Around the Izu Peninsula

Additional Information: 

Along the Izu-Hakone train toward Shuzenji, you could stop at the Izu-Nagaoka station to see the Reverberatory Furnaces, which were built in the 1850s, and recently awarded World Heritage site status. These furnaces were built for casting Western-style iron cannon to strengthen Japan’s defenses in the Edo period. It’s a 30-minute walk from the station. Opened to visitors year-round, except on 31st December and 1st January.

Next to the reverberatory furnaces, you could pick green tea in summer. Or opt to pick mikans in winter. From the Izu-Nagaoka and Nirayama stations, you could head to one of the many strawberry farms to pick strawberries from mid-December until early-May. Pay a fee to pick and eat as many strawberries you can for a limited time. There are also many onsens and hotsprings in the ryokans in this area.

 

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Mt. Joyama (城山) to Mt. Katsuragiyama (葛木山) to Mt. Hottanjoyama (発端丈山) Part 2

Finding the trailhead:

From the exit at Ohito station, turn left to walk along the car park, cross the train tracks and keep walking until you hit the intersection of 2 major highways. Keep walking in a south-west direction, cross the Kanogawa river and you’d see Mt. Joyama jutting out of an otherwise flat landscape, to your right. Keep following the road until you see the abandoned Peace Hotel. The road leading to the start of the trail is behind this hotel.

Tip: There is a convenience store a couple of blocks from the hotel. Keep walking along the highway until you get to a traffic intersection, and you’d see it across from where you are. Stock up on snacks and water and visit the very clean restroom before you hit the trail. Walk along the small road flanked by rice fields, with the Peace Hotel to your right and Mt. Joyama within sight in the distance. You’d see a sign that says that the trailhead is just up ahead. There is a car park and a small cemetery at the trailhead. It takes around 20-25 minutes to walk from Ohito station to the trailhead.

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The Kano river is to your right

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The abandoned Peace Hotel with Joyama in the background

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Almost at the trailhead

Hitting the Trail:

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The trail starts here

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Hiking map

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Start hiking up a rocky path, past an overgrown and unkempt bamboo grove, toward the first fork in the trail. This is a popular rock climbing site and you’d see climbers attempting to scale up the cliff.


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Rock climbers

That should take around 35 to 40 minutes. At the fork in the trail, take a right turn toward the top of Mt. Joyama. The return journey from the fork to the top of the mountain should take at most an hour or less.

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Forest trail

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Gnarly trees

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A break in the trees

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Is that were tanukis live?

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Mt. Joyama

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First peek of Fuji-san!

Once you’re back at the fork, you could return to Ohito station or continue hiking to Mt. Katsuragiyama.

 

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Pick your trail – turn right to go to Mt. Joyama and turn left to go to Mt. Katsuragiyama

Take the trail away from Mt. Joyama and you’d notice that you are suddenly looking at very different trees from the trail to Mt. Joyama. The tall straight-trunked pine trees on your left are a completely different type of trees from those on your right. The reason for this is that you are standing on the juncture where two massive land masses collided to form the Izu Peninsula million of years ago. Imagine a moving island, with its own thriving fauna, propelled by earthquakes and underwater seismic upheavals crashing into the main island of Honshu. That was how the Izu Peninsula came about. There is a sign at the start of the trail explaining this in greater details. It’s pretty fascinating.

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Walk along this trail for 5 minutes, until you see a sign that says “Outer Mountain” or “Inner Mountain”. A kind soul had scrawled in permanent marker informing fellow hikers that the “Outer Mountain” trail leads to Mt. Katsuragiyama and Mt. Hottanjoyama. Turn left and continue onward.

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Take the Outer Mountain trail to go to Mt. Katsuragiyama

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There are 500-year-old pine trees here

Walk until you see this sign Mt. Katsuragiyama.

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Decide if you wish to take it easy or take on a more challenging trail. For a leisurely and longer walk, continue along the main trail and it’ll take you 50 minutes to reach the top of Mt. Katsuragiyama. Or do what I did and turn right into the forest. This trail is definitely not easy to pick out and overgrown, and take note, it is steep. Follow the strips of coloured strips of ribbon guiding you upward. Some of these strips aren’t easy to pick out and you will have to scramble along, clinging onto trees and hauling yourself from one tree trunk to the next. A pair of gloves would come in handy here. Mid-way through the trail, I did wonder if I had made a mistake and looking down, I dreaded the thought of tumbling down back to the main trail. Did I mention I suffer from vertigo too? The good thing was, it was over in 25 minutes. I made it onto the top of the clearing and had a quiet spot to myself to enjoy the view. This side trail cuts hiking time by less than half, but it’s not for hikers who aren’t too sure-footed.

