We do love a hike up a mountain. The kind of mountain that is probably best described as a big hill, none of that scrambling over loose rocks, or hauling yourself up over boulders. That’s fun occasionally, sure, but you can’t beat a good hike through the forested sides of a big hill.
Japan at this time of year has a special name in Japanese, shinryoku, it doesn’t translate to English however it roughly means the shade of green of the tree leaves after the cherry blossom. Walking amongst the trees on the way up to the summit we could really appreciate shinryoku. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fresher colour of green, and the sun light filtering through them made the leaves translucent so you could almost taste the water in their lush interior. It is hard to describe the feeling of freshness that you feel when you look at this green, it renews your eyes, gives you new hope for beginnings that you weren’t aware of.
Here’s a taster but still not really doing it justice
We caught the ‘rope way’ from the kawaguchiko lake side, it’s a cable car that ascends roughly 300m up the hillside, we’d taken it up a couple of days previously and hiked back down to the lake side, it took forty minutes. At the top there’s a small museum with pictures of grandpa Fuji, and a rabbit shrine where people try to chuck pebbles through a circular rope and over a second rope tied between two posts, for good luck. The trail to Mt Mitsutoge can also start here, although there are many trails from the lake to the summit. A gate marked the start of the walk with a cartoon rabbit and beaver on it wishing us luck and joy on our walk, very Japanese. The trail winds up and down over the spine of a ridge that springs up from the valley inbetween Fuji and the Kawaguchiko lake, it climbs up from 900m to 1785m. Here’s the spine from the top. Pretty cool to see where we’d just walked.
The views of Fuji are spectacular at every glance through the trees and at the designated viewing points in natural clearings. There’s nothing between you and the colossal sacred volcano, snow capped and blanketed in wispy clouds.
It was a beautiful spring day, brilliant sunshine warmed the Earth beneath our walking boots, the trees giving us the respite to enjoy the constant cooling breeze blowing over the ridge. Allowing us to have a laugh. This is brilliant.
Allowing us to practise the old levitation skills
To our left and right, the hillside dropped away steeply with planted monotonous tree lines giving a sense of an infinite forest to the depths of the centre of the Earth. Occasionally we’d walk set into these hillsides with a small winding path halfway up the incline. That was a little nerve wracking. The summit was about a 9km hike, towards the peak the fauna turned into large leafed plants spreading expansively over the hill with pathways trampled out through the middle.
There’s a series of mountain lodges where people restock and prepare for climbing the cliff faces that occupy the area just below the peak. There were a lot of people with carabiners and ropes ready to go. Strangely, the lodges weren’t open the day we climbed up as they were filming a documentary about them. We had to wait until the producer said it was fine to walk past, on the way down we were in urgent need of water so they had to halt filming for us to use the vending machines. Pretty awkward but funny now to think back.
Luckily, aside from the cliff faces, there’s also a path up to the top although some of it could be described as a steep scree slope where people try their luck. The view from the top is stunning! It was nice to muck around, eat some peanut chilli noodles and drink some cold coffee to restock the energy levels. Apart from seeing Fuji in all it’s splendour, you can also see the snow capped mountains of the Japanese Alps from here, a place that we knew we’d be heading to in a few days.
Hard to get a good shot of that with the zoom. Here’s a full panorama of the beauty from the summit.
And us at the top
The stone says Mitsutoge.
There’s something about this type of hiking that really resonates, more than one author in the past has said that the best speed for the brain to work is a stroll through the countryside. We had some amazing conversations stepping up the natural steps made out of tree roots, through long, straight alleyways with green walls, over ridges which dropped away from us on each side, stopping to take pictures of trees, vibrant coloured flowers, and the endless views of mount Fuji.