Distance: 10.3 km
Elevation change: 1093 metres
Highest point: 1723 metres
Start: Hinata Ooya Bus Stop
Finish: Hinata Ooya Bus Stop
A Scared Mountain with Prodigious Views
Mt. Ryokami is a sacred mountain situated on the northern border of the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park and is another of the Nihon Hyaku-meizan. In the past, women were forbidden from climbing until the first recorded ascent in 1914. The summit is embellished with a small Shrine and has terrific 360-degree views. While the hike described spans two days, its close proximity to Tokyo means it can also be undertaken as a day trip.
Day 1: Climbing Mt. Ryokami’s Craggy Peak (6.3 km)
While there are a number of possible approaches to the summit the main trail starts at Hinata Ooya 日向大谷 which is accessed through two interconnecting buses from Seibu Chichibu Station click here. Depending on the time of year, you either transfer at Ogano machi Yakuba mae 小鹿野役場前 or as I did at the Ryokami Chosha 両神庁舎 (50 minutes), followed by a connecting bus to Hinata Ooya (30mins). In total, it took 90 minutes from Seibu Chichibu Station costing 500 yen to reach trailhead. The bus stop at Hinata Ooya is located below the well-appointed Ryokami-sansou 両神山荘 which is open year-round and makes a nice place to stay if you intend on breaking up the hike.
The first section is reasonably flat as you find yourself straddling the Usukawa River 薄川. After 30 minutes, the trail forks, with the lesser-used Nana Takizawa course 七滝沢コース veering to your right. A sign advises sticking to the main trail as erosion and landslides have made some areas difficult to pass. It takes a further 90 minutes to reach the now unmanned Kiyotaki-goya 清滝小屋. The hut has a water hole and an adjacent campsite that is sheltered, making it a good place to pitch a tent.
After taking a lunch break, I offloaded my tent and some other gear in the hut and headed up to the summit. The trail becomes steep rather quickly, with chains and ropes to help negotiate some of the more gnarly parts. While not difficult, I can imagine the rocks becoming somewhat hazardous in the wet. Not so subtle, there is a notice board at the start of the hike indicating areas where reported accidents and fatalities have occurred – a death toll, if you like. In the last five years, there have been fifteen such incidents, including six deaths. Though undeniably blunt, it drums home the need to be cognisant of your surroundings.
About halfway to the summit, you pass the Ryokami Shrine 両神神社 guarded by some komainu or guardian dogs. From the shrine, it takes another 25 minutes to reach Mt. Ryokami (1,723 m), though it’s a lot easier going from here. Arriving late in the afternoon meant that I was alone, though the view was masked by a light haze. Getting back to the hut was a little quicker, taking just an hour. The campsite was still unoccupied, and no one was staying at the hut either, which meant I was lucky enough to keep the serenity to myself. Outside the Kiyotaki-goya there is a covered eating area ideal for preparing a meal. The hut is lined with tatami mat flooring and has plenty of bedding. Interestingly, it also has a flush toilet, which is something I had yet to encounter at a mountain hut.
Day 2: Retracing Back to Hinata Ooya (4 km)
I woke early with the morning sun streaming through my tent. I managed to wolf down breakfast before the first of the morning climbers arrived. The hike back to Hinata Ooya basically requires repeating yesterday’s route, though there is an option of detouring via the Hitou waterfall 日藤の滝 which takes around 30 minutes to return. As with the previous day, there are five short river crossings to make before arriving at Kaisho 会所 where the Nana Takizawa course intersects. I reached the bus stop a good hour in advance and tucked into lunch. During this time, a lady and her mother arrived, and in the course of our conversation, they generously offered to drive me back to the Seibu Chichibu Station, which I gladly obliged.