Tip: Do not attempt this hike if it had been raining or the trail is muddy. Landslides occur here quite often, and the winds are pretty strong.

 

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View from Mt. Katsuragi

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The next piece of good news is that you don’t have to go back the same way you came from. Mt. Katsuragiyama is also very different from the rough-and-tumble trail you’ve left behind you. There is a park at the top of the mountain and it is accessible by ropeway. A return journey to Panorama Park on the ropeway costs 1,220yen. There is a shrine, cafeteria and gift shop at the park, mini climbing wall for children, and playgrounds for kids and fur kids. There is also a free onsen footbath with a really good view of Mt. Fuji.

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Soak your feet for free, while soaking in the view

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Playground for dogs

The view of Mt. Fuji is pretty spectacular and there is the 100 Jizo Power Spot. Soak up some power here and pray for good health.

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Mt. Joyama to Mt. Katsuragiyama to Mt. Hottanjoyama (Part 1)

Mt. Joyama to Mt. Katsuragiyama to Mt. Hottanjoyama (Part 3)

Mt. Joyama (城山) to Mt. Katsuragiyama (葛木山) to Mt. Hottanjoyama (発端丈山) Part 1

Total Walking Time: 4.5 to 6 hours

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Located in Izunokuni in the Izu Peninsula, uou can see some of the best views of Mt. Fuji on Mt. Joyama, Mt. Katsuragiyama and Mt. Hottanjoyama. The hike is a pleasant long walk along the mountain range that connects these three peaks. The course is mostly easy and along a well-trodden trails, with add-on options including a walk in the park, a relaxing ropeway ride, and a really steep scramble up (and down) an unmarked trail, depending on what you fancy your hikes to be like.

Tip: If you do not wish to pack food for your hike, there is an option of stopping for a quick lunch at Mt. Katsuragiyama. There is a cafeteria serving hot food and vending machines at the Panorama Park. There is also the option of taking the ropeway from Mt. Katsuragiyama down the mountain.

I started from the central part of the Izu Peninsula, near the spa town of Shuzenji, heading westward toward the coast of western Izu. For this hike, I recommend starting from Ohito station and completing the journey at Mito, a coastal town along the Uchiura Bay. It is possible to complete this trail in reverse but this means you’d be walking with your back to Mt. Fuji and might miss out on seeing some really good views.

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The course is easy to moderate and accessible year-round. For the most part, this trail is well-trodden with hikers, and it’s mostly well-maintained and very clearly marked with signs. There is a section of the trail which is a little more challenging, but it’s optional. A walking stick could be helpful but not essential. Bring a hat, gloves, flashlight, snacks and water, mosquito repellent in summer. A shirt for a spring or autumn hike, your lightest and most effective sweat-wicking clothing and a sweat towel in summer (it gets very hot and humid), and a light jacket or windbreaker in winter.

Access:

From Mishima Station, take the privately-run Izu-Hakone train from Mishima Station (along the Tokaido line). Ohito station is two stops away from the last station, which is Shuzenji station. There are lockers at the station, but if you follow the recommended itinerary, you won’t be heading back to Ohito Station. Alternatively, you could opt to leave your bags at Numazu Station in the morning before going to Mishima Station to transfer to the Izu-Hakone train to Ohito.

Useful Japanese:

Numazu Station Numazu-eki 沼津駅
Mishima Station Mishima-eki 三島駅
Izu-Hakone Railway Izu-Hakone Tetsudo 伊豆箱根鉄道
Izu-Nagaoka Station Izu-Nagaoka eki 伊豆長岡駅
Nirayama Station Nirayama-eki 韮山駅
Ohito Station Ohito-eki 大仁駅
Shuzenji Station Shuzenji-eki 修善寺
Kano River Kanogawa 狩野川
Mt. Joyama Joyama 城山
Joyama Pass Joyama-touge 城山峠
Rindo Pass (Forest Trail Pass) Rindo-touge 林道峠
Mt. Katsuragiyama Katsuragiyama 葛城山
Katsuragiyama Pass Katsuragiyama-touge 葛木山峠
Panorama Park パノラマパーク
Masuyamadera Temple Masuyama-dera 益山寺
Mt. Hottanjoyama Hottanjoyama 発端丈山
Nagahama Trailhead Nagahama-touge 長浜峠
Mito Town Mito 三津
Uchiura Bay Uchiura-wan 内浦湾
Nirayama Reverberatory Furnaces Nirayama hansharo 韮山反射炉
Strawberry Picking Ichigo-gari 苺狩り

