Total Distance: 28km
Total Walking Time: 9 hours
Katahama Station is a small station on the JR Tokaido Line. This station is one stop away from Numazu and two stops from Mishima. There are convenience stores along the first part of the hike, so stock up on food and water. Most convenience stores in Japan have restrooms for customers to use and they are free and more often than not, very clean.
Finding the Trailhead:
It is a good 2 hour brisk walk from Katahama station to the start of the trail to Mt. Ashitaka. This hike can be done in dark because you walk through suburban housing areas and through family-owned backyard gardens and tea plantations. An alternative is to take a taxi from Katahama station to the Ashitaka 600 golf course, a pricey option which saves you some time. Arriving shortly after 6am at Katahama, the day was just breaking, as I walked along roads lined with houses. By 7am, I managed to catch my first glimpse of Mt. Fuji and Mt. Ashitaka, framed by tea plantations. To get to the trial, you’d be crossing under the No. 1 National Highway, the Shinkansen tracks and the New Toumei elevated Highway.
First, find a golf course. The trailhead to Mt. Ashitaka is behind this golf course. It’s pretty much a no-brainer finding it because it’s a straight path from the station in a North-West dirction. You know you’re on the right track when you are heading up an incline and you’d see the Akenokannon Shrine or the Shrine of the Akeno Goddesses of Mercy. This is a very lovely spot for a quick rest and take some photographs of the shrine.
Pressing on, you’ll keep walking upward until you reach the golf course. At the entrance, turn left and walk along the perimeters of the golf course. Before you do that, take a look at the view of Numazu City and Suruga Bay.
After an uphill hike of around 40 minutes, you’d arrive at the Ashitaka Forest Trail. This is the start of the trek to Mt. Ashitaka. From this point, it’s a walk in the park.
Hitting the Trail:
Once you are on the Ashitaka Forest Trail, it’s a 60-minute hike with a gradual upward incline toward Hiranuma Clearing. The trail from the clearing to the top of Mt. Ashigara isn’t well-marked and it is easy to miss the trail toward the mountain. Look out for signs that might have fallen onto the ground. Parts of the trail to Mt. Ashigara could be a little challenging as you’d be clambering over jutting rocks, using pre-attached ropes to haul yourself upwards. Aside from these more challenging parts, the rest of the hike is an invigorating hike upwards on a trail. Note that the trail isn’t well-maintained and some parts of the trail might have been washed away by past typhoons. After 40 minutes, you’d arrive at the top of Mt. Ashigara. Landmarks along the way include a well and a small mountain shrine.
After a quick lunch break on Mt. Ashigara, you could turn back and head toward Katahama Staiton. Going downhill should be a lot quicker, so factoring in 4 hours for your return journey should be enough.
Katahama Sation -> Akenokannon Shrine (90 minutes) -> Ashitaka 600 Golf Course (40 minutes) -> Ashitaka Forest Trail (60 minutes) -> Hiranuma Clearing (20 minutes) -> Mt. Ashitaka -> (40 minutes)
From Mt. Ashigara, it is possible to hike toward Mt. Ihai and onward to Mt. Echizen and end up at the Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi bus stop or Jyurigi Highland. Unless you are very fast, or you plan to camp in the mountains, I wouldn’t recommend this. To complete this hike, it’d take at least 13 to 14 hours. A very sure-footed and fast hiker might complete it in 12 hours or under, but even that would be cutting it very close. The last bus to Gotemba departs from the Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi at 6:09pm and from the Jyurigi Highland bus stop at 5:55pm.
Note that parts of the trail from Mt. Ashitaka to Mt. Ihai are not well-maintained because it is not a popular hiking trail. Some parts of the trail might have been washed away by heavy rain and mud slide.
Mt. Ashitaka -> Babahira (40 minutes) -> Mt. Hakamagoshi (20 minutes) -> Ichipuku Pass (40 minutes) -> Mt. Ihai (95 minutes) -> Mt. Mae-dake (35 minutes) -> Higashizawa Bunki Fork (55 minutes) -> Ashitaka Touzan IriGuchi (40 minutes)