Mt. Buko is a mountain located on the border between Chichibu City and Yokoze Town in the Chichibu region of Saitama Prefecture. Between easy to moderate levels, this is an ideal day trip hike from central Tokyo.
Into the Mysterious Mountain
The unnatural looking pointy mountain is a limestone mountain close to the capital city of Tokyo, and is still being mined today. In 1917, Japan's first cement plant, Asano Cement, began mining limestone in Kagemori, and in 1923, Chichibu Cement was established. After the Great Kanto Earthquake, these limestones were used for the redevelopment of post-war Tokyo, the construction of high-rise buildings, and the building of the Shinkansen and expressway networks which the local industry flourished as a result. Having such a historical background and the ongoing mining, the elevation of the mountain has dropped and became about 30meters short. And the exterior keeps changing as a result of mining. Despite its mining, Mt. Buko is safe and a popular day trip destination for hiking. With just about 75 minutes via the limited express train Laview from Ikebukuro station, the train will take the hikers to Yokose station where the hike begins. Leaving early in the morning, many hikers prefer to take a nap before the long walk, however, since the limited express train Laview has a huge window, it is worth the wake up to see the surroundings.
Aside from the nice and easy train ride to Yokoze Station, the downside of climbing this mountain is that there are no bus services to the trailhead. All hikers will need to walk along a heavy vehicle access road along Route 299 for around 90 minutes. Once getting off at Yokoze Station, walk east on the roadway along the railroad tracks in front of the station. Follow the road for about 1.5 km until you come to a Ubugawa (生川) T-intersection with a traffic light. Then, turn right and follow the road straight ahead, pass the lime industry, and walk further up the roadway. About 6km from Yokoze Station, the entrance to the parking lot will be on the right side of the forest road. Enter through the torii gate to the parking lot and walk straight and finally, the trailhead of Mt. Buko is there. Hikers should not forget to submit their hiking itineraries in the yellow mailbox.
Trailhead with a mail box to submit the trekking/hiking itineraries
The trail follows a vehicular access road for about 10 minutes or so before veering right and gradually steepening towards the Fudou Falls. Each trail mark has its number, and the first is called the Hachome or block 8. In total, there are 52 blocks. Unfortunately, this hike doesn’t have spectacular vista views, but the forest is beautiful enough and provides a nice, easy escape from bustling cities.
Most of the way up to Fudo Fall, which is located between block 8 to 18 is along this well-maintained path with a slight incline
In just about 30 to 40 minutes of going up the path, Fudo Fall will come in sight. This is a great place to take a break as the falls works out as a natural fan and cools off the heat from the body. Also, the waters of Mt. Buko are considered sacred and people travel from miles around to collect buckets of water from this waterfall. Maybe a good idea to grab a cup of luck from here.
From the Fudo Fall, the trail becomes completely mountainous with rocks and sands. Having firm hard sole hiking boots would be an ideal. As like many mountains do, it’s hard to forecast the weather and even though the area didn’t rain the night before, the trail could suddenly get muddy due to the descending of the fogs.
Block 20 with a trail mark saying "Good Luck"
After another 30 minutes of heading up from block 20, a large cedar tree at block 32 will awe the hikers. This cedar tree is said to be a power spot because the tree has watched over many hikers over 700years and its overwhelming presence is believed to give strength to all who see it. There is an eerie looking damaged trail mark written, “60 more minutes to the summit” just beneath the tree.
Large cedar believed to be more than 700years old
From this large cedar to the summit, hikers will need to go up a scree‐covered slope followed by a last minute staircase for about an hour. Once reaching the summit, there is a small Japanese shrine guarded by wolf looking lion dogs just like the ones found at the entrance of the parking lot back down at the trailhead. And also, plenty of shady spots for group picnics. However, the shrine is not the summit, and the actual summit of Mt. Buko is behind this shrine. While fenced along its northern edge, the summit still provides a wonderful bird’s-eye view over Chichibu City and the ghastly limestone quarry beneath.
The shrine sits at block 52 gurded by lion dogs
Summit of Mt. Buko at an elevation of 1304m
Bird’s-eye view over Chichibu City
Compared to other mountains closer to Tokyo, Mt. Buko is definitely a nice way to escape the city and avoid the crowds and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature that is said to bring back luck from its sacred water and from the great cedar in the midpoint of the trail.