I’ve been sitting at the bus stop in a small village called Upriver Mount (上川乗) for a while now, but it’s time to begin the next stage of the Fureai Trail: The History Path, so named for its role as a trade route between Tokyo and Koshu during the Edo Period. I follow the trail markers off the highway and up a steep paved path that passes narrowly between the houses a short distance before turning to dirt and disappearing into the trees. An old man is sweeping the path in front of his house.
“Good morning!” I call out smiling.
“The bears are out,” he replied.
“Is that so?” I said and continued on without a beat.
The trail ascends gradually and easily towards Shallowgap Ridge (浅間尾根), less than an hour. As I crest the ridge I see a meadow ahead of me and a panoramic view beyond. The landscape is clearly maintained here with all the fallen sticks neatly piled under trees, the brush between which has all been entirely cleared. What’s more, the trees are cherries. I’m disappointed that I’m not passing through in the Spring.
From here the trail descends gradually and gently. Later I’ll learn that this is the reason why the ridge is called Shallowgap.
After about an hour I pass a traditional style tea house. It looks like a great place to end a hike, but it’s closed today. I take a moment to rest before continuing on. Not long after, the trail meets the road and for the next 40 minutes or so I descend the winding mountain road.
Finally I arrive at Clearmarsh Falls (払沢滝), the end of the journey. No bears.
This section of trail makes a great day-hike. It’s pretty short and the slopes are easy, so you could finish it in just a few hours, maybe only three. This actually works out pretty well once you reach the far side since Cypress Moor Village (檜原村) is a decent tourist destination in its own right, featuring quite a few waterfalls and cultural activities to participate in. I won’t list them all here, but check it out if you’re near Tokyo and you want to take a weekend trip. After all, they recently commissioned an English guide map and they’re so proud of it that they force me to take one every time I come despite my protests that I can read the Japanese one.
If you plan an overnight trip, definitely definitely definitely camp at the shelter on Shallowgap Ridge (浅間尾根). The view is great (it’s the featured image at the top of this article), the ground is flat and soft with grass, and there’s even a small pavilion. It might be frowned upon to make a fire, but I will say there’s tons of branches pruned from the cherry trees that are piled up at their bases. Would anyone notice if a few went missing?
Ideal season: Spring
Distance traveled: 58.3 km (3.2%)
Courses completed: 4/160 (2.5%)
Days spent: 3
This post is part of an ongoing series on the Fureai Trail. To view the other posts in this series, click here.
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© 2017 Brian Heise