Distance: 23.7 km
Elevation change: 1383 metres
Highest point: 1673 metres
Start: Okura Bus Stop
Finish: Higashino Bus Stop
Scaling Over the Tanzawa Mountains
The allure of traversing Mt. Tanzawa has beckoned me ever since I moved to Kodaira City where on clear winter mornings its silhouette is clearly visible from my balcony. Situated within close proximity to Tokyo, the Tanzawa-sanchi 丹沢山地 provides ample opportunity for a variety of overnight jaunts. This hike follows the well-worn trail to Mt. Tounotake and includes bagging the highest point on the range, Mt. Hirugatake.
Day 1: Bring on baka o-ne Stupid Ridge (10.7 km)
Getting to the trailhead requires taking a train to Shibusawa Station 渋沢駅 on the Odakyu Odawara Line and transferring to a bus for the final leg to Okura 大倉. Buses depart at 30 minute intervals from the north exit (bus stand no.2) click here. After arriving in Ookura, walk up the road for approximately 0.6 km, where a sign points towards Mt. Tounotake 塔ノ岳. The colloquially and appropriately named baka o-ne バカ尾根 ‘stupid ridge’ has a fairly benevolent start with little indication of what lies ahead – a 1,300-metre haul!
Due to the paucity of water sources it’s a good idea to pass via the Ookura kougen yama no ie 大倉高原山の家 to top up your water supplies (the hut closed November 2017 and water supply shut off March 2018). The property is also adjacent to one of the few permitted campsites and is a pleasant spot to take in a short breather. Over the next few hours on baka o-ne you will pass a smattering of sansou or mountain cottages, as you arduously plod onwards and upwards. The Katachi-sansou 花立山荘 makes for a fitting lunch break and provides prodigious views of Mt. Fuji. After filling up on some well-deserved carbs, you will find yourself within one hour of summiting Mt. Tounotake. Apart from a sundial and rock cairn marking its highest point, Mt. Tounotake (1,491 m) is barren, with only the Sonbutsu-sansou 尊仏山荘 standing prominently. The mountain is also notorious for its brutal winds, which were doing their best to blow me to the valley below.
From Mt. Tounotake, there is a watering hole, but it necessitates a 30-minute round trip. The final leg across to Mt. Tanzawa 丹沢山 remains on the ridge as it first descends then climbs back up. Unlike the trail up to Mt. Tounotake, which attracts a sizeable number of day trippers, they gradually peter out and you are mostly left to your own devices. Mt. Tanzawa (1,567 m) in contrast is covered with brush and some gnarled trees with the Miyama-sansou みやま山荘 aptly fitting into its natural surroundings. This sansou is one of the more ‘deluxe’ huts, setting you back 6,000 yen a night and 9,000 yen including dinner and breakfast. Unlike some other mountain cottages, it isn’t necessary to bring your own bedding.
Day 2: Bagging Mt. Hirugatake (13 km)
After the lights are unceremoniously switched off at 20:30, the wake-up chorus begins in earnest at 05:00 the next morning. The meals are basic, though they are packed with sufficient calories to ensure you have enough stamina for another day on the trail. After a restful night’s sleep, most of us were back on the trail not long after 6:00 am. Muscle soreness was quickly forgotten as the 3.5 km slog to Mt. Hirugatake 蛭ヶ岳 (1,673 m) commenced. The clear mountain air provided some good snaps of Mt. Fuji and the surrounding landscape. The last push up Mt. Hirugatake was by far the hardest, though the solitude of being alone at the summit was worth the effort.
The next section across to hime-tsugi 姫次 entails ambling across pathways with sets of wooden stairs designed with the environment in mind. Apart from one section, the trail is easy to navigate and eventually opens out at hime-tsugi where some purpose-built tables provide a good resting site. The goal for lunch was to reach the Hinankoya refuge hut 黍殻山避難小屋 an emergency shelter with a clearing and toilet amenities.
After lunch, it’s another rather long and steep descent, taking around two hours to reach the Higashino bus stop 東野バス停. It’s a good idea to check the bus timetable before leaving on the second day, as buses tend to run very infrequently on this route. Upon exiting onto the road you pass by a locked gate and follow several signs pointing you towards the bus stop. From Higashino, two buses are required to get back to Hashimoto Station 橋本駅 on the JR/Keio Line. First, take the bus to Mikagi 三ヶ木 then transfer to a bus bound for Hashimoto Station (1 hour, 27 minutes, 960 yen).