Hiking in Tokyo’s rural Okutama

Set within a pristine landscape filled with beautiful lakes, lush forests, high waterfalls and picturesque pastoral villages lies the mountainous district of Okutama which you could easily mistake for being anywhere other than Tokyo. Although technically located within the western reaches of Tokyo Metropolitan Prefecture, Okutama is a world away from the bustling neon lights of the central city and provides a wealth of leisure activities including some excellent hiking courses.

Mount Mitake to Mount Hinode Hiking course.

Starting off at Kori Station and ending at Ikutsubashi Station (four stops along the same line), this five hour hike traverses along two of Okutama’s most famous mountains and stops by the famous Mitake Shrine offering the perfect blend of nature, culture and history.

From Tokyo`s Shinjuku Station, it’s about a 100 minute commute on the JR Chuo line requiring a transfer at Tachikawa for the Ome line to Kori Station. Most single fares cost around 1000 Yen.  For full details please visit www.world.jorudan.co.jp

One of the best hiking maps available is the ‘Mapple number 23Okutama series’ which has detailed information on this hike as well as other walks in the area and is available at any major bookstore. Alternatively, a free downloadable travel guide can be found on www.jnto.go.jp
The ascent up to Mount Mitake

Mount Mitake can be reached in a little under three hours where the trail traverses up a steep series of forest paths until reaching the top of a ridge which flattens out before entering a small village where the famous Mitake Shrine is located. From Kori Station walk past the convenience store then cross over towards the main road that passes over the river and continue walking for about 10 minutes until you see the trailhead on your right.
Mitake Shrine

Perched at the summit of Mount Mitake, this site has been visited by worshippers for over 2000 years and is one of Japan’s most sacred sites. Popular with many visitors who come here wanting to find some refuge amongst the crisp mountain air, this Shrine almost boasts many national treasures that are housed within its complex. 
Continuing on to Mount Hinode

From Mitake village you can reconnect to the neighboring peak of Mount Hinode by following the numerous course markers. This 40 minute walk traverses along a narrow forested ridgeline and presents some great moments of solitude before reaching the impressive but somewhat crowed peak of Mount Hinode. Meaning `sunrise mountain` in English, this popular peak stands proudly at 902 meters high and provides excellent views over the whole Oku-tama region and beyond. On clear days it’s even possible to see Tokyo Skytree in the far distance!

The final leg

Once you have taken in the impressive views follow the signs for Futamatao Station, (二俣尾駅) via Mount Mimuro (三室山), for the final 2 hour decent back to civilization. After about 30 minutes you will reach a cross junction where you can either continue going straight on towards Futamatao Station, (二俣尾駅) or cut to the left for Ikusabata Station, (軍畑駅). As either course takes about 90 minutes the choice is yours! Opting for the latter, I found myself traversing down a barren ridgeline where I didn’t see anyone else until reaching Ikusabata Station which is located on the other side of the river.
From the top of Itsubashi`s raised platform I gazed down leisurely at the mighty Tama River flowing below then up at the mountains which I had just hiked. Although picturesque during anytime of the year, the snow covered mountains and tiny villages present an even more dramatic view of the landscape during the winter. 
As I boarded the JR Ome Line train bound for central Tokyo, Okutama`s deep mountain valleys began to gradually fade into the distance before forming into a vast urban sprawl. Upon witnessing this phenomenon, I suddenly realized that Okutama presents a totally different and undeniably refreshing side to Tokyo which many people probably don’t even know exists.

Although both mountains are suitable for most levels of fitness be sure to wear proper hiking boots and appropriate clothing during the winter as the upper slopes do tend to get varying degrees of snowfall.
Further advice

For anyone wanting an easier approach up to Mount Mitake there is a bus and cable car from Mitake Station which reduces walking time to an easy 10-15 minutes. Further information can be found on www.mt-mitake.gr.jp.
The first 2 hours will involve a steep ascent.
During the winter months the upper reaches of the trail are sometimes covered in snow
Part of the trail connecting Mount Mitake to Mount Hinode
A large "Tori" gate found near the approach to Mount Hinode

Steve Morton