Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Jumpoff: Futarasan Jinja-mae, Nikko
LLA: 36.762°N 139.494°E, 2486 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: 1-2 days / 3-5 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 5/9, Trail class 2-4
PinoyMountaineer will begin to feature major mountains around the world of interest to Filipino hikers, as well as mountains which the blogger personally climbed. Overview pages for different countries will be organized, which will link to reputable webpages detailing climbing information.
A mountain sacred to Buddhism is Nantai-san (男体山), also known as Futarasan (二荒山), in the famous tourist town of Nikko. One of the venerable Hyakumeizan, the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan, Nantai-san has been described as the “Mt. Fuji of the Kanto area”, because of its popularity. Indeed, it is just a daytrip away from Tokyo.
It rises majestically to 2486 MASL above the scenic Lake Chuzenji, and has shrines and torii from jumpoff to summit. That, plus the fact that it is a popular climb among the Japanese hikers, make it a cultural experience but the real beauty of Nantai-san are the views at the top and the flora and fauna that line up the trail.
The first hour of the climb will take you across a forest that teems with pines, maple and plum trees. Animals such as monkeys and squirrels are said to dwell in the area also. Trails are steep but manageable. After a while, the turquiose-colored Lake Chuzenji will emerge. The steep trail goes on, and gradually the terrain will become rocky. As you higher, the views will be grander an the trails steeper; but in 3-4 hours from start you will already be at the summit. Its entrance marked by a torii, there is a shrine on top – the third Futarasan shrine – and the views are magnificent. The Japanese alps (W) will come into view, and so will the nearby mountains such as Shirane-san.
Before or after the climb, there is a lot to see in Nikko. Culuratti may found joy in the World Heritage shrines of Nikko, so elaborately designed and beautifully preserved. The Kegon Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Japan at over 90m, is just within walking distance from the Nantai-san jumpoff. Those who want to try the onsen (hot spring bath) where you will have do it the Japanese style (naked) can go to the Chuzenji Onsen – also just walking distance; and the famous Yumoto Onsen further up the road. Finally, if you still have energy you can try the longer trail up Shirane-san the next day.
0600 Take Tobu or JR Nikko line to Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
0730 ETA Nikko; take bus to Futarasan-Jinja-mae ((二荒山神社前) bus stop
0815 Arrival at Futarasan; register (JPY 500) with monk/acoltye
0830 Start trek
0930 Reach second torii and first mountain hut
1030 Reach second mountain hut
1200 ETA summit; lunch
1300 Start descent
1530 Back at jumpoff; take a dip at Chuzenji Onsen; sightsee
1700 Take bus to Nikko Stn.
1800 Back at Nikko; head back to Tokyo via Tobu or JR Nikko line
1930 Back at Asakusa Stn., Tokyo
Japan is a very hiker-friendly country; there are lots of signs and for Nantai-san in particular, it is very hard to get lost. Don’t forget to register with the temple. They will give you a paper charm perhaps to pay homage to the gods, and a diagram showing the trail. It’s in Japanese but you can infer what’s there from the illustrations.
Climbing season for Nantai-san is from April to October. There may be snow in spring and autumn so prepare accordingly.
Transportation. If going to Nikko on a weekend, it may be a good idea to get a Free Pass for 4400 JPY. This includes the roundtrip fare to Tokyo, and unlimited use of buses around the Nikko area. THis will enable you to make substantial savings on the bus ride, especially if you are also climbing Shirane-san further up the Yumoto Onsen. In sum, prepare around 10000-15000 JPY for the whole Nikko trip, including entrance fees to the World Heritage shrines of Nikko. The terminal in Tokyo is in Asakusa Station; the bus schedules from Nikko to the jumpoff may be found in this site.
There are no water sources along the trail so store up around 2 L for the hike; you may get water from the shrine. International roaming (DoCoMo, Softbank) signal is weak in the trail.
For more information on Nantai-san, refer to the Nantai-san page in the “Hiking in Japan” blog.