The Dancing Girl of Izu Hiking Course / Izu no Odoriko (伊豆の踊り子ハイキングコース)

The hike to the Old Amagi Tunnel and Joren Waterfall is a decent half-day hike. It is possible to hike from the tunnel to the Kawazu Nanadaru Seven waterfalls.

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Total Walking Time: 6.5 to 7 hours, about 20km

Hiking to the Old Amagi Tunnel and Joren Waterfall is a decent half-day hike. It is possible to hike from the tunnel to the Kawazu Nanadaru Seven waterfalls.

This is an easy and well-marked course with good signage to guide you along. This is basically a long walk through some very lush vegetation. Good walking shoes are essential, a walking stick is not necessary. Bring water, food and snacks, a raincoat on wet days and a hat for sunny days. This particular trail is doable year round.

Access:

From Shuzenji station, take a bus headed for Kawazu. Alight at the Amagi Pass bus stop. The bus ride takes 43 minutes. The bus schedule is as follows: 6:25am, 7:16am, 8:05am, 8:33am, 9:18am, 9:53am

Hitting the Trail:

The trailhead starts at the bus stop. Follow the signs that lead to Joren waterall. After a 15-minute walk, you’d see the Joren waterall. At 25m high and 7m wide, it’s the largest waterfall in the Izu Peninsula. The landscape is lush and green in summer, yellow and gold in autumn.

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Song of Joren Waterfall

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Highest waterfall in the Izu Peninsula

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Stop to admire the wasabi farms along the way

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Wasabi patch

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Running water is necessary for growing wasabi

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Tarosugi, 450 years old, 53m tall with a circumference of 13.6m

From the waterfall, it’s a 2-and-a-half hour walk to the Amagi Tunnel. This historical tunnel is featured in one of the most famous books written by Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), who was the first Japanese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. The Odoriko hiking course has been named after the titular character of his book “Izu no Odoriko”. Published in 1926, it is about a student from Tokyo who meets a group of travelling performers on the road and falls in love with a young dancer. Fans of the novel can retrace the steps of the nameless narrator and the dancing girl.

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We go that way

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Memorial stone to the author, Yasunari Kawabata

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Why is the tunnel famous? Completed in 1905, it is the longest tunnel that’s made entirely of stone from the Meiji period. The tunnel is 445.5 meters long, 4,1 meters wide and 4.2 meters wide, and cuts through the ridge of that divides the Izu Peninsula. This tunnel is no longer in use as a new tunnel had been constructed for vehicles. It is only open to foot traffic. On weekends, you could borrow a lantern to light your way. It is almost completely dark, even in the day, inside this famously haunted spot.

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Can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel

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Cold and damp

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The way out!

From the Amagi tunnel, it is a 2-hour hike to the Kawazu Nanadaru waterfalls. The Kawazu Nanadaru waterfalls are a series of seven waterfalls which are really lovely to look at, especially after the rainy season, or in autumn when the trails are covered with autumn leaves. Take some time to meander leisurely around the Kawazu Falls at your own pace, to enjoy the refreshing and mesmerizing views and hypnotizing sounds of running water. Parts of the trail may be closed due to landslides and falling rocks caused by typhoons.

 

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Daru daru dan dan suspension bridge

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Many bridges were crossed but none burnt, hopefully

From the Kawazu Nanadaru waterfalls, take a bus to Kawazu station or back to Shuzenji station.

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Additional Information: 

The Kawazu cherry blossoms bloom for a month from early February. They are vibrant and bright pink in colour and a hardier variant of the sakura. The whole town comes alive during the sakura festival when the flowers are blooming. There are food stands and night light-up of the cherry blossoms in the evening. It’s definitely worth a visit.

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Amagi (天城)

Situated in the east of the Izu Peninsula is a group of volcanoes that make up Mount Amagi. The highest mountain in the peninsula, Mt. Amagi stands at an impressive 1406m and its many trails give hikers choices on how to approach this mountain range.

This mountain range straddles Kawazu Town, Izu City, Higashiizu Town and Nishiizu Town. There are different types of landscapes – flat, treeless, scrubby and dry Mt. Daruma, in contrast to tall thin-trunked and majestic pine trees and lush vegetation, wasabi fields nestled behind barbed wire in muddy fields filled with running water and majestic waterfalls.

Given enough time, it is possible to hike across Ito City in the east, across the Naka Izu Area or Central Izu Area, and end up in the Nishi Izu Area or West Izu Area. This trail would start from the Amagi Touzan Iriguchi Trailhead in the east and end up at Mt. Sanagi-yama in the west, with Heda Port as the final destination. As this hike only covers day hikes, I have sectioned the trail into separate hikes.

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Waterfalls

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Wasabi

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Lots of water

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A walk in the forest

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Amagi Tunnel

There are many ways to approach the Amagi mountain range. There are options for short and long hikes.

Trail Option 1: Odoriko Hiking Course and Old Amagi Tunnel, plus Joren Waterfall and Kawazu Nanadaru Seven Waterfalls

Trail Option 2: Mt. Amagi Hiking Course

Trail Option 3: Amagi Pass to Funabara Pass

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.

