Distance: 29.2 km
Elevation change: 977 metres
Highest point: 2017 metres
Start: Mitsumine Shrine Bus Stop
Finish: Okutama Station (Ome Line)
Ascending the Highest Point in Tokyo Prefecture
Situated in the far recesses of Tokyo and bordering on Saitama, and Yamanashi Prefectures, you find Mt. Kumotori 雲取山 2,017 metres the cloud grabber mountain. What’s remarkable about this remote location is that it’s still considered to be within the confines of Tokyo along with being one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan. Getting to the mountain generally necessitates an overnight stay at one of the mountain huts, though one day assaults are not unheard of starting along the Ome Kaido (Road) Route 411.
Day 1: Following the Ridge Towards Kumotori-sansou (12.2 km)
While it is possible to start from either end, this hike commences from the Mitsumine Shrine 三峯神社 traversing across to Okutama Station 奥多摩駅 – the same as described in the Lonely Planet, Hiking in Japan guide. The first goal of getting to the shrine entails taking a train to Seibu-Chichubu Station 西武秩父駅 and transferring to the Seibu bus service which takes you to the Mitsumine Shrine (1hr 20 mins, 950 yen) click here. It is also possible to pick up the bus from Mitsumineguchi Station 三峰口駅. To say that the buses that run this route aren’t the pride of the Seibu fleet would be an understatement, as most seem to be pretty clapped out and are certainly close to being decommissioned altogether. On weekdays, there are six round-trip bus services to the Mitsumine Shrine, with the first morning service departing at 9:10 am (on weekends, there are seven services starting at 8:00 am). It is also worth mentioning that although the Lonely Planet guide suggests taking the Mitsumine Ropeway 三峰ロープウェイ(July 2009 ed.) it has actually been out of service since May 19, 2006, and was officially abandoned on December 1, 2007. For those feeling a little more energetic, there is the option to hop off the bus at Owa 大輪 and stretch the legs shadowing the old ropeway (3.7 km).
Passing through the Mitsumine Shrine (1,102 m) affords a serenity that is in keeping with its 2000-year-old roots. It is worthwhile taking a little time to roam through the main shrine grounds, if nothing else, to ponder life during the Yayoi period. The shrine is recognised for its wolf worship, though the primary deities worshipped are Izanagi and Izanami, two gods connected with a Japanese creation myth. Being spring the shrine grounds were in full bloom, with manicured gardens complementing the fine weather. After grasping my bearings, the first target I set was reaching Kirimogamine 霧藻ヶ峰 (1,523 m) by lunch. Though I hadn’t read about any baka o-ne style ridges akin to climbing Mt.Tanzawa, I remained sceptical and wasn’t prepared to draw any conclusions based on hazy map contours.
The trail starts out climbing through sugi plantations, but as elevation is gained, it reverts to a broadleaf forest, providing some protection from the elements. The trail is, as expected, well marked, with several benches to rest on along the way. At Kirimogamine, there is a small hut with a nice backdrop, making for an ideal rest stop. After lunch, you remain on the ridge, where you head up to Mt. Maeshiraiwayama 前白岩山 (1,776 m). Shiraiwa-goya 白岩山小屋 is reached 20 minutes later, a ramshackle old hut held together with rusted cladding. Next is a rather steep climb up to Mt. Shiraiwayama 白岩山 (1,921 m) where I startled some deer upon my arrival. The following section of mountain trail heads down through the Imonoki Dokke 芋ノ木ドッケ where it is advisable to bring along crampons from November through April. Before reaching the Kumotori-sansou 雲取山荘 glimpses of the old mountain hut can be spotted to your right. The Kumotori-sansou is a professionally run lodge, that accommodates up to 200 and has friendly staff. A one-night stay will set you back 9,500 yen with dinner and breakfast and 6,800 yen if self-catering. There is also a camping area with 30 sites available for 1,500 yen. The small tatami rooms generally squeeze in four or five, and each has its own Japanese kotatsu table. I was saddled with three other guests, but thankfully there was only one snorer among the ranks.
Day 2: The Gruelling Trail to Okutama Station (17 km)
After a good feed and restful night’s sleep, the first rousing took place not long after 04:00, with breakfast served shortly before 05:00. Much of the talk at breakfast was centred on destinations and appearing to be the only person going the full mile to Okutama Station I was starting to have reservations – was this going to be a day of pain and misery after all. Side-stepping a tour group doing their morning callisthenics, I was finally on my way to Mt. Kumotori 雲取山. From the lodge, the trail to the summit takes around 20 minutes. Reaching Mt. Kumotori, I was fortunately blessed with magnificent 360-degree views, and particularly stunning were the still snow-capped peaks of the Minami Alps. It was hard to take it all in, and I can only imagine their brilliance in the winter.
So begins the long descent along the Ishione Ridge 石尾根 to Okutama Station. The first stop after passing the emergency hut near the summit is the Kumotori Okutama goya 雲取奥多摩小屋 overlooking the Mt. Fuji skyline. Note that Okutama goya ceased operations in March 2019. Park authorities ask people to no longer camp there as the toilets have also been shut. The trail continues its wide breadth until hitting Mt. Nanatsuishiyama 七ッ石山 (1,757 m) where the first exit option comes into play by heading down to either Omatsuri お祭 or Kamosawa 鴨沢. Next in line is Mt. Takanosuyama 鷹ノ巣山 (1,736 m) which can be avoided by going right. If you decide to climb to the summit, you have yet another shortcut option by heading up Shonyudo 鍾乳洞 near the Nippara Limestone Cave, where you can take a bus back to Okutama Station. At the base of this mountain there is an emergency hut, which makes for a pleasant rest spot, and there is a place nearby to fill up with water if needed.
The final hurdle was Mt. Mutsuishiyama 六ッ石山 (1,478 m), where I was fortunate enough to find a hiking companion in none other than a 70-year-old Japanese lady who, with spritely vigour, led me back to Okutama Station. There is definitely something to be said for the stamina demonstrated by folk of this age cohort, and with her swiftness, we seemed to make quick reckoning of the final interminable slope. Arriving at the station feeling totally spent, I looked for the first drink machine to rehydrate and then the nearest hot spring to relieve my sorry body.