For once everything lined up for a perfect hike – the weather was good, I was well rested and up early in time to catch my hiking window, and I had my backpack loaded and a route planned.
Then reality kicked in. When I got to the platform for the train from the Tokyo main station to the mountains, I saw that although I could take the next train and transfer in Tachikawa, two trains later was essentially the train I would transfer on to, so I opted to wait in hopes of getting a seat early. Then the train didn’t come. And the next one didn’t come. At that point there was an announcement in Japanese that I didn’t understand, but as no one left the platform I stayed as well and waited… and waited… and waited. It turns out that there had been a “passenger injury” (which I believe is a euphemism for someone at a station jumping into the path of the oncoming train) a couple of stations further along, and it was half an hour before a train finally appeared. All told I had waited about 45 minutes between trains, when the usual wait is about 5 minutes. A good thing I had started out early….
I still had to transfer, and when we stopped at an intermediate station and I saw an express train pulling in on the opposite side of the platform with the destination listed as Oku-Tama I opted to transfer there. As that train pulled away and they announced the upcoming stops I noticed they missed a few of the intermediate stations between Ome and Oku-Tama, including the ones I had picked as start and end points for the day’s route. After going over the map a little, I decided I might as well go all the way to Oku-Tama and work my way back from there.
The route I picked was Oku-Tama to Mt. Nokogiri, then Mt. Odake (also spelled Mt. Otake on another map I have), then flanking Mt. Mitake on a neighboring ridge back down to the Tama valley and a station home. The initial part of the hike was a repeat of the first (short) hike I did in Japan in 2004, and it was very interesting to retrace my footsteps from the station to a pagoda above the town and notice the differences both seasonally (the previous hike was in the peak of summer) and over the course of several years.
Once the pagoda (and a shrine I hadn’t noticed before) on it’s isolated rise was behind me, the route fairly steadily climbed a ridge to Mt. Nokogiri. For the most part the going was slow and steady on a well maintained trail, but the ridge is narrow at points and has several intermediate peaks that require sure footing and reasonable stamina to get up and over comfortably. As it is a fairly popular route the most treacherous sections are well equipped with handhold chains and metal ladders, but there are some places where there is no way around a simple scramble or two.
The section continuing up the ridge from Mt. Nokogiri to Mt. Odake is the highlight of the loop, with some outstanding views of Mt. Fuji along the way. Most of them are glances through trees and are probably obscured when the trees have leaves on them, but the summit of Odakesan is an exposed point with a phenomenal view and is vey popular as a lunch and rest stop. The day was so clear that Tokyo Bay, roughly 45 miles away, was clearly visible as well.
The return was a bit more challenging navigationally, as my map of the area showed several trails that there were no indications of on the ground. The route I had planned to follow back was one of them, and so I ended up detouring to Mitakesan instead. Having lost faith in my map and it starting to be a bit late in the day, I opted to return to Mitake station by descending on the paved access road “trail” that I had used to go up the mountain on my last hike, and I reached the station just as the sun went behind the ridge. Unfortunately I just missed the train back to Tokyo, so I had plenty of time to wrap the hike up with a warm apple cider from a vending machine while I waited for the next one.
All in all about a 12 hour day door to door with roughly 6 hours underway and half an hour taken up with a couple of rest breaks and stopping to take pictures.