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Mitake-san to... Mitake-san

Nagano Travel Blog

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towards Mitake-san
I had a rather interesting hike today. (a HIKE??? How can that be so bad??? I do it almost like every weekend but...)

In an attempt to make Mt. Fuji a little less... nightmare, I wanted to do some higher-altitude hiking than normal, so instead of on of the hikes I do near where I live, I checked out a hike in the LP "Hiking in Japan". Ok, so I should have known from previous experience to not expect whatever they said, since they have failed me before. Numerous times. But I wanted to believe! I wanted to trust LP! A "an easy day trip from Tokyo" (4 trains, a bus and a cable car 4 hours later), "an easy hike through cypres and cedar wooded forest" (get ready to climb 8-freagin-thousand stairs), "1.
shop in Mitake village
5 hours from the cable car to Otake-san, then another 1.5 hours to Okutama train station" (5 hours later as I'm just reaching the summit of Otake-san...). So a "short, easy, 3 hour hike through the forest" became a 7 hour ordeal. In short, I ran out of water way before the fun was over with no way to refill, I was losing daylight and peaking over a mountain with no idea what was ahead (was *this* half of the hike ACTUALLY 1.5 hours???) To make matter more interesting, I traded my usual fabulouse SmartWool socks and for a new "trekking" wool-blend from the Navy Exchange... I migh as well have been wearing freakin cotton! (for those who don't know, cotton keeps moisture to the skin, giving you huge nasty blisters, cold feet, and causing general swamp-foot and discomfort when hiking.
Mitake-san shrine
Wool sucks the sweat out and keeps your feet warm and lovingly cushioned. It sounds hot and gross in the summertime, but it's AWESOME. Trust me on this).

(By the way, -san and -yama mean mountain. And did you know you can ACTUALLY get a blister on top of a blister??? Next to a row of blisters??? Extremely painful. Wear wool socks.)

So I cut my losses, turned around, and went back the way I came, at least I knew where I was going! At this point, I got the massive I'm-severely-dehydrated sausage-fingers and heart palpitations, I'm exausheted from almost 5 hours of uphill climbing, and I just want some WATER dammit! Thankfully, going down is easier than going up, ended up running about 1/2 the way down, in hopes that I would be able to catch the last cable car down (or at least get out of the unholy forest before the sun set!).
view of the mountains from Mitake shrine
Let's break this down: 7.5 KM uphill climb and 3.75KM downhill trail running in combat boots... my knees want a divorce.

Anyways, I FINALLY make it back into Mitake, 2 hours later, way past the last cable-car down. I stopped at every drink machine on the way through town, guzzle down 2 liters of liquid in like 20 minutes (the first machine didn't even have water, but hey, I never realized I like lemonade soda). Feeling better, walking that extra hour or so down the mountain to the train station didn't seem SO bad... I mean, if my legs would stop shaking already. I stopped by this hostel I passed on the way, trying to figure out how far/the best way to get there/or would it better to be gross-tastic and sleep the night in my sweaty, dirty clothes and deal with it in the morning.
if I had only known this was just the beginning...


Turns out, the best way down the mountain is hitching a ride with the hostel owner! Um, in his golf-cart sized van, the only thing that fits on the mountain road... which I thought was some kind of trail earlier in the day... SCARY. I was trying to get some kind of directions from his wife, and basically, she was just like "Hey husband, take this chick with you and drop her off at the train station!" Suuuuweeeet! It was just the most awesomest thing a stranger has ever done for me. I was at the train station at dusk, my fingers were back to their normal size, and I stank to all hell... ah... they're gonna love me on the train ride back home through Tokyo...

Really, it wouldn't have been so bad if I took more water... and um... maybe knew about the 5 hour uphill climb.
back at Mitake-san, after my down-hill run... the fastest 7km of my life!
.. a clean T-shirt to change in and decent socks would have been a nice touch too.

But... Mitake is actually the cutest little town! I really fell in love with it. The forest itself is like something from out of "Jurassic Park" or "Land of the Lost," super quiet and peaceful. And there is a more sensible hike around the river involing climbing on large rocks and playing in waterfalls, all accuratedly mapped and signposted (I KNEW I should have just followed all the Japanese people!) so going back is definitely worth it. And the NICEST people EVER live there. Seriosuly, besides the awesome hostel owners, everyone was genuinely nice, people went way out of their way to try to and help me out with my Nihon-glish questions. I was trying to read some stuff at a shrine on Mitake-san, making out whatever kana and kanji I could and this shinto preist comes out with a binder in English with all sorts of information. I was even some tourist video they were filming! Ok, ok, I was like the ONLY foreigner for... I don't know, 15km?

To sum up, (fully re-hydrated, from my air-conditioned couch with iced knees) it was disasterously-AWESOME.
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towards Mitake-san
towards Mitake-san
shop in Mitake village
shop in Mitake village
Mitake-san shrine
Mitake-san shrine
view of the mountains from Mitake …
view of the mountains from Mitake…
if I had only known this was just …
if I had only known this was just…
back at Mitake-san, after my down-…
back at Mitake-san, after my down…
why you have to be careful while d…
why you have to be careful while …
outside of the cable car station
outside of the cable car station
Mitake-san shrine
Mitake-san shrine
trail around Mitake-san
trail around Mitake-san
Trying to keep my balance!
Trying to keep my balance!
the Rock Garden around Mitake-san
the "Rock Garden" around Mitake-san
waterfall shrine
waterfall shrine
the shrine at Odake-san... The sta…
the shrine at Odake-san... The st…
The cable care up to Mitake
The cable care up to Mitake
If it wasn't for the awesome peop…
Nagano
photo by: kumikob