Numazu Alps (沼津アルプス) Part 2

Finding the trailhead: At the Tabi bus stop, you’d be greeted by the tranquil coastal view of the bay. There are fishermen reeling in a morning catch. The trail literally starts from the bay. There is a small shrine with a good view of the bay. The trailhead starts to the right of the shrine, with your back to the bay.

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Bay view at Tabi

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Tabi Shrine

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Follow the tsunami evacuation signs up the slope. The road would take you through the sleepy town with houses and backyards with small fields of daikon radishes, cabbages and orange trees growing, even in winter. You’d see this sign pointing toward a dirt trail and that is the start of the Numazu Alps hiking course.

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Honour system – choose a bag of mikan, drop 100yen into the coin box

 

Hitting the Trail: On the Tabi Pass, turn right to hike up the first peak, which is Mt. Ohira. It is a relatively easy trail that is a little rocky in parts. There is a good view of Mt. Fuji mid-way up the trail. After an invigorating 50-minute warm-up, it’s a good chance to take a quick breather at the top of Mt. Ohira. Backtrack to return to the Tabi Pass to head to the next mountain, Mt. Washizu.

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Start of the trail to Mt. Ohira and Mt. Washizu

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Mt. Ohira, 356m

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View from Mt. Ohira

From Mt. Ohira, it’s a 35-minute brisk hike to Mt. Washizu. The trail gets a little bit more challenging as it requires you to clamber over rocks and jutting tree roots. <trail>

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Uprooted tree, tipping over the precipice

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Steps carved into the boulder

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Mt. Ohira, as seen from Mt. Washizu

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Mt. Washizu, 392m

From Mt. Washizu, it’s a 15-minute hike to Mt. Kowashizu.

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Mt. Kowashizu, 330m

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Going down, those ropes are there to help you along

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Pause to look at the view

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Cross that bridge when you get there

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Mountain shrine under an overhanging boulder

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Numazu Alps (沼津アルプス) Part 1

Total Distance: 13 km

Total Walking Time: 6 to 7 hours

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Numazu Alps, as seen from Mt. Kanuki

The course is easy to moderate and accessible year-round. This trail is well-trodden with hikers, and it’s mostly well-maintained and very clearly marked with signs. There is no chance of getting lost at all. A walking stick could be helpful but not essential. Bring a hat, gloves, flashlight, food 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.

Summary: The Numazu Alps is located in Numazu city, to the south of Mt. Fuji. It is a series of 7 low peaks, which are not difficult to hike through but challenging enough for a day’s hike. You could panoramic views of Fuji, Suruga Bay and Numazu City. I started the trail from Tabi (south) to (north) because I wanted to clear Mt. Ohira and Mt. Washizu, which are the two highest peaks in the morning, first before taking it easy along the rest of the hike. Another advantage is that the sun was mostly behind me when I was hiking, so I didn’t have to squint the whole way. You could of course decide to attempt the hike from Mt. Kanuki to Mt. Ohira, and return to Numazu by bus from Tabi.

Tabi Trailhead -> Tabi Pass (30 minutes) -> Mt. Ohira (356m) (20 minutes) -> Tabi Pass -> Mt. Washizu (392m) (50 minutes) -> Mt. Kowashizu (330m) (15 minutes) -> Shige Pass -> Mt. Shige (214m) (25 minutes) -> Mt. Tokura (256m) (30 minutes) -> Yokoyama Pass -> Mt. Yoko (183m) (60 minutes) -> Yaesaka Pass -> Mt. Kanuki (193m) (60 minutes) -> Kurose Trailhead -> Numazu Station (25 minutes)

Note: There are many trails leading to the main hiking trail. You could leave the trail if you are tired or have had enough. It’s also best to leave the trail when the sun is setting. Take the bus at the foot of the mountain trail to head back to Numazu Station. Most buses run till 7pm or even later.

Wild animals: This trail is popular with wild boars. There are many reports of wild boar sightings in this area. If you spot one, do not get close to it. They are short-tempered creatures and may charge at you, so stay away from it. The mosquitoes are vicious bloodsuckers, that’ll eat you alive if given a chance.

Useful Japanese:

Numazu station Numazu-eki 沼津駅
Bus stop Basu Noriba バス乗り場
Numazu Alps Numazu Arupusu 沼津アルプス
Tabi Pass Tabi Touge 多比
Mt. Ohira Ohira-yama 大平山
Mt. Washizu Washizu-yama 鷲頭山
Mt. Kowashizu Kowashizu-yama 小鷲頭山
Shige Pass Shige Touge 志下峠
Mt. Shige Shige-yama 志下山
Mt. Tokura Tokura-yama 徳倉山
Yokoyama Pass Yokoyama Touge 横山峠
Mt. Yoko Yoko-yama 横山
Yaesaka Pass Yaesaka Touge 八重坂峠
Mt. Kanuki Kanuki-yama 香貫山
Kurose Trailhead Kurose Iriguchi 黒瀬

Katahama Station (片浜駅) to Mt. Ashitaka (愛鷹山)

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.

