Distance: 20 km
Elevation change: 893 metres
Highest point: 1953 metres
Start: Shinchidaira Bus Stop
Finish: Shinchidaira Bus Stop
Map: Yama to Kogen Chizu 山と高原地図 ［No.26 雲取山・両神山 KUMOTORI-YAMA·RYOKAMI-SAN］
The Hidden Mountain of Okuchichibu
Mt. Kasatori lies along the Saitama – Yamanashi prefectural border about halfway between Mt. Kobushi and Mt. Kumotori. The south side of the summit boasts the headwaters of the Tama River while the summit itself offers terrific views of the Okuchichibu Mountains, Southern Alps, and Mt. Fuji. While doable as a day hike (round-trip 7 hours) it’ll be a race against the clock to make the last bus. A more relaxed course of action would be to sleep out at the quaint and sheltered Kasatori-goya campsite.
Day 1: Trek to Tama River’s Headwaters (11.8 km)
For those coming by car the most popular hiking route starts from Sakubadaira 作場平. If you’re relying on public transport you will need to take a Nishizawa Gorge bound bus from either Enzan Station or Yamanashishi Station if hiking out of season. From Enzan Station there are two morning buses with the first departing at 08:30. This hike commences from the Shinchidaira Bus Stop 新地平 (27 mins, 970 yen).
The trail up to Gan-toge is the same as the final day on my Karisaka-toge hike from a few years back. From the bus stop head across the road, turn right at the first street, and follow it up hill. After 10 minutes you’ll reach a gate with some signs stating that the road and surrounding forest is privately owned. A little further on you will reach a place where the road divides. The right fork is clearer and more travelled, but the left fork is also okay. Take your pick, as they meet later on.
The forestry road for the most part grips the Hiro River 広川 and is rather picturesque in the autumn. It should take an hour to reach a work shed and 30 minutes after that you’ll face the first of around ten minor river crossings. Compared to last time the river was under higher flow and I would avoid this route after heavy rain. After seeing another hiker go head over heels, I decided it best to remove my shoes and socks to avoid similar ignominy. Thankfully, the other river traverses were easier to deal with.
The trail after the first river crossing was at times faint but provided you stick to the main watercourse and are mindful of the pink tape it shouldn’t be a problem. As for collecting drinking water I would hold off until the grassland near Kan-toge. If you are doing this hike as an overnighter I would first head down to the Kasatori-goya 笠取小屋 (700 yen) and find a place to set up camp especially on weekends as the campsite fills up quickly. The hut caretaker is a jovial character even offering guests a free cup of coffee upon arrival.
Having found a decent spot to pitch the tent and wolfing down a couple of sandwiches I headed towards Mt. Kasatori 笠取山 (1,953 m). The wall-like slope which rises in front of you is colloquially known as ‘heartbreak slope’ and is the best bit about climbing Mt. Kasatori. Your efforts are rewarded with spectacular views of the snowed capped Southern Japanese Alps along with Fujisan. If you’re interested in checking out the Tama River Headwaters 多摩川源流 you can either loop around the mountaintop or head back down and cut across. Here a little down from the summit is the source of the Tama River known as Mizukan 水干. As the signpost succinctly puts it 東京湾まで138 km (Tokyo Bay 138 km). Stick on this trail to find the actual mizu-ba or spring and lap up some of Kanto’s purest water.
Day 2: An Untimely Drippy Water Bottle (8.2 km)
For the return trip I contemplated making a quick summit bid but shortly after leaving the campsite I felt some coldness around my lower back. The culprit was a leaky Nalgene wide mouth cantene which I have taken on just about every overnight hike over the past 7 years. After pouring out the said water at Gan-toge I started heading down to the bus stop. The early morning light combined with the autumn foliage made for some nice-looking photos and apart from crossing the freezing stream barefooted it was a perfect couple of hours. Like on the previous occasion I managed to make the first morning bus back to Enzan Station.