Saturday, November 26, 2011

Travel Log: Hiking at Mitake San, Greater Tokyo Japan

About time to catch up on my posts after hidden away to mug for my papers.

During the trip to Tokyo this time, I decided to go on a lovely hike. I couldnt decide Mount Takao or Mount Mitake. Since my partner had initially wanted to go hiking, I thought I would leave the Takao for him while I checked out Mitake. In the end with all the shopping, we didnt end up going to Mount Takao...partially also being that my toes were covered with blisters from all the walking...wrong socks for my boots...

I did have a lovely time at Mitake though it was a pretty long train travel ride from Roppongi to get there, about close to 2 hours. I set off pretty late so I kinda reached my destination about 1pm instead of the insteaded 11am.

The cable car up wasnt very cheap either but I definitely did enjoy my 4-5hours there alone by myself. The peace and quiet nestled amongst's really quite liberating. Of course my Japanese friends after I got back were pretty surprised that I went hiking alone. They thought I was brave and I was like huh? If I cannot go hiking alone in Japan, where else on this planet can I do it? Right?!! Would never entertain the thought in any western countries, now that's for sure!

This was the welcoming view at the top after you get off the cable car. Since I was only afforded one sunny day during the week there, this was pretty precious moment for me. To see the mountains, the colours was quite a "wow" moment.

  The best was seeing the autumn foliage (紅葉)this trip. There werent as much as I hoped for but I had a kick seeing the tall trees and green moss rocks etc too

 The photo is deceiving... it doesnt capture how freaking steep the slope was! If I must judge, it probably looked like 80degrees gradient...even the Japanese gals next to me were screaming "ええ!!”in disbelief! No one ever said general Japanese gals were athletic for sure... I had to admire those Japanese old grannies and fathers...hobbling along on their walking stick despite their legs not being 100%....Respect!!! Makes one want to slap those whiny brats these days...

 One of the attraction is the Mitake Temple. It's nice but not spectacular or anything.

This was like some shrine for the fox? There was some meaning to it but I have forgotten it now. Some of the Japanese old mothers seemed to be rather cautious around this particular shrine, whatever it is, I aint sticking around long to risk offending the "deities".

 As one descend down the slope from the temple which is located at the very top, one will be rewarded with a lovely view on the left. I was lucky to catch one lovely Japanese lady to take a picture for me, and she actually knows how to use a camera properly. Lucky!

The start of my hiking journey...the whole trip started really on a very very vague note. There was no trails or explanation or pointing signage except one inconspicuous "To the Rock Garden"sign.

It doesnt tell you how far or how long. It was like embarking on an unknown adventure. Works well for me. I love a good challenge anytime. I love long walks anyway. So as I made my way along this path that seemed to stretch forever, I finally came to a "resting" spot after like 20mins. The first group of people I had encountered, and little did I know that they would be one of the last few groups too. Lol

It was really a lovely scenic spot for families. Friends and family chatting away. Pets roaming freely and happily. It's like those fairy tale lifestyle one tells you about. Everyone is polite and friendly, and civic minded.

As I moved along, my scenery started to change. On my right is high steep slopes upwards, and on my right are steep downward slopes, filled with tall lean trees. I couldnt even see where they start or end at some point. Once again I travelled down the unmarked hiking path with no idea where I will end up. Just 5mins into my journey, I met an approaching pair of Japanese folks who was probably like me, had no idea how far the journey will take.

Obasan asked me "Are we near the temple yet?" I laughed and told her not too far, another 20mins or so. She looked like she was about to faint before she thanked me and went along. On hindsight, perhaps I should have asked her how long it took them to get here! I didnt...and so unknowingly, for the next 3hours on from here I didnt meet anyone else and still didnt know where my destination was...I was utterly, completely alone in the woods.

Fear wasnt in my head.
"How cool is this? Dont get this in Hk and Sg for sure!" was more on my mind. At this point, i was bubbling with excitement at the notion of what I will see next.

 As i continued my journey onwards, I was thinking...did these trails developed over time or was it actually "man made?" Almost tripped over some roots and I was like woahh!!! I definitely dont want to try rolling down those slopes on my left!
 I finally saw some signs at a cross Mitake san or to the rock garden..still no detailed forward march I go!

Just when I was starting to wonder about my "hiking choice", I finally spotted this Tengou sign. At least now I have a vague idea of how far away I am from the cable car.
 It was a tricky navigation down those rocky path. Sneakers are not the best hiking shoes for such damn conditions...the rocks were definitely not as "harmless" as they appear. For someone who hates going downhill, I had to watch my footing with additional help from my fingers....
 Finally, after all the rocks and trees, I was rewarded with a small stream with mossy rocks. It was quite lovely and serene really. The birds and all.

I was totally in love here. Blissful. Lucky. Happy. All the feeling of joy and happiness runs through me as I stand in the middle of this spectacular nature. The long forgotten peace of just soaking in nature.

It was at this point that I encountered 3 other male hikers. I actually felt safer when I was alone....but they took some shots and moved on...without me realising, I was alone all over again. The weirdest part was I didnt know where they went?! I thought this was the dead end but apparently it wasnt! Further down along the stream, there were 3 boulders and if you look carefully and ignore the water running under, you could actually step on them to cross over to the other narrow walking path! Boy! This is really an adventure! Not long, I finally saw some more signs.

Apparently, if you are a serious hiker, one could walk from Mount Mitake to the connecting mountains Mount Kami-Takaiwa via the connecting wooden planks "bridge". I didnt, I went straight on for the Ayahiro waterfall because it said it would take 20mins. It was already 4pm. The last cable car leaves at 6pm. I didnt have much time and considering it took me over 3hours to reach this point, I had to run like mad to get back or I will be stuck in the woods in the cold! All I had was water.

 So it was more upward climb for me....I kept looking at my watch now. Much that I would love to see the waterfall, I really dont want to miss the cable car. Afterall, no one else knew I was here.

After 20mins, I saw this board. I realise then I didnt have enough time to make it to the top and back in time. It was with great disappointment that I knew I had to turn back and give the water rapids a miss. It was quite an anti climax end to my adventure really....still, the cable car is calling and I ran as fast as my legs could carry me... UPHILL back.

What surprised me actually was how fast it took me to come back to the starting point at the temple! It only took me 1hour! I suppose it took me longer the first time because i didnt know where I was heading and plus all the photo taking took up time. While catching my breathe, I saw these lovely budding was a treat.

As I half ran and walk to the final destination, the japanese mothers behind me was commenting how brave I had hiked alone. Seriously, is it that rare? While waiting for my 5.20pm cable, I took one last view from the top of what I was leaving behind. I had a great day.

After arriving at the bottom of the hill, we still had to wait for the bus to take us back to the train station. It was a 10mins wait in the cold. By the time I reached the station, it was about close to 6pm. How quickly darkness fell.

The transfer was as efficient as Japan trains are known for and the crowd while aplenty, wasnt as bad as I feared. Perhaps the efficiency of the train took the edge off. At the end of the day, my feet were sore because sneakers are not ideal walking shoes and my big toes are bruised. Still, after a good hot bath soak, and a plentiful fresh sushi dinner. I felt nothing but absolute contentment.

Life is truly beautiful when one stopped to smell the "roses".

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