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Fujisan (L) and Ashitaka (R)

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.

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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.

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Turn left at the Ashitaka 600 Golf Course

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Golf course with a view

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.

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Option 1:

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)

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Option 2:

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)

Mt. Echizen-dake (越前岳) – Trail Option 2

Mt. Echizen-dake Trail Option 2

Total Distance: 8 to 10 km

Trail option 2: Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi -> Wara Ishi Pass -> Mt. Hourai -> Waraishi Pass -> Mt. Yobikodake -> Mt. Echizendake -> Jyurigi Highland (More Challenging)

From the Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi, trot along the forest trail to the mountain shrine. Instead of turning right and up toward the Fujimi Pass, go straight along the forest trail. You’d be hiking along the river, which would be dry in autumn and winter. At one point, you’d be trekking along the rocks of the river bed to continue on the trail for an hour. It’s a slight incline up but not too steep. Continue along the trail toward the first fork in the trail.

Option A (Challenging): Keep walking on the trail, past the first landmark, which is a very large pine tree. It’s a 2-and-a-half hour hike from the mountain shrine to the Wari Ishi-touge or the Split Stone pass. This part of the trail is going to be a little more difficult as you’d be scrambling up and down steep steps and hauling yourself up using the vegetation around you. There would be ropes to help you along a portion of the trail here. It is not impossible for beginner hikers, but do be very careful. I hiked through this part with a bad knee and I used a walking stick to maintain my balance. There is a pay off for that hard work. Mount Hourai is a 25-minute hike from the Spilt Stone or 15 minutes, if you are part-moutain goat.

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This cleft in the rock is pretty impressive

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From Mt. Hourai, retrace your steps back to the split stone and toward Mt. Yobikodake (height: 1310m). The name of this mountain translates as Mt. Whistle. Perhaps the reason for this is the wind blowing through these mountains sounds like someone whistling very loudly. Walk along the Gara gara shita trail, which is a narrow trail and you’d feel like one mis-step and you’d be tumbling down the cliff on either side. Be careful, the winds here are very strong. Do note that the winds here can be pretty strong, so it is advisable to attempt this hike on a relatively windless day. It’s an hour’s hike from Mt. Yobikodake to Mt. Echizendake.

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Option B (Challenging): Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi -> Higashizawa-bunki Fork -> [Side trip to Mt. Mae-dake and Mt. Ihai -> Mt. Yobiko-dake -> Mt. Echizen-dake

Hikers are advised to avoid the Mt. Hourai to Mt. Ihai trail. To get to Mt. Ihai, keep following the forested path instead of turning right at the mountain shrine. The path runs parallel with the river bed. At the Higashizawa-bunki Fork, take a left and head onto the trail toward Mt. Mae-dake (1336m). The trail to the left will lead you to Mt. Ihai, avoiding the trail that is off-limits to hikers. From Mt.Ihai, turn around and hike back to the Higashizawa Fork. Depending on your stamina, amount of daylight and if you are rushing for the last bus, decide if you are going to continue toward Wari-Ishi dake to see the split stone or call it a day.

Note that this trail can take some time to complete because you have to backtrack to the Higashizawa-bunki Fork. Plan your time carefully and ensure that you have enough time to head toward the bus stop to catch the last bus down the mountain.

Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi -> Higashizawa-bunki Fork (55 minutes) -> [Side return trip ] Mt. Mae-dake -> Mt. Ihai -> Mt. Mae-dake -> Higashizawa-bunki Fork (220 minutes) -> Dai-Ni Kerun Trail (40 minutes) -> Mt. Yobiko-dake (60 minutes) -> Mt. Echizen-dake (65 minutes) -> Jyurigi Highland bus stop or Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi (120 minutes)

Total hiking time: 9 to 10 hours

Option C (Extremely Challenging): At the fork in the trail, turn left and southward onto the trail to hike toward Mt. Ihai. It’s a challenging trail which requires clambering over rocks and pulling oneself with ropes that have been attached to the rocky cliff. It’s best to avoid this trail, if you aren’t confident. From Mt. Ihai, it is possible to head in a northwest direction toward Mt. Hourai and The Wari Ishi Pass. It takes at least 80 minutes to complete this trail. Give yourself lots of extra time to maneuver around the rocks.

N.B. The updated map for this trail advises hikers to avoid the Mt. Hourai to Mt. Ihai trail because of the danger of falling.

Ashitaka Trailhead -> Kitazawa De-au (60 minutes) -> Wari Ishi Pass (90 minutes) -> Mt. Hourai (30 minutes) -> Mt. Yobikodake (30 minutes) -> Mt. Echizen-dake (70 minutes) -> Jyurigi Highland bus stop (120 minutes)

(OR) Mt. Echizen-dake -> Ashitaka Touzan Iriguchi (120 minutes)

Total hiking time: 8 hours