Mitsutoge-Yama is one of the closest mountains to Mount Fuji and has fantastic views of it, the lakes, the Minami Alps, Yatsu-Ga-Take and pretty much everything else in the area.
After a quick breakfast and admiring of views from the hotel in Lake Kawaguchiko it was off to the train station to Mitsutoge station on the Fujiyama train line ready for a climb. The train station has quite good sketch maps of the area, which is good as it isn’t easy to get topo maps of this particular mountain – with a route description the sketch map is easily enough to find the way to go up.
The walk starts at the train station, you leave the station, turn left and then turn left again under the train lines and then walk through town for about the next 20 minutes. There a green line painted on the road in the right direction so it is easy to follow until you reach a sports complex at the foothills. This is really where the walk begins, you just walk straight up following the creek along the path.
On the way up you pass a group of Buddha statues, apparently 88 although I didn’t count them. It is always interesting to see the detail that is put into statues like these on the mountains, the different expressions make them look like people frozen in conversation – Pompeii.
As we went further up, past lots of great frozen flows and ice pillars you reach an very large rock climbing area. Of course no one was there in winter (it would be freezing on the rock!) climbing with five or six hundred meters below you and uninterrupted views of the Fuji-san area would be fantastic.
We walked up in late December, while there was plenty of snow it was still reasonably easy going – some light crampons is not a bad idea. The climb is not hard for anyone reasonably fit, you are going up to 1785m so you are going up for about 3-4 hours.
Finally just past the climbing cliffs the hut was in site, just as the sun was fading.
One of the best part of trekking in Japan is the huts; it makes it so easy when you don’t need to carry a tent, sleeping bag or even a stove. There are two on the top of Mitsutoge, we stayed at the Shiki Rakuen-sanso (0555-76-7566) and would happily stay again. The hut has terrific views out of all the windows and the dinner was nice.
For those who haven’t trekked in Japan the hut system makes it really easy, most around ¥8000-¥9000 for dinner breakfast and to stay. Most will even prepare a bento box for you to take the next day as lunch for another ¥1000 yen or so. While the food is immensely expensive by Japanese standards it is so convenient that it’s worth it. The rooms are large shared rooms with futons, quilts and tatami mats – normal Japanese style, but can get very crowded in peak times. In saying that I’ve usually had a room to myself or only one or two others anywhere I have stayed, I’m sure that will change some time.
There was a group of 5 people who had been meeting at that hut every year for 40 years, one was now over 70, another was even dragging a large format camera and massive tripod up the mountain. It is inspiring to see what people can do as they get older – I hope my body keeps going that long. As I’ve always found in huts they were really friendly and were happily sharing their Sake with us around the heater. It was -6 by then so the heater was seriously appreciated ! Considering the remoteness it was amazing that beer was still around half of Australia’s prices in vending machines. It is really strange to climb these remote peaks and still find vending machines at the top – I read recently there is one for every 23 people in the country, and there’s 135 million people in the country!
At huts everywhere there is a morning ritual, dawn photography of the view, despite the well below 0 temperature the view of Fuji was just too tempting, unfortunately I had forgotten to change the ISO setting from the night before so the pictures are a little noisy but the images are still beautiful.
At the top of the mountain there is a couple of big TV transmitters, but they are on the other side and don’t spoil the view at all. On New Years day Fuji TV transmits from the spot, it’s very hard to find anywhere with a better view of Fuji.
The walk down was not so easy, somehow we missed the trailhead (still don’t know how, it must have been overgrown). The idea was to walk down the ridge to Mt Tenjo and then down next to the Kachi Kachi Yama ropeway. Unfortunately the track we took, which must have started only meters away, followed down in parallel for at least an hour while slowly diverging, by the time features started not matching the map we had already dropped too much height to turn back comfortably. We were actually following an access road that becomes covered in winter coming out at a bus stop for Kawaguichico station (after a 3 hour road pound). There were many other footprints going this way and we passed plenty of other people lower down so this is obviously a common way, but no where as nice as the intended route.
After finally reaching the bottom and grabbing a cab to the station (it was New Years Eve so no buses) it was time for a Ramen and another great feature of Japanese trekking, an Onsen. This area is particularly well known with hot springs everywhere.
Many Tokyoites do this is as a weekend or even day trip from Tokyo, the train and bus connections make it very straightforward. Having the roller coasters of FujiQ Highland right there makes for very easy transport, Japanese love theme parks!
A really nice walk but overall I prefer the Nagano area and the Japanese Alps – next trip.