Distance: 15.6 km
Elevation change: 1054 metres
Highest point: 1304 metres
Start: Yokoze Station (Seibu Chichibu Line)
Finish: Urayamaguchi Station (Chichibu Main Line)
Mt. Buko’s Scarred Facade Unmasks an Impressive Backdrop
My first glimpse of Mount Buko’s chiselled veneer was on the way to Mount Kumotori last year, and if it hadn’t been pointed out, I would have quickly dismissed the mountain as nothing more than a gargantuan quarry. Over the past 74 years an impressive quantity of limestone around 400 million metric tonnes, by some estimates, have been extracted. This is only half the story of Mt. Buko, as while the northern face exerts a brutal facade, the opposing side is from another world with lush forests, waterfalls, and clear spring waters.
The hike starts from Yokoze Station 横瀬駅 on the Seibu Chichibu Line, about 75 minutes from Ikebukuro by Limited Express train. The downside of climbing this mountain is walking along a heavy vehicle access road for around 90 minutes, as unfortunately there isn’t a bus service to the trailhead. Here you will live a fairly precarious existence with 30-tonne dump trucks speeding by every few minutes. Not surprisingly, most hikers avoid this section like the plague with local taxi companies collecting a nice windfall ferrying hikers to the trailhead.
The fine autumn weather coupled with Mt. Buko’s 200 famous Japanese mountain status meant there was no shortage of hikers heading up. After passing by the torii gate, the trail follows a vehicular access road before veering right and gradually steepening towards the Fudou Falls. A little further along, look out for the grand cedar tree standing gracefully near the trail. Just below the summit of Mt. Buko 武甲山 (1,304 metres), there is a nice grassy open area to take lunch below the Mitake Shrine with restroom facilities. The actual summit is on the other side of the shrine, and while fenced along the northern edge, there is a wonderful bird’s-eye view over Chichibu City and the ghastly limestone quarry beneath.
While most hikers head back the same way or loop around the neighbouring peaks of Komochiyama 小持山 and Omochiyama 大持山 this hike continues over to Urayamaguchi Station 浦山口駅 on the Chichibu Mainline. Note, however, that the trail tends to be quite steep and rocky and includes a long section of tightly laced switchbacks down to the Hashidate River. The first downhill leg off the peak includes a short detour to a watering hole. The river is traversed with the help of a rough-hewn bridge, and the final stretch back to the station follows a rather quaint, unsealed road. Just before the station, there is a faucet dispensing spring water on the roadside. Highly praised for its taste and health benefits, it makes a nice place to rehydrate before heading back.