Distance: 26.8 km
Elevation change: 1089 metres
Highest point: 2599 metres
Start: Mizugaki-sansou Bus Stop
Finish: Nishizawa Keikoku Iriguchi Bus Stop
Rocky Escarpments and Lofty Views from Mt. Kinpu
As one of the premier hiking spots in the Kanto region Mt. Kinpu certainly didn’t hesitate to live up to its infamous reputation. Over the span of this hike, you will be transported through breathtaking scenery as you plod upwards to its peak. While the hike can be done year-round, provided, of course, you are well kitted out, it is best probably done before the end of November while public transport options remain viable. Also, unless you’re a glutton for punishment, neither Mt. Kinpu nor Mt. Kobushi are realistic day excursions from Tokyo and are best undertaken as a more leisurely overnight trip or combined into a three-day walk.
Day 1: Getting Above the Tree Line to Mt. Kinpu (9.3 km)
If you’re coming from Shinjuku getting to the trailhead will take a little over four hours if using a local train service. In this case, take a train heading for Takao and transfer to a Matsumoto bound train. With a bit of forward planning, you should only need to transfer one time. Exiting Nirasaki station 韮崎駅 look for bus stop no.2 where you can pick up a direct bus to the Mizugaki-sansou 瑞牆山荘 (1hr 15 mins, 2,060 yen). The price is a little steep, but when you think of the alternative, it works out to be a pretty good deal.
The trail starts in front of the Mizugaki-sansou where after about 20 minutes you come to a nice resting area overlooking the jutted peaks of Mt. Mizugaki. A little further on, before reaching the Fujimidaira-goya 富士見平小屋 the trail splits, with the option of heading left to Mt. Mizugaki. There is also a water hole just below the hut. The Fujimidaira-goya has a nice campsite and is a good spot to base yourself instead of lugging your gear to either peak. From here follow the ridge up to the Dainichi-goya 大日小屋 and after about 90 minutes you will arrive at the Dainichi Boulder 大日岩 an enormous rock conglomeration that contrasted exquisitely with the blue autumn sky. If you’re on the early bus, it makes for an impressive lunch stop.
The following section begins a rather long climb, taking around another 90 minutes to reach above the tree line. It is from here that the true grandeur of Mt. Kinpu 金峰山 (2,599 m) comes into view. Take care as you scramble over boulders, especially in the case of snow. From the sheer escarpment off to your right, views of Mt. Fuji augment the stunning backdrop. Nearing the summit, you should be able to glimpse the Kinpu-goya 金峰小屋 on your left. A small shrine has been erected a five-minute walk from the true summit.
The only hikers I encountered were a small group staying at the Kinpu-goya. Reaching the summit a little later than anticipated, I had little time before having to set off for Oodarumi-toge 大弛峠 another two hours away. Continuing east from the summit, you again dip under the tree line. The Oodarumi-toge has the claim of being the highest accessible roadway pass in Japan at 2,365 m. The Oodarumi-goya 大弛小屋 has a sheltered campsite with a water hole (1,000 yen). Given the approaching typhoon, the only other campers to set up camp for the night were a father and son duo.
Day 2: A Seven-Hour Slog through Rain and Mist to Mt. Kobushi (10.2 km)
The first telltale signs of the impending typhoon system were already evident: grey clouds and a light mist. I hastily ate breakfast and got my gear packed away. Like clockwork, the rain started just as I headed off to my first point of call, Mt. Kokushigatake 国師ヶ岳 (2,591 m). By the time I had reached the summit (1 hour), the rain had settled in earnest, and I had resigned myself to it for the next 6 hours. Lifting my spirits was the beauty that comes with walking through the rain and the secure knowledge that at least all my gear was well-waterproofed.
From Mt. Kokushigatake, it takes around 2 hours to reach Higashi Azusa 東梓. My original plan was to take lunch a little further along at another rock outcrop, though the unrelenting rain decided otherwise as I soldiered on and grabbed a short break under a fallen log, the only respite I had. The final push-up to Mt. Kobushi 甲武信ヶ岳 (2,475 m) takes another 2 hours, with the last steep climb testing my endurance and resolve to get into a warm sleeping bag. Nearing the top of Mt. Kobushi requires scampering over loose rocks to reach the summit. After taking a couple of quick snaps, I slowly made my way down to the Kobushi-goya 甲武信小屋 (1,000 yen), where I swiftly made camp and settled in for a well-deserved rest before dinner.
Day 3: The Downward Spiral to Nishizawa Gorge (7.3 km)
As day break neared the rain eased and was pleasantly surprised to find the interior of my tent remained completely dry. Hearing the group staying the hut heading off I tucked into a quick brekkie, grudgingly packed up the wet tent and headed up Mt. Tokusa 木賊山 (2,468 m). A little way after Mt. Tokusa the track forks so take the right trail and rapidly begin the long descent 1,400 m in fact to the Nishizawa Keikoku. The Nishizawa Gorge is one of the most beautiful valleys of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park and would be a worthwhile day trip in its own right.
It takes around 90 minutes to reach another prominent trail juncture. Heading left takes you down the older Chikamaru path 近丸新道 while the right fork uses the newer Tokuchan path 徳ちゃん新道. Both trails take around the same time though the Tokuchan path is more commonly utilised. I went with later and finally after two days of hiking solo came across another backpacker doing the same hike in reverse. The trail exits near the forlorn Nishizawa-sansou 西沢山荘 which also makes for a good lunch site. All that was left was walking along the road following the Fuefuki River 笛吹川 back to the Nishizawa keikoku iriguchi bus stop 西沢渓谷入口 where four daily buses make the trip back to Enzan Station (1 hr, 1,000 yen) click here.