For Tokyo residents, Mount Daibosatsu (Daibosatsu Rei) is one of the most accessible and climbable of Japan’s “100 Famous Mountains.” Located just outside Tokyo in Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, it has a summit 2,057 meters above sea level and spectacular views of Mount Fuji to the south. Nearby Daibosatsu Pass (Daibosatsu Toge) is also the name of a series of novels and later movies about a nihilistic wandering swordsman known in English by colorful titles like Satan’s Sword and The Sword of Doom.
In this article, we cover a hiking circuit from the Kamikawa trailhead up Mount Daibosatsu, through Daibosatsu Pass, and back to Kamihikawa again. Since the trailhead is already more than 1,500 meters high, it’s a relatively easy hike even for beginners, with no truly hazardous sections—although it will take a good half-day or so to complete.
Getting to Kamihikawa
The Kamihikawa trailhead is accessible via car or public transport. Via car, the simplest route is to turn off the Chuo Expressway at the Katsunuma IC and then drive the 20 kilometers to the Kamihikawa Pass parking lot. There are hundreds of spaces available, and parking is free.
Via public transport, take the JR Chuo Line to Kai-Yamato Station and then board the No. 14 bus. The Kamihikawa Toge (Kamihikawa Pass) bus stop, in the same parking lot, is 50 minutes from the station.
Summitting Mount Daibosatsu
The most popular hiking route from Kamihikawa is a triangular circuit with Mount Daibosatsu and Daibosatsu Pass at its other two points. The circuit can be made in either direction, but visiting the mountain first is a good way to make sure you don’t run out of energy too soon, and that’s the route we’ll follow.
From the Kamihikawa trailhead, take the trail past Lodge Chobei and northeast toward Fukuchanso, a mountain lodge offering food and accommodation with a publicly available restroom nearby. This is the last restroom on the route for two hours or so, so be sure to take advantage if necessary!
Continue on the trail past Fukuchanso. This will take you along Karamatsu Ridge (Karamatsu One) for a while, where you may catch a glimpse of the Southern Alps through the trees to your left. Soon the slope will grow steeper, and Mount Fuji will gradually rise into view behind you. You’ll also see the Kofu Basin, and Kamihikawa Dam, completed in 1999. As the vegetation thins out toward the peak, the path becomes quite knobbly. No special climbing equipment is necessary, but shoes with good grip are a must.
Eventually, you’ll see what looks like the summit up ahead on the right. Don’t be fooled! This is Kaminari Iwa (“Lightning Rock”), a picturesque crag with a great view to the south. The real summit is a little further on, past Kaminari Iwa on the left. (On the other hand, be warned that the view from the summit is actually worse than the view from Kaminari Iwa, due to tree cover.)
In all, the trek from Fukuchanso to the peak of Mount Daibosatsu takes about an hour and a half. From the summit, double back to Kaminari Iwa and take a quick break before starting the next leg of the circuit.
From Lightning Rock to Great Bodhisattva Pass
The hour-long walk southeast from Kaminari Iwa to Daibosatsu Pass begins with a long stroll along a comfortable ridgeline. With relatively few trees to block visibility or the breeze, it’s fantastic in warm weather, but can be quite chilly in colder months.
Eventually you will pass an emergency shelter (the “Sai no Kawara Shelter,” named after the bank of the river bordering the land of the dead!), followed by a fork in the trail. To the right is a rocky lookout with line of sight views not only to Mount Fuji but also Mount Kinpu, another of Japan’s “100 Famous Mountains,” and the Yatsugatake Mountains.
After taking your fill of the view, double back and take the left branch fork, which leads along another rocky ridge to the mountain lodge at Daibosatsu Pass. The lodge’s name is Kaizan-so, after Kaizan Nakazato, author of the Daibosatsu Toge series of novels. These were published over three decades starting in 1913, and still have fans today. A small plaque celebrating Nakazato can be found along the path to the Kaizan-so.
Kaizan-so has plenty of room to sit and brew some coffee or eat a packed lunch. It also has the obligatory kiosk selling food, drinks, and souvenirs like T-shirts and keyrings, some helpfully including English. There are also restrooms, out back.
From Kaizan-so back to Kamihikawa
After Kaizan-so, there are two routes west to Kamihikawa. The first is a trail that takes you more or less directly to Fukuchanso, a walk of around an hour and a half. The other goes slightly further to the south, through Marukawa Pass (Marukawa Toge), and takes a bit longer—two hours, or two and a half.
This second route begins with a climb up the mossy, rather Yatsugatake-ish slope behind Kaizan-so. After reaching the summit of this ridge, the rest is a gentle walk along the slopes on the other side. The gradually curving trail means pleasantly shifting views, and also takes you through a grove of Japanese larches (karamatsu) that is lovely in autumn. Finally, after crossing a small mountain stream, you will arrive back at the Kamihikawa trailhead parking lot. Your hike is now complete, and you can cross one of Japan’s “100 Famous Mountains” off your bucket list!