Off the Beaten Path, Japan #31: Walking the Ridge

Walking the Ridge

The photo connoisseurs of the internet often disparage the snapshot, but in reality some of the best scenes are those most unplanned.

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Off the Beaten Path, Japan #29: Morning Light on Kamegamori

Morning Light on Kamegamori

It was the next morning after 萌 and I watched the sunset over Stonehammer together. I rose early as usual the next day to catch the sunrise. This time I looked not west toward that rocky mallet but rather eastwards that vast field of sasa grass spreading out on the slopes high above sheer cliffs dropping a hundred meters or more to the valley below. As I waited, suddenly the sunlight caught the grass on the mountains shoulder, lighting it brilliant gold.

Off the Beaten Path, Japan #28: Sunset on Stonehammer

Sunset on Stonehammer

At the foot of the mountain the sign read, “Watch out for vipers.” The fields of bamboo grass covering the slopes would have been an ideal home for a poisonous snake, but as I crested the summit of the mountain I found no dangerous reptiles but rather a tent already set and waiting for evening though it was still hours until sunset.

The sound of my approaching footsteps brought attention to its occupant and soon there emerged like the budding of a flower not a serpent or medusa but possibly a siren. She said her name was 萌.

And so we spent waning afternoon together chatting idly as the sun settled towards the shoulder of the mountain. Suddenly the light was right and I jumped to work. 萌 stood behind me watching. Almost as an afterthought I said, “Stand over there. The photo will look better if you’re in it.” Then I took the photo.

She was tired and went to bed. I stayed up to watch the moon rise.

Copyright Brian Heise, 2019

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Off the Beaten Path, Japan #10

White Caps in the Distance

Hiking in mid-March following a relatively warm November, and moreover hiking through the foothills of Gunma on the edge of the Kanto, I didn’t expect many fantastic views. Imagine my surprise then when I crested the ridge to see a line of white-capped mountains stretching across the horizon. Needless to say, I was satisfied.

Fureai Trail Saitama Section 11: The Path with Waterfalls and a Yoshitsune Legend

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

Support what I do and drop a tip in the tip jar. Be sure to like and comment as well!

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