Distance: 12.5 km
Elevation change: 1116 metres
Highest point: 1736 metres
Start: Naka Nippara Bus Stop
Finish: Kuratoguchi Bus Stop
Breathtaking Views and Tranquillity at Mt. Takanosu
Mt. Takanosu has long held a special affinity for those living in the Okutama area. During the Edo Period the mountain was off limits to low ranking citizens on account they might poach the local hawks which the nobility considered for themselves. On my descent from Mt. Kumotori last year, I opted to bypass Mt. Takanosu due to underestimating the effort required to walk the Ishione Ridge. While this hike has been spilt over a more leisurely two days (note that you will be climbing 1,100 metres on the first day) it can also be undertaken as a day outing provided an early start is made.
Day 1: A Tough Ridge Climb to the Hawks Nest (5.8 km)
Access to the trailhead is met by taking a train to Okutama Station and picking up a Nishi Tokyo bus bound for the Nippara Shonyudo 日原鍾乳洞 (25 minutes, 450 yen). Time permitting the Nippara Limestone Caves are also worth exploring in their own right. The nearest bus stop to the trailhead is actually Naka Nippara 中日原 one-stop beforehand. Rising in front of you is the imposing Inamuraiwa Rock 稲村岩 which needs to be conquered before the onerous ridge climb to the summit begins. The first section starts off gently enough, walking through a sheltered ravine, although there is a fairly steep slope before reaching the Inamuraiwa Rock. Scampering up the rocky knoll provides a limited view back through the valley.
After taking a short rest, be ready for a long and sustained ascent along the Inamuraiwa Ridge 稲村岩尾根 and depending on the amount of gear you’re lugging, it can take upwards of 2.5 hours, as I discovered. There is little respite on the ridge and apart from amusing myself with the spectacle of some 40-plus-year-old discarded steel Fanta cans it’s hard going. Before the last push to the summit, you pass through the Hirumeshi-kuinotawa ヒルメシクイノタワ which was displaying some Japanese honeywort Cryptotaenia japonica coming into bloom. From here, the top seems near but be prepared for a couple of false summits before finally reaching Mt. Takanosu 鷹ノ巣山 (1,736 m).
Being a weekday, I had the summit of Mt. Takanosu mostly to myself, and presumably other would-be hikers had been put off by the malevolent grey skies brewing on the horizon. Views from the summit don’t disappoint delivering stunning vistas to the south including the white crested Tokyo Peace Pagoda on Mt. Odera. With the weather rapidly deteriorating, it was thankfully only a short 20-minute stroll down to the campsite at the Takanosuyama Refuge Hut 鷹ノ巣避難小屋. While this isn’t an officially sanctioned campsite, there is a nice clearing for pitching a tent, and a water hole is situated 200 metres away along the trail heading to Kudari.
Day 2: Roped off Trail Necessitates a Change of Plan (6.7 km)
The previous night, I was awoken a couple of times by some light rain and the sound of deer feeding on the grass outside the tent. The sun rising at around 04:30 made oversleeping kind of impossible, and dragging myself out of my sleeping bag was made much easier. The original plan was to follow the Ishione Ridge for a short distance and then veer right, down to Lake Okutama via the Mizunezawa Forestry Way. This plan was soon thwarted on account of finding the trail entrance roped off with a sign revealing the impassable section of the trail. Mercifully, only a little backtracking was needed to get back to Kayandai Ridge.
The ridge actually turned out to be surprisingly scenic, especially where it passes through an area of larches near Mt. Kayanoki 榧ノ木山 (1,485 m). The first part has a fairly benign gradient and takes around one hour from the Ishione Ridge trail junction to reach Mt. Kurato 倉戸山 (1,189 m). The summit here has a beautiful grassy field, making it an excellent lunch spot. The final descent to the Kuratoguchi bus stop 倉戸口バス停 starts out pretty steep and becomes more so progressively, so take extra care with your footing. Before you hit the road, which snakes around to the bus stop, look for a small shrine with decent views across Lake Okutama. Buses returning to Okutama Station are few and far between so best to confer with the Nishi Tokyo bus timetable in advance.