Last weekend, I hoped to go up a mountain and see some snow. Tanzawa-san is around halfway between Tokyo and Mt Fuji, and it seemed to be a prospect to have a bit of white stuff on top of it without needing too much winter hiking equipment.
The first part of this walk was a revisit of the climb up To no Take. This is reached by taking the Odakyu Railway from Shinjuku to a station called Shibusawa (the kaisoku express trains stop here), and then catching a local bus up the hill to Okura. The track then ascends steeply up Okura Ridge.
I did part of this walk last July in the summer heat. This time, the trees had lost all their leaves, but the weather was crisp and clear. Instead of summer humidity, mist and haze, this time it was sunny and cool. And, sensational views of Mt Fuji.
There were some mountain huts (yamagoya) open for business, selling food and drinks. At one, I stopped for a nice brewed coffee.
The summit of To no Take had a great view of Fuji-san, although it was very windy. Although the sun on the way up made us a bit hot, the wind caused jackets, hats and gloves to be put on quite quickly.
Here’s a photo contrast of the summit of To no Take when it’s clear, compared to foggy (last July).
The track from the summit of To no Take towards Tanzawa-san was along a ridgeline, and was the most scenic part of the day. It was also where the number of hikers dropped off significantly, as most seemed to turn around and head back downhill from To no Take.
Tanzawa-san is one of Japan’s 100 famous mountains (Hyaku mei san) - more on that some other time. But although the walk up was very scenic, the summit was a bit underwhelming. There was not much of a view, there was a mountain hut surounded by equipment and repair supplies, and some benches surrounded by mud. The mud was a sign that what little snow was once there had now melted.
After checking the bus timetable with the guy who ran the hut on Tanzawa, we decided there was enough time to continue north to Miyagase Lake, rather than retrace our steps back down to Okura. Although the views of Fuji were behind us on the other side of the mountain, there were a few snowy patches (north facing slopes), but lower down, some reasonably challenging steep pinches, ladders & chains, and a need to take care not to slip down off the path straight into a ravine below.
The end of the track had a warning sign about bears. Thanks for not telling us earlier. This winter’s a bit warm – maybe they’ve stopped hibernating!
Miyagase is a dam with a town on the shores. I didn’t expect anything more than a bus stop by the side of the road, but there was more to see – the Miyagase Valentine Festival, which we stumbled on by chance. That was quite a surreal experience that deserves its own post next time.
I’ve uploaded a more complete photo album with photos of the day’s hike, and sneak preview of the Valentine Festival.