying left and right of the path which climbed steadily through the forest of tall cedar trees alongside a small stream. Most of the mossy, vegetation-covered boulders had small signs with Japanese explanations on their legendary origins.

The road to the temple

The road to the temple

Huge moss covered boulders

Huge moss covered boulders

Autumn colours were in full swing

Autumn colours were in full swing

We reached a temple perched on the lower reaches of the mountain in less than half an hour and took a photo break since it had some impressive autumn colours. Since there are no other mountains standing in the way, there was also a view west towards Tokyo but clouds and smog meant that the visibility was limited. On the left we could see the Takao ridge which of all mountains makes the deepest push into the Tokyo area.

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The path continued from behind the temple, winding back and forth until we reached a fork that I couldn’t remember from the previous time and was not marked on the map. We asked a small family on their way down and they confirmed that the paths connected further up and that the right one was easier to walk. We decided to go right and we were rewarded with some more nice westward vistas as the path curved around the side of the mountain.

A nice gentle slope

A nice gentle slope

Barely half an hour later we joined up with the left path. From then on it was a gentle climbing slope through very nice forest till we got to a fantastic viewpoint of Lake Sagami. The weather being as cloudy as it was, we couldn’t really see much of the mountains beyond that form the Tama-Kai national park. We continued to proceed up the mountain at a good pace meeting few people. The path was a series of short steep climbs followed by a flat or slightly downhill section, typical of most ridges in the Japanese mountains.

We reached the summit after two hours. There are a number of tables where you can have a picnic while admiring the view of Mt Fuji. Unfortunately today the weather had steadily been getting worse and there was absolutely no hope of seeing the majestic giant today. We repaired to a table under a tree out of the cold wind that had suddenly started blowing after we reached the summit, and started preparing our ramen lunch.

Cooking lunch in the freezing cold

Cooking lunch in the freezing cold

View from the top last year with Mt Omuro in the centre.

View from the top last year with Mt Omuro in the centre.

Even though it was the first of December the temperature had been warmer than expected   at the base of the mountain and on the way up. However it got seriously cold on the top and the clouds got greyer and more menacing. Suddenly I saw white specks on the table. I couldn’t believe my eyes – it had started snowing! in truth it wasn’t the beautiful snowflake type of snow – this was the hard granular kind that became more like sleet when it got more intense, forcing us to gulp down our lunch, pack and leave as quickly as possible. By that time my fingers were feeling pretty numb.

I decided we should head down the same way since I felt it would be safer in this freak snowstorm. However as soon as we were twenty meters from the summit, the snow stopped falling and it felt noticeably warmer. Ten minutes later we had blue skies above our head and the sun was shining. The storm was over.

At first I felt it was shame to go down the same way but in the end it turned out to be a good thing. It was after all a very pleasant mountain path and it looked quite different going down especially now that the weather was so good. The view of lake Sagami was completely different and we could see the green mountain ranges beyond.

First glimpse of the lake on the way down

First glimpse of the lake on the way down

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The Sagami Lake view point after the storm

The Sagami Lake view point after the storm

Further down we took the other path so as to complete the loop. Just a little below the junction there is a good view of Mt Sekirou as well as a view to the west. The path winds down the mountain through some more huge boulders but wasn’t particularly difficult.

Sunny woods

Sunny woods

View towards Tokyo

View towards Tokyo

The Takao range seen from the temple

The Takao range seen from the temple

We got down in barely an hour and a half, and after a twenty minute wait we were able to hop onto a bus back to the station. My original plan was to take another path from the summit that would have made a loop back to the start of the hike arriving at the bus stop. I guess that will be for another time.

CONCLUSION: Great hike for late autumn early winter because of it’s short length and relatively low altitude. It can be combined with some neighbouring mountains if you are a fast hiker and I shall make a separate post for them in the future.

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