On the Kanto Fureai no Michi (Greater Tokyo Area Nature Trail) that passes through the Kanto region (Tokyo, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba, and Kanagawa Prefectures), there are many great hiking trails. Of all, the one in Saitama offers an intensive long hiking trail, about 14.5km with many ups and downs, although most peaks are less than 800meters. Taking roughly about 6 to 7 hours or even more in total depending on the physical strength, a day out into the more rural area of Saitama will surely be a great day to build up cardio fitness while enjoying the unique landscapes and the natural beauty.
Get your muscles out and be prepared
Out into the rural area of Saitama with 2 trains per hour on average, the hike will start at Shomaru station on Seibu Chichibu Line. This 14.5km trail goes through 7 peaks and ends at Agano Station on the Seibu Chichibu Line. The course has two long up slopes with lots of 50 to 100m steep up and down sections. Some areas have rough trails with tree roots and rocks.
The road that leads up to the trail is down the stair on the left side of the station, and under through the tunnel on the right. For about 20minutes up the paved road, the first junction comes into sight. To get to Mt. Izugatake via the Shomaru Pass, hikers should stay on the paved road for about 10 minutes more.
The first intersection, don't go left but stay on the paved road for 10 minutes more until the trail on the right side appears
Once entering the trail, a small shrine called “Osarunoko” with a torii gate appears. This shrine is said to enshrine the God of the Mountain who protects nature and the people working in the woods.
Within a short walk from the shrine, there will be another intersection. Turn left here. Do not get confused with the broken sign written “10 minutes to Shomaru Pass'' as it is a complete mistake. Getting to the pass takes about 30 minutes from the intersection with quite steep rocky slopes.
Going over the slippery bridge made with two logs and out into the rocky area, do not go left but cross over to the other side of the shallow stream on the right side. Due to fallen rocks and floods, the landscapes may vary from time to time. Because of this, the markings on the trail may be difficult to spot. However, there is a pink ribbon tied on the branches so hikers should look out for them if they get lost.
The last half of the trail leading up to the Shomaru Pass is quite a steep jagged slope ending with last-minute steep stairs. Turn right to get out to the paved road to see the view. Going left will stay on the trail.
A great view of the mountains in the distance seen from Shomaru Pass
Right to Shomaru Pass. Left to stay on trail to head to Agano Station
After a quick break, go back to the stair where the trail is. Keep on walking for about 20minutes and will reach the second peak, Mt. Kodakayama. Nothing much to see here as it's an open flat space on the mountain ridge with not so great view.
The third peak of this Kanto Fureai no Michi (Greater Tokyo Area Nature Trail) between Shomaru and Agano station is Mt. Izugatake. Mt. Izugatake is a mountain made of chert and resistant to erosion creating rugged terrain. Compared to other mountains in the Chichibu terrain like Mt. Buko and Mt. Ryokamisan, cherts at Mt. Izugatake is especially hard. With such a landscape, the trail gets rockier towards Mt. Izugatake. After a few ups and down the trail from Mt. Kodakayama for about 20 minutes, an intersection between the Otokozaka and Onnazaka slope appears. There is a warning written in Japanese which says “Please go to Onnazaka for safety as the Otokozaka is extremely dangerous with falling rocks near the center of the chain”. The trail on the right leads to Onnazaka but this route is also a hard trail, with a very rough earthen slope. Uphill will only take about 10 to 15minutes to climb.
Intersection between Otokozaka and Onnazaka. Go to the right side when hiking on this trail.
Otokozaka, this trail is closed for safety reason
The top of Mt. Izugatake is a large open space with lots of places to sit down and many people have lunch or take a break here. The trail starts a relatively long 10 minute downhill from here with dry steep slopes with pebbles and leaves that can easily trap your feet and slip down. When the downhill is finished, the trail changes to a flat ridge. Unfortunately, this flat ridge only lasts short and another uphill towards the next peak, Mt. Komitake appears.
The fourth peak on this trail is Mt. Komitake and from here, Agano Station is still 9.3km away. It is still a long way to go. From here, another downhill followed by an uphill for about 30 minutes will take the hikers to the fifth peak, Mt. Takahata.
Up until here, the trail was mostly shady. But after passing Mt. Takahata, an open space with a steel tower appears. Due to fallen trees or trees cut on purpose, stumps are left here and there. As there is a great view, many stop here for a break sitting on the stumps. This is the last spot on the ridges to get plenty of sunlight as the trails inside the mountain will last for few more kilometers.
Back inside the shady trail and down the hill for about 30 minutes, there will be another intersection. At the intersection, go left to find a sign board with a snake drawn. Then, turn right here to walk for a while to find a stair back down to the paved road. This is the Amamezasutoge Pass where hikers will have a choice of stopping the hike and call for a taxi here or go down the road to find a station.
After finding this sign board, turn right to find the stair going down to the paved road
Point of No Return
Once deciding to continue the hike, cross over to the other side of the road to find the tree roots trail. It is literally across the street right in front of the stairs that you just walked down.
Across the street from the stair to find the trailhead to Mt. Atago (Nenogongen)
From Amamezasutoge Pass to the final peak of the trail, Mt. Atago (Nenogongen), the last 50 minutes steep long uphill awaits the hikers. Some are rocky, some are tree roots trail and the uphill has variations that will not make the hikers bored. Those with hay fever may have difficulty climbing this hill as the trees surrounding are cedar trees. It is very rewarding to reach the final peak of this trail.
Stariway to Mt. Atago (Nenogongen)
After descending from Mt. Atago(Nenogongen), hikers will go through this gate to end the difficult part of the hike
Nenogongen (Tenryuji Temple) to Agano Station
Nenogongen (Tenryuji Temple) is a temple of the Tendai sect in Hanno City, Saitama Prefecture with over a thousand year of history. Since ancient times, the temple enshrines the god of legs for its protection. There are many things left behind as proof of faith, such as iron geta clogs and straw sandals. Over by the gate, the temple is guarded by statues of Nio.
The hike isn’t finished yet. The goal is still a few more kilometers from the temple. Keep on walking down towards the parking lot and down the hill until a small direction board is visible on the right side. Turn right and go back to the shady mountainous trail towards Agano Station. In just about 20 minutes down the tree roots trail with many slippery pebbles, a paved road will appear again. From here, it's just another 3km more walk on this paved road to the station with no uphill to Agano Station. If lucky, a famous udon noodle shop, Asamichaya might be open which is a great place to stop by to get a taste of this delicious cuisine before the last minute long journey.
Don't miss this intersection to turn right to head to Agano Station
Udon noodle offered at Asamichaya
After resuming the hike from Asamichaya to Agano station down the paved road for about 20 minutes, main big road on Koma River will come in sight. Don’t cross over the bridge but turn right and keep on walking towards the station. From this bridge to the staion is about 1.3km.
Don't cross over but turn right here to head to Agano Station
Some parts of the road get narrow, but keep on walking. At the end of the factory yard, turn right and a railway crossing should be visible. Don’t cross over the railway crossing but turn left there and in just a few hundred meters, Agano Station is there.
There are only two trains that depart back to Ikebukuro via Hanno Station on Seibu Chichibu Line. These trains depart at 9minutes and 36minutes so hikers should be alert on the time when they hike through this trail. This trail is not easy and recommended for those with good physical strength, however, challenging just till Amamezasutoge might be an option for those who wish to try. Enjoy the green season hike.