Looking out from Kaoburi Pass (顔振峠), waves of blue mountains roll out across the horizon and into the distance. Warm summer wind caresses the branches of trees and bamboo, who sigh in response. Red, blue, and grey rooftops below stand out amid the greenery, while a curtain of grey clouds wraps the sky. This is the central scene of Saitama Section 11 of the Fureai Trail: The Path with Waterfalls and a Yoshitsune Legend.

Near the crest of Kaoburi Pass

This path spans 8 km through the old state of Musashi from Agano Station over Kaoburi Pass to the Three Black Mountain Waterfalls (Kuroyama Mitaki, 黒山三滝). The pass itself is not particularly high or remote (a paved road runs right over it), but it is known for having a rather charming view of the area to the west, including waves of mountains rising off in the distance, among them Mt. Fuji if the weather is good.

This section is one painted in history. According to legend, the medieval general Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) crossed over it while fleeing northward from Kyoto. Though the forces of his brother Yoritomo were in hot pursuit ready to take his head if they should capture him, the view from the pass was so beautiful that the fleeing general couldn’t help but looking back at the view again and again. For this reason, the pass was named Kaoburi or “Head Turner.”

Minamoto no Yoshitsune
Painting by Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

Outside of the above military story, this trail is also a place to enjoy religious history as Black Mountain, the course’s conclusion, was once prosperous as a site for practicing ascetic Buddhism. It’s even believed that one of Japan’s most famous early ascetics, En the Pilgrim (634 – c.700-707), once practiced his mystic arts there. Perhaps the draw to the area was its mysterious deep valleys, within which can be found the Three Black Mountain Waterfalls (Kuroyama Mitaki, 黒山三滝), for which this section is named.

A statue of En the Pilgrim located near Black Mountain

Trail at a Glance

Trail NameThe Path with Waterfalls and a Yoshitsune Legend (義経伝説と滝のあるみち)
MapClick here
AccessStart: Agano Station (吾野駅)
End: Kuroyama Bus Stop (黒山バス停)
DifficultyEasy
Natural BeautyModerate
Ideal SeasonFall for maple viewing at Black Mountain
Camping LocationsNone. Day hike this one
Distance8 km
Time3 hours
Food accessOgawara House in Agano, the tea house at Kuroyama

Trail and Site Map

List of Sites

Haiji’s Fureai Trail Stats

Distance traveled197.1 km 11%
Courses completed17/16010.6%
Days Spent: 13

© Brian Heise, 2018

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