On a nice autumn morning I left my home early. I had a huge pack on my shoulders. Tent, sleeping bag, food for two days, stove, clothes, rain gears just in case … Two days trek always demand more gears. Walking with a huge backpack in the middle of the city; I was definitely looking like an alien. But I knew soon, when I will change trains from Subway to Express towards Okutama I will get to see my kind of people.
One of the 100 famous; Mt Kumotori, 2017m mountain is the tallest mountain in Tokyo. This is one of the three major mountains of Okutama. Other two include Mt Mito and Mt Odake. These two can be done in one day. In case of Kumotori it is surrounded by other mountains and there is no direct access. So traversing is the only option to get to the top. The route we were going to take included three peaks before Kumotori; Kirimogamine 1523m- Mae Shiroiwayama 1776m- Shiroiwayama 1921m. The interesting fact about Kumotori hike is, when you start you are in Saitama prefecture and when you are on top you are in Tokyo. The mountain sits on the three way prefectural border of Yamanashi, Saitama and Tokyo.
The hike starts at the Mitsumine Shrine. You can take a bus to Mitsumine Shrine from Okutama station. Mitsumine Shrine is very old and famous shrine. The shrine is famous for worshiping of wolves. Wolves were considered holy in olden times. They were said to protect the houses from fire. One of the reasons for popularity of this shrine is “Shiroi-ki-mamori” or the “white good luck charm”. “White” is color of the sun. It means sacred color from the old time in Japan. You can get this only on the first of the each month. Before going I did not know about this. People are literally crazy for this good luck charm and create massive traffic jam. I was going to start my hike on 1st of October. All excited till I sat in the bus. There were few hikers but for a good weather still less than usual. I wondered why. Soon I got my answer. The bus stopped ten km from the shrine and did not move for an hour and a half. I could see the line of cars going uphill. If I didn’t start the hike early I would never make it to the top today, I thought. So a unwillingly, got down and started making my way through the traffic. Walking on a concrete road with hiking boots on is far more exhausting than walking on a mountain trail. The traffic was slowing me down. After about two hours I reached the trail head. The summit was 13km from here and I was completely drained before starting the hike. Had a late lunch at a bench, filled up some water and started the hike.
The name of the mountain 雲取 Kumo-Tori is interesting. Kumo is clouds and the verb Toru means to take so the mountain is said to be the ‘taker of the clouds’. Since it stands tall between the Okutama and Oku Chichibu mountain range the name is proved right with thick clouds surrounding the dense forest most of the year.
When I started walking on the trail I actually felt relieved even with the heavy pack. Walking on the mountain path was so much better. The forest was so dense. Autumn chill made me pullout my fleece jacket. Till Kirimogamine it was gradual but after that till Mae-Shroiwayama too many rocks. The thick mist made it difficult for the sun to reach the ground. I was wearing my headlight now. In that thick foliage I heard dog crying. I was stopped for a second looked around it was impossible to spot anything but tree trunks. Started walking and I heard it again. This time I could hear somethings running around pretty fast. I knew that Japanese people love to bring their dogs on hikes but this was a difficult mountain for a dog and the thing running around was not a dog. My curiosity was not letting me stay calm. I went little off the track and followed the sound. Got to see the most beautiful scene I have seen on the mountains. There was a herd of deer running around. Two tine fawns and few adults. I stood still staring at them. So graceful. Most of the pictures I took were blurry, they were moving too fast. But one of them was curios to see me so came very close and I had found my perfect model.
I reached the Mae-Shiroiwayama after some intense rock climbing. Decided to camp near the emergency hut instead of walking in the pitch dark. After Mae-Shroiwayama there was a gradual descend and I reached the emergency hut. Fortunately had enough water, the waterhole near the hut had dried. The hut is not in a good condition so decided to pitch my tent. While pitching the tent I heard some hustle in the grass. I saw two big green eyes staring right at me. I flashed my light and saw another deer. Same herd or not I am not sure but there were many around the hut. When I slept I could hear them circling around my tent. It was scary at first but they were just curious. I kept telling myself when will you get to sleep near a herd of deer again and slowly fell asleep.
Morning was beautiful.
Started early. I left my tent, sleeping bag etc. in the custody of deer and just carried basic gears in my bag. I still had a long way to the top. Soon reached Shiroiwayama. While descending from there crossed the border of Saitama and Tokyo. Lighter pack make it easier to walk fast.
Soon reached the Kumotori-hut. I was initially planning on staying here. Had some breakfast and hot coffee. Summit is another ten fifteen minutes from here.
On a clear day the views are spectacular. I would have been disappointed otherwise for not having a good 360 degree view after a demanding hike but this mountain made me realize it is the journey that matters more than the destination.
Hope you enjoyed my story. For more stories about hiking in Japan visit my blog once in a while. 🙂