Fureai Trail I: The Lake Path

Sunday morning. The trains in Tokyo aren’t as busy as they are on weekdays. I find a seat. I transfer in Ochanomizu to the Chuo Line, a direct shot to Mt. Takao. A little over an hour later I arrive at the station. I check in vain to see whether my web searches missed something, but it’s true: there’s no bus to the trail head at Plumtree Flat (梅ノ木平). I walk. The sun is bright, the sky clear. The autumn breeze is cool, not cold. The leaves of the maples tinted red but not yet in full color whisper. Cyclists passed on the road on their way into the mountains.

Arriving an Plumtree Flat, a picturesque Japanese countryside extends before my eyes, and a small wooden sign directs me down a dirt road, accompanied by a small stream joining the chorus of wind and branch. I feel, like I often do, that I’d rather be living in this kind of place than in Tokyo.

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Lake Path Trailhead at Plumtree Flat
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Path by a creek, Plumtree Flat (梅ノ木平)

Ahead, the trail meets pavement and passes through a series of traditional buildings. I can hear the sound of a koto, but I can’t tell if it’s a recording or not.

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A collection of traditional buildings, Plumtree Flat (梅ノ木平)
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Japanese Maple
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Large bus, small road.
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A gateway

I keep walking. The road turns to gravel as it enters the forest. Trail signs disappear. I see a pathway going up the mountain to my left. I can’t tell if it’s the right one or not, but I take it anyway. I meet the ridge and catch glimpses of the lakes that lend this trail it’s namesake.

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Castle Mountain Lake (城山湖)
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Port Oldwell Lake (津久井湖)

A statue. Not uncommon for Japan.

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A Buddhist statue

Hours pass. The trail crosses over Highway 20, the same road I walked to reach Plumtree Flat.

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Footbridge across Highway 20

Ascending back to the ridge, I reach the section of trail that I had hiked the previous week. Tired and hungry, I stop for lunch at the mountain hut at the top of Castle Mountain (城山).

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Castle Mountain summit (城山山頂)

I feel weak. I’m still recovering from a cold, one that only a day before had me considering cancelling the day’s hike. Knowing that I’d already hiked the trail in both directions from here, I decide to descend directly to Sagami Lake.

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Ascending to Castle Mountain
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Clouds from the summit of Castle Mountain
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Descent from Castle Mountain to Sagami Lake

On the descent, I lay down next to the trail to take a nap. I hear people whispering about me as they pass by. I ignore them.

I reach the bottom faster than I expected. There’s a small shack from which an old man is selling beer and manju. I buy a beer and take a drink. The clouds above the village caught my attention.

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Clouds of Sagami City

The trail guiding me to the station took me into a deep valley where a river flows. It’s the Sagami River, the sign tells me. I recall years ago when I lived with a host family in Atsugi. The Sagami River flowed by the house. Each evening, I walked on it’s banks and looked out at the mountains, admiring their beauty without knowing that I’d be standing here today.

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Bridge over the Sagami River
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Sagami River

 

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Bridge over the Sagami River
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Clouds in the sky and the water
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Bend in the Sagami River
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Bank of the Sagami River

 

Goodbye, Sagami Lake. I’ll take the train home.

Recommendations

One thing you’ll note as soon as you start looking at the maps for the first few courses of the trail is that the first two are pretty long (around 15km) and that half of both of them are the same section of trail from Hightail Mountain (高尾山) to Castle Mountain (城山). If you’re loath to hike the same section of trail multiple times, then I recommend doing as I did and going straight down the mountain to Sagami Lake from Castle Mountain or alternatively hiking to Hightail and then starting section two walking from Sagami Station.

Also, if you don’t want