Distance: 14.4 km
Elevation change: 1031 metres
Highest point: 1631 metres
Start: Sasago Station (Chuo Main Line)
Finish: Sasago Station (Chuo Main Line)
Top-notch Views from one of Yamanashi’s 100 Famous Mountains
If you’re looking for one of the best spots to gaze upon Mt. Fuji near Tokyo then look no further than Honjagamaru the highest peak south of the Sasago River in Otsuki City, Yamanashi. Climbing up from the Chuo line the elevation change is over 1,000 metres however your efforts are rewarded with beautiful beech woodlands and fantabulous views from the upper mountain slopes. Props to Andy M one of this blog’s followers for suggesting this excellent albeit tough day hike.
For Tokyo based hikers the trailhead has convenient access. From Shinjuku Station take a Chuo Line train bound for Takao transfer and get off at Sasago Station 笹子駅 (1 hr 40 mins, 1,980 yen). Leave the station by its only exit, turn right, and follow the small road which parallels the train line. After 10 minutes you should see a sign on your left for Honjagamaru 本社ヶ丸. The unmarked trailhead proper begins 50 metres further along this path on the right. Do not cross the small wooden footbridge as I did! To be perfectly frank it’s inexcusable the trailhead isn’t properly marked given it’s shown as a solid line on the Yama to Kogen map. And while I’m at it, the powers that be desperately need to upgrade Yamanashi Prefecture’s grimy and faded trail signage.
From the get-go the trail is steep and at times hard to get a grip though a series of switchbacks help deal with the gradient. As a word of warning, I would advise against doing the hike counterclockwise using this trail for the descent. The first landmark to look out for is a transmission tower a timely spot to remove a layer of clothing. At 1,000 metres finds Niwahorayama 庭洞山 indicated by a handwritten sign attached by wire to a tree. After a solid hour of climbing, you’ll pop out at a forestry road. The trail continues 30 metres to your left. The first section from the road is again quite severe. It should be noted that long swathes of trail are either faint or non-existent thanks to leaf litter and there isn’t much pink tape either. Just be mindful of sticking to the ridge and carry a GPS-capable smartphone or handheld Garmin device.
Just before arriving at Mt. Tsunotogiyama 角研山 (1,377 m) there are some rocks to climb over. Having just ascended 777 metres makes it an ideal spot to take a short rest. Continuing along the ridge finds the third transmission tower of the day along with a prodigious view of the snow-capped Southern Alps. The best autumn foliage was around the 1,000-metre mark and by early November trees above 1,500 metres were bare. A little further on there is a hand painted red and white sign indicating 3.5 km back to Sasago Station.
From Tsunotogiyama it takes around and hour to reach Honjagamaru 本社ヶ丸 (1,631 m) the highest point along the ridge. The panorama towards Mt. Fuji is downright impressive and without doubt makes the challenging climb up all the more worth it. The descent point begins on the opposite side of the pocket-sized summit. Just before reaching Mt. Seihachiyama 清八山 (1,593 m) there is some minor rock scrambling and take note of the trail branch which you will later return to before heading down. Again, revel in some fine views of the big fella along with antenna plastered Mt. Mitsutoge. The broader summit of Mt. Seihachiyama makes a better option for lunch.
After resting up return to the aforementioned trail branch and start heading downhill in the direction of Sasago 笹子方面へ. While the steepness is comparable to the way up the trail is in way better condition with little risk of losing your footing. After 20 minutes look out for some bench seats which marks the halfway point to the first deer gate. Between the two deer gates which you need to untie and retie the trail is a tad overgrown but easy enough to follow. Once you hit the paved road next to the Yamanashi transformer substation it’s a 5 km slog back to the station. Note one part of the trail is washed out necessitating a short rock hop across the river, also you’ll need to pass through the dimly lit Oiwake Tunnel.