Mt. Joyama to Mt. Katsuragiyama to Mt. Hottanjoyama Part 2

Mt. Joyama to Mt. Katsuragiyama to Mt. Hottanjoyama Part 3

Around the Izu Peninsula

Numazu Alps (沼津アルプス) Part 3

Continuing on the Trail:

Once you hit the Shige Pass, you’re at the mid-way point of the hike. From Mt. Shige, hike toward Mt. Tokura.Congratulate yourself, you’ve made it this far.The view of Suruga bay is particular lovely here.

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Kirara means sparkly

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The water in the bay sparkling like jewels

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Suruga river

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The trail becomes even more challenging and requires a little rope-work. There are ropes nailed to the rocks to help you along. What never ceases to amaze me is that older Japanese hikers are very nimble on their feet. They certainly navigate these narrow, steep and rocky trails much better than I do. Usually, I’d step to one side and let them pass me by. I definitely can’t keep up with them. Be wary of rocks coming loose as you are heading up the trail. Some of the inclines can be pretty steep. It’s best to put a little distance between you and the hiker further up ahead so you avoid getting tiny rocks showering on you and dust on your face. Try not to cause a mini avalanche (like I did) when attempting part of the trail.

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Crater caused by a bomb dropped by a B29 fighter plane during the war

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L-shaped crater

The hike from Mt. Shige to Mt. Tokura should take around an hour to complete or more.

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Mt. Tokura, 256m

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Beware of falling rocks

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Numazu City

Thereafter, you’d pass through Mt. Yoko and onto Yaesaka Pass. Heading downhill, you’d see a road. Walk along this road for around 120m and pick up the trail across the road, to your right. There are speeding cars here so, be careful. Once you are back on the trail, you are heading to the last peak, Mt. Kanuki.

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IMG_1648 Last peak, Mt. Kanuki

Mt. Kanuki is a bit of a shock to the system after the rough-and-tumble hike through Mt. Washizu and Mt. Tokura. There are neatly-paved roads and very well-maintained trails circling around Mt. Kanuki, with a park, with proper park benches and a playground, joggers and small dogs.

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Five-tiered pagoda on Mt. Kanuki

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Chubby, fluffy denizens on Mt. Kanuki

The highest point of Mt. Kanuki is a bit of a letdown, with a radio/TV antenna tower and a sign that says “Mt. Kanuki”. The lookout point on Mt. Kanuki boasts some of the best views of Numazu city, Suruga Bay and Mt. Fuji. Another advantage to ending the trail on Mt. Kanuki is you’d get to see the sunset view from the observation tower. I have to say, it’s indeed gorgeous.

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Mt. Kanuki, 193m

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Sunset on Mt. Kanuki

Numazu Alps

Too bad Fuji-san has her head in the clouds

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Mt. Kanuki is one of the most popular spot to look at the first sunrise of the year. Japanese people like to start the year right by looking at the first sunrise on the 1st of January because it’s considered very lucky.

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Mt. Fuji, at sunrise

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Everyone clapped at the spectacle

From Kurose, at the foot of Mt. Kanuki, it’s a short bus ride or a 25-minute walk to Numazu station.

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View of the pagoda in the evening

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Numazu river, at dusk

Additional Information:

The city of Numazu has really fresh seafood, some of caught fresh from the Suruga Bay. Don’t miss out on eating some sushi here. There are fish markets at the port area and the “View-O” Water Gate which offers 360-degree panoramic view of the area. The Numazu Deep Sea aquarium is also worth checking out for its collection of frozen and stuffed coelacanths. Senbonhama offers a walk along the beach. For history buffs, the Numazu Imperial Palace was built in the 1890s, burnt down during the war and rebuilt in the 1960s.

