With summertime now upon us there has never been a greater incentive to get out and explore some of the many interesting places that Japan has to offer. However, if for you like me the harsh city heat and humidity are a constant source of discomfort then finding somewhere `comfortable’ to go can become something of a challenge.
Fortunately, there are some excellent places to escape the suffocating city heat, one of them being Mount Kinpu (金峰山), located in between Yamanashi and Nagano Prefectures.
Classified as one of the top 100 famous mountains in Japan, ‘Kinpu-San’ has an abundance of interesting features including; rocky cliff tops, many beautiful flowers and some amazing views of Mount Fuji and the neighbouring peak of Mount Mizugaki.
Although with careful planning it is possible to climb Kinpu-san within a day, this is definitely one place worthy of staying overnight as this will also enable you to also climb the opposite peak of Mount Mizugaki. Unfortunately, I was unable to take advantage of this option on this occasion.
From Tokyo it’s about a four hour journey to the start of the trailhead at Mizagagi-Sanso (瑞牆山荘 ). One of the quickest options is to catch a Super Azusa Express train from Shinjuku Station, which takes you directly to Nirasaki Station without needing to transfer. From outside this station you can take any Mizagaki-Sansou bound bus from stop #2; costing 2000 Yen and taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
From the trailhead, it`s a moderate seven hour return walk to the peak and back. The start of the course ascends uphill through dense forest, cutting through several large boulders. After about 20 minutes you will catch your first albeit, partially obscured view of Mount Mizagaki.
It was around this section where I encountered something totally unexpected! Crouched in between some tree stumps was a baby deer. Resisting my natural instinct to touch it, I left it well alone and chose instead to admire it from a distance so as not to prevent its mother from returning.
Fifty minutes from the start of the course you will reach ‘Fujimidaira-goya’ (富士見平小屋), a camping ground with a beautiful little mountain hut where the path splits into two courses. This is a very popular area with many hikers as it is the main base for climbing both Mount Kinpu and Mount Mizigaki. Be sure to take the path on the right heading towards ‘Ohigoya’ ( 大日小屋), about an hour away.
When reaching this point, a clearing in the forest will provide you with your first unobscured view of the surrounding peaks along with a mountain hut below you.
For the next thirty minutes head towards the next point of ‘Ohi-iwa’, (大日岩). Along this section you will see some very picturesque moss covered rocks and encounter the first of many beautiful pink and red azaleas.
Interestingly, the path will now suddenly ascend upwards towards a clearing where you will see some very impressive rock formations running along the cliff edges and above you. To continue along this trail you will need to scale some large boulders blocking your way by using the attached ropes.
Before long you should notice the thick forested interior gradually thinning out into open terrain for the final one and a half hours ascent to the summit. The path will now take you along a rocky ridgeline passing through several deep canyons and gorges providing some spectacular views of Mount Mizagaki and the surrounding landscape.
Several minutes before reaching Mount Kinpu, you will come across a large clearing with an interesting shrine carved into the rock face to your right and the peak several meters away on your left. Although you will see many people having their lunch here, resist the temptation to rest here and instead continue to the summit. Here you will find several large boulders that provide an excellent place to have lunch but without the crowds!
From here, the return leg back to Mizagaki-Sansou takes about three hours. Although returning along the same paths, you will notice a dramatic difference in the landscape caused by the afternoon sun casting deep shadows along the ridgelines and forest interior.
Towards the end of the trail I had another look for the baby deer which fortunately, was no longer there; hopefully reunited safely with its mother.
Despite taking seven hours to complete, this is one hike which should recharge you mentally, helping you to face the long trip back to the city!