I’m back in Cypress Meadow Village (檜原村), just over a week since last time, but this time I’m not alone. Today my companion is Tianyu, a Chinese guy I met while stranded on Moss Peak during a typhoon earlier this summer. In spite of our vastly different backgrounds — he grew up in Beijing, a metropolis of around 20 million people, whereas I grew up in a town of just over 800 people in rural Missouri — we both share a love of hiking, and that’s a culture all it’s own. I don’t feel any distance between us.
The path today follows the highway north from Clearmarsh Falls (払沢滝) to a place called Thousand Steps (千足) before turning up into the mountains again. The two of us walk along the highway making lively conversation that hardly stops throughout the day.
Today is crystal clear and though the early morning was cold, the sunlight and our movement quickly have us stripping off our coats and sweaters. The bright sun filters through the trees beautifully.
The path we’re hiking today is called the Cave and Waterfall Path (鍾乳洞と滝の道), so named for the several waterfalls and one cave along it. After a short time, we come to the first waterfall: Little Tengu Falls, named for the mythical beast whose name literally translates as celestial dog (天狗).
Not far after Little Tengu the trail splits, the left bound for the main Tengu Falls and the other a shortcut. We take the trail towards the waterfall, a steep and sometimes treacherous path, full of loose rocks ready to send us tumbling. After a particularly steep and rocky climb, the trail descends suddenly down to a shallow pool into which tumbles the narrow stream of Tengu Falls, rolling quietly 38 meters down a steep rock face bereft of trees and exposed to the valley below. If you look carefully from the gift shop at Clearmarsh Falls, you can actually see it up on the mountainside, even without looking through the telescope sitting on the porch, pre-aimed by the shopkeeper to sit directly on the waterfall, at least until some ignorant foreigner such as myself moves it.
Tianyu and I take a moment to enjoy the view in the warm sunshine before moving on.
Above Tengu Falls, the trail gets easier and the ground eventually levels out into a fairly flat area. Long before we can hear it, we see between the trees what must be Twill Falls (綾滝). Falling from a height of 21 meters, the slightly curved rock face down which it flows is said to make the falling water look like twill fabric. Not being an expert in textiles, I can’t vouch for whether or not this impression is accurate.
Upwards from here. The trail gets steep again as we ascend towards Horeshead Crop Ridge (馬頭刈尾根).
We reach the ridgeline just below Arrowroot Rock (つづら岩), a huge boulder jutting out of the top of the mountain. From below, we see rock climber’s ropes hanging down the face, but there’s no sign of the climbers themselves. Looking up from the bottom, I itch to go up there, but I’m not feeling crazy enough to try to boulder it. A little bit along the trail towards a Fujiview Point, though, I notice that the boulder tapers down to a slight saddle on the end that looks just shallow enough to climb. I decide to go for it, though my companion decides to sit it out. The rock drops steeply down to the left and right, nearly vertically, but the part that I’m ascending isn’t so thin to be worrisome. After a few minutes I arrive at the top to a breathtaking view.
At the top of the rock is a Japanese couple. I sit with them and enjoy the view, but we don’t talk at all. After a while, I go back down and resume the hike.
From here, the trail is fairly rough — narrow, with steep ups and downs and precipitous drops on both sides. Off in the distance, I can barely see some buildings on the next ridge over. I suggest that its probably the Venerable Peak (御岳), but my companion thinks that it must be further away. Later, though, I see the recognizable summit of Greatpeak (大岳) and a ridgeline connecting the two points. I’m now certain.
Upwards and onwards, we arrive at Fujiview Point. The haze obscures the view somewhat, but it’s still pretty good. Not a sole is there but us, exactly as we would like it.
Continuing on from Fujiview Point, we fount a nice spot high on Horsehead Crop Ridge. Truly, this spot should be called Fujiview rather than the earlier spot. As we take our photos, a group of older Japanese men ascend to the spot and we have a lively conversation which included, but was not limited to, being asked by a creepy old grandpa whether or not we were gay.
Some distance after this the trail splits with one side bound for Greatpeak and the other descending towards Great Falls and Greatpeak Limestone Cavern, which is the route we take. This route leads us down into a narrow gorge on the north side of the ridge, meaning this time of year (and possibly all year), the area never gets direct sunlight. As a result, everywhere is damp and slippery and the rocks are all covered in moss. The trail follows a small stream that grows and grows as we descend. Eventually, we arrive at Great Falls.
The name exaggerates the grandeur of the place a bit. Not far after this, the trail switches to pavement and a short while beyond that is the limestone cavern. I had heard that its the biggest in the Kanto area, but I’m sorely disappointed. Perhaps having grown up in a place like the Ozarks has me biased in favor of the grand, but this cave was hardly better than the one at Cave Spring Park in Van Buren. For those of you not from that area, I’ll just say that it’s small and not at all well decorated. The whole way through I was stooped over, making me suffer a biting neckache. Frankly, I just wanted to get through and out as fast as possible.
From there it was about another half hour down the road to Upper Fostermarsh (上養沢). It was a bit of a wait for the bus, and once we got on Tianyu and I almost immediately fell asleep.
This section of trail was surprisingly good. It’s first claim to merit is that it seems to be not so popular as other sections — even though we were there on a Sunday, we hardly saw anyone all day. Of course, that isn’t enough to recommend it alone, but when you combine that with the stunning views, it really is an excellent route. The path is fairly rugged at times, though, so keep that in mind for those of you who are more casual hikers.
For those looking for an overnighter, Fujiview Point would be an amazing place to camp, combining great views with flat, soft ground and even a small pavilion. Do note though that there are signs at the beginning of the trail saying that camping is forbidden, but since they’re written in Japanese, if you’re caught you might be able to plead ignorance. Camp at your own risk!
Distance traveled: 67.3 km (3.7%)
Courses completed: 5/160 (3.1%)
Days spent: 4
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