Mt. Yubune(湯船山)to Mt. Furoh(不老山) to Kintokikoen(金時公園)

Mt. Yubune (Yubuneyama) 1041m

This is the “point of no return” and if you decide to continue with the hike, it is better to complete the entire course. At this point, you are on the Minesaka pass(峰坂峠). Because this trail isn’t well-maintained, you may have to pick your way through fallen trees, especially after a typhoon. You may have to deviate off the path to avoid a giant pine tree blocking the way. Just make sure you look out for the pink ribbons which park rangers have tied to branches to make sure you are going the right way. It is easy to get lost here. If you are relying on your compass, the direction is to the East. The terrain is at a gradual decline and you are heading downward. Wearing layers that are easy to peel off is preferable. A section of Mt. Yabune has been cordoned off and you are walking around the parameters of the training grounds for the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF). You will know that this area is strictly off-limits because it is surrounded by barb wire. You might hear some distant booms when the JSDF is conducting one of its training sessions. Don’t be alarmed. If fact, the sound of explosions is a good indication that you are heading in the right direction. Make sure you don’t enter the restricted area.

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I have been told that there are bears in this area. Fortunately, I’ve never seen one on one of my hikes but I’ve seen paw prints in the mud.

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Tip: Remember to look behind you occasionally to look at Fuji peeking out above the mountain ridges.

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Minesaka pass leads to Yozuku pass(世附峠)as you make your way to the next peak. You may notice that you seemed to be heading downhill for some time and congratulating yourself that you’re out of the woods. Almost, but not yet. There is one final hill to conquer and its name is Mt. Furoh.

 

Mt. Furoh (928m)

At the Yozuku touge clearing, there is a fork in the road. Unfortunately, the trail has been destroyed by a typhoon so it isn’t possible to hike to the Furoh waterfall (Furoh no Taki). There is only one choice and that is to head up to Mt. Furoh.

First, rest up. There is a conveniently situated wooden bench for you to rest your weary feet and have a quick drink of water. Then, peel off extraneous layers on you and put them away. Next, gird your loins and prepare to get a good aerobic workout as you ascend the hill.

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The elevation isn’t steep, to be honest, but somehow, this part of the hike really wears me out. The hill just seems insurmountable. At the midway point up, there is a sign that tells you that people who climb this mountain will not grow old. I’m sure it’s there to make you feel better as you are huffing and puffing and getting all sweaty. I am pretty sure that the hikes up Mt. Furoh have taken years off of my life. That’s the secret to not growing old, huh? I’ve tried every strategy I can think of – taking measured and slow steps or simply taking a huge breath and running up the trail; getting distracted by deer prancing elegantly up the cliff ahead of me tauntingly. Nothing has worked and I can say this part of the hike is probably my least favourite. Anyway, the only way to go is up and you will eventually make it to the top, and you will see…this view.

 

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If you arrived just before sunset, you will see a really beautiful panoramic view of Fuji and the setting sun to your left. The view is breath-taking. One day, I will do this hike in reverse and enjoy traipsing down this mountain.

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Kintokikoen and Suruga-Oyama Station

At this point, you are on the last leg of your journey. You are still not completely out of the woods. That would be Kintoki Park (closest point to civilization) and 6.3 km to Suruga-Oyama station. From where you are, it is 9.3km to the train station. It gets dark really quickly, so try to exit the trail before it is completely dark. There are no lights at all. Allocate at least an hour to leave the trail and reach the park.

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As you descend Mt. Furoh, you will see logging activities and trees that had been hewn for timber. Your goal is to make your way to the gravel road which is used for transporting timber before it gets completely dark. You should be able to see this road from your higher vantage point. Lumberjacks have tied their own coded ribbons to the areas which they had chopped down trees and to warn each other about sudden drops off in the hillside. Be extra careful you don’t accidentally plunge down the side of a slope. Part of the trail had been washed away by landslides and typhoons. Navigating toward the gravel road is slightly challenging. It is advisable to do it while it is still light out. Look out for narrow dirt tracks that looked like steps have been carved into the ground. There should be several sets of them. Look out for small signs which say “Mt. Furoh”. These may have fallen to the ground or hidden by foliage.

Once you are on the gravel road, walk along it down the mountain. Watch out for the sign indicating the turnoff toward Kintokikoen or Kintoki park. The road takes a winding path down the mountain until you reach a fork. Take the left turn at the fork. This leads you away from the gravel road and onto a dirt trail. After walking for 10 minutes, you will arrive at the entrance to the park. There is a sign that tells you that it takes 45 minutes for an 83 year old person, who is walking at a slow pace, to get to the station. Remember that Japanese old folk are very sprightly and could possibly outrun you.

