Easy dayhike in Chichibu Mountains
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the best things about living in Tokyo is just how easy it is to get out of “the world’s greatest city.” With the Pacific on one side, a rugged peninsula, and the white sand and blue water of the Ogasawara archipelago in a thousand-kilometre-long chain to the south, and mountains to north and east and west, The Big Sushi is literally surrounded by outdoor adventures big and small.
At 305 metres, 1000 feet, above sea level, Mount Hiwadasan in the Chichibu mountains of Saitama, west of Tokyo, is definitely one of the small adventures. Heck, at that elevation the summit isn’t even close to being above treeline, let alone in the alpine zone of the Japan Alps or mountains of Hokkaido. Instead, what Hiwadasan does offer, especially if you’re on the Seibu Ikebukuro or Seibu Chichibu lines, is a pleasant half-day outing – a chance to breath some country air and enjoy the green, ferny shade of the cedar woodlots on these low, mostly easy-to-walk ridges and slopes. In fact, other than a short dash to a viewpoint looking over Saitama and the rest of the Chichibu mountains, and perhaps the somewhat higher, wilder Okutama mountains in the near distance, Hiwadasan and neighbouring Monomisan really is more of a walk in the woods than a mountain climb. But hey, I’m not complaining: the trailhead is about an hour from my house, which makes it less travel time than the daily commute to my job in the city. There’s also Alishan, a locally famous organic vegetarian shop and restaurant in the area, though personally all that whole, unprocessed food is a bit of a shock to my system.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone on a short visit to Japan make Hiwadasan their sole outdoor adventure; Takaosan, despite the crowds, with its summit-top beer garden and (on a clear day) view of Fujisan, is the iconic Tokyo daytrip to the mountains west of the city. If, as I say, you’re already some ways along one of the commuter train lines est of Ikebukuro, or want to join some local seniors and families on a modest adventure, Hiwadasan is the kind of place you can explore without much planning or special equipment (though when headed out of doors I always recommend sturdy shoes or boots with grippy treads). From Hanno station, it’s an easy two-hour hike up and down again, with just a bit of a scramble near the scenic viewpoint and summit to make it interesting. Coming in this direction, the hardest part of the trail already behind you, you can also continue on a few more hours to Musashi-Yokote station, passing the slight detour to the Gojonotaki waterfall en route. In early September, near the trailhead at Hanno station, you can also see the fields of higanbana spider lilies Plus, in all seasons, the aforementioned Alishan…