Day Trips from Tokyo – Hiking above Ito

Last weekend was the first real opportunity for a hike that I have had in several weeks, and I woke early on Saturday morning ready to go – until I opened the curtains and saw it raining in buckets outside and opted to delay my hike until Sunday.

Sunday morning’s plan was a repeat of Saturday’s intended early departure, but thanks to a passing weather front that gave my sinuses fits I woke up late with a splitting headache and found it was still raining a bit. The need to get out was stronger than the obvious reasons to stay in, but I did concede it might be a good day to head down to the lower and milder Izu Peninsula rathar than into the higher mountains in the Oku-Tama area where I usually go.

With a hiking map of the entire peninsula in my pack I headed to Shinagawa station, charged my Suica card, and boarded the first Tokaido line train that came through, which luckily was going to the end of the line at Ito. During the not overly scenic first hour of the ride I reviewed my options and decided that a walk more or less along the coast from Ajiro to Usami would be a good route, but when the train eventually arrived at Ajiro it was still raining but the sky looked to be significantly brighter just down the tracks. Ito also showed some hiking options so at the last minute I opted to at least take the train there and see how it was.

Arrival in Ito was greeted by much better hiking conditions, and after exiting the station I bypassed a very busy main shopping street in search of a trailhead. Although not well signed, it was fairly straightforward to find the side road heading uphill to the large parking lot for a hillside garden which was the gateway to the hiking trail.

The garden was an unexpected find, particularly as the plum trees covering part of the terraced hillside were just starting to bloom and I had the entire space to myself. After several moments of enjoying the garden, I eventually reached the point where the hiking trail left the gardens behind. Although used sufficiently to not require excessive skill in routefinding, this trail was one of the more rustic ones I have been on in Japan with several downed trees and areas where the trail was nearly overgrown necessitating some detours…. But since the trail climbed up a reasonably narrow ridge it was hard to get too far off of the trail to be able to easily find your way back to it.

Starting at sea level and peaking at 577.7 meters per the sign on top, the climb was reasonable and rewarded the effort with a good view of Ito and it’s bay on one side and the rugged interior of the peninsula on the other, but the heavy overcast served to limit to impression of those views. A big surprise was finding that the top of the ridge was home to an arboretum with several additional trails not shown on my map. My map showed a large loop starting from that point which had been my intended route, but while taking a rest break before pushing on it began to snow and I opted to use the other trails to descend to a valley road that led back to the city.

Although in general better trails than the one up the ridge had been, these other trails were also in need of a saw wielding maintenance crew and were made most memorable by nearly reaching the bottom of the valley and finding a wooden bridge over a gully roped off and missing several boards. Figuring the rope was intended more as a caution than a prohibition, I gingerly stepped on one of the existing boards and felt it move underfoot – not overly inspiring. Fortunately the gully was dry and easily traversed, but had it been wet the only option would have been to go all the way back up and find another trail down.

Having broken off a bit early, I found myself back in Ito with time to spare before needing to head back into Tokyo. Although late afternoon on Sunday is a hard time to get much of a feel for a town, a stroll down the waterfront and back through an arcaded shopping passage seemed to indicate that there were plenty of other things to see and do aside from hiking or simply enjoying the hot springs the area is famous for.

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