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The park is a lovely spot to sit in during sakura season. You could rest your weary feet, eat the last of your snacks and enjoy the cherry blossoms in Spring.

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Wild animals: I have seen snakes slithering into the undergrowth and deer bounding up the mountian. I have also come across what looks like paw prints made by a bear. Animals usually steer clear of you. You could get pretty close to the deer if you are quiet.

Mt. Yubune -> Minesaka touge (40 minutes) -> Yozuku touge (25 minutes) -> Mt. Furoh (15 minutes) -> Kintokikoen (75 minutes) -> Suruga Oyama Station (20 minutes)

Kagosaka Touge (籠坂峠) to Mt. Mikuni (三国山)

Finding the Trailhead

When you are on the bus, ask the bus driver to alert you when it reaches the stop for Kagosaka touge. There is a electronic signboard at the front of the bus that announces, visually and aurally, what the next stop is. It is useful, only if you can read the kanji or understand the Japanese. Start getting ready to alight when the bus is heading up the mountain. The bus climbs up the mountain for 10 minutes or so. You want the bus stop after the bus has reached the top. The bus stop you will be alighting at looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. It is, but there is no need to worry. You are at the right place. There is a large statue of an angel besides the bus stop, so check that you are at the right place.

The trailhead isn’t immediately visible from the bus stop. Cross the road to get to the trailhead. If you are taking the bus back to Gotemba, the bus stop is directly across the road. Walk along the road beyond the bus stop until you see a small sign that points to the trailhead. Walk up the driveway that leads to a cemetery. On a clear day, you could see Mt. Fuji behind you from the driveway.

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Walk through the cemetery and look out for signs that say “Kagosaka touge”. Eventually, you will see a dirt trail that is shaded by low trees and branches. This is the start of the trail and you are near the border between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture.

 

Hitting the Trail

Continue walking down the tree-lined path that looks a little like the scene from My Neighbor Totoro, when Mei was following the tiny white Totoro through a forested tunnel. The trail gradually leads upwards. In winter, the trail gets completely covered in snow and it is a little slippery, but not impossible, to walk without crampons. In other seasons, it is dry, which makes for a very pleasant walk. There are some signs along the way to guide you in the right direction. Some of the signs include the names of trails and peaks written in Romaji letters (English alphabet).

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Mikuni Hiking Course

The Mikuni hiking course is a loop that takes you to Mt. Mikuni (三国山)and around the area. It is a pleasant, easy walk and perfect if you wish to take a short walk in the woods. Many visitors who are staying for the weekend at Lake Yamanaka (Yamanakako) will walk around here for some fresh air and exercise. The loop takes 30 minutes to complete.

 

Mt. Oobora (1383.5m)

There isn’t much to see at Mt. Oobora(大洞山). I usually stop here for a quick rest and drink of water. At the clearing at Asami or Asamihira(アサミ平), you can see Fuji peeking out from above the treetops on a clear day.

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Mt. Mikuni (1611m)

Walk along the Mt. Mikuni hiking course to the next point. You might hear an incessant tinny whine and wonder if you have suddenly developed a case of tinnitus. You haven’t. The sound is from race car engines whirring around the Fuji Speedway track, which is situated at the foot of the mountain.

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Note: Tsuna touge (ツナ峠)is no longer passable because parts of the trail had been destroyed by a typhoon. If it were possible to walk down this trail, you will end up at one of the largest cemeteries in Shizuoka. It is also one of the 100 most famous cherry blossom-viewing spots in Japan. Click here to read about my visit in spring and summer.

At this point, decide if you wish to continue or you’ve had enough of the outdoors. Mt. Mikuni is a pleasant picnic spot and it is frequented by hikers and trail runners. Turn back, make a quick detour to visit Mt. Tachi(立山 or 太刀山) before taking the bus back to Gotemba station.

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At the foot of the mountain is Fuji Shrine, which is lovely in Spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming. You’d see this shrine from the bus when you are heading to Kagozaka touge.

Kagozaka touge -> Mt. Mikuni Hiking Course -> Mt. Oobora -> Mt. Mikuni (105 minutes)