Day Trips from Tokyo – Hiking Mt. Mutsuishi

Today dawned with a perfect hiking outlook so I decided to venture off to Oku-tama and see how well the trails had fared through the winter and early spring. With notably more sunlight to play with than in the autumn and winter and an early start, I decided it was a good day to go a little deeper into the park than I had gone before.

As I left Shinagawa I had not yet settled on a departure location, but after an uneventful ride to Ome it turned out there was some work being done on the line to Oku-tama and the train that would have been waiting at Ome was not running. After half an hour of standing around the platform, the next train did show up and was an express stopping only at Mitake and Oku-tama, so I let that make my decision to start there as Mitake was not on my list of possible locations.

The plan was to proceed up a ridge I had not been on before to Mt. Mutsuishi, then descend via another ridge to the Oku-tama reservoir and follow the river back… and that general plan was followed.

After some initial effort to find the trailhead (hidden neatly between houses) the climb up was basically slow and steady on a mix of direct trail and switchback local roads. Once off the road for good, the climb was mainly through cedar plantations with the occasional maple plantation or wayside shrine to break things up. Given that it is about a kilometer of elevation change there was no thought that it would be overly easy, but it also wasn’t overly difficult, simply a case of one foot in front of the next. There were a few flatter portions to break the climb up a bit, and one of them was fortunately fairly high up and had a good view through the trees of the neighboring ridges to enjoy while resting and refueling.

The approach to the summit of Mutsuishisan from Oku-tama was along a broad avenue bordered by maple trees. The avenue itself seemed to be a firebreak and was a mix of dirt and gravel clear of vegetation, fine to go up on a dry day but I can imagine that it gets a bit iffy in the wet. The summit itself was reasonable for the effort, some nice views and a clear area to take a rest before carrying on, but not as impressive as some other nearby summits. The highlight was an area map in the fairly universally unused “north down” projection. If you have figured out the area map near a subway station in Tokyo you would have no problems with this one, but it seemed a bit out of place on top of a mountain.

The descent toward the lake (and probably toward Oku-tama as well had I gone that way) was challenging with lots of loose footing and tree roots to deal with on a narrow ridge with a fairly steep slope. Not a big issue but it requires attention even with good footwear, and it would certainly be uncomfortable if wearing anything other than hiking boots or trail shoes with a tread sufficient to be counted on in that instant when body weight and footing isn’t quite in alignment.

The trail itself ended at a local road above the lake, and following the road down yielded a tributary stream with several small waterfalls to walk along for awhile. Once at the lake there was a visitors center with a museum at the dam and it is possible to walk over the dam to the other side, but I opted to defer that in favor of finding a way to the path along the river.

I failed to do so. After at least half an hour of close observation and walking through some non-pedestrian-friendly tunnels along a highway, I realized that the line on my map started well above my location and the only way to get there was to backtrack far longer and higher than I had any interest in given that a bus to Oku-tama was coming a few minutes later. Although the very well-used (otherwise known as crowded) bus offered some quick glimpses of the river, it certainly was not a substitute for the river path. I would recommend that anyone wanting to follow the river start from Oku-tama and head upstream.

The return to Tokyo was notable only because there was some trackwork being done on the Chou rapid service line so there was a section of the trip that took about 45 minutes and three transfers to cover what is usually done in about 5 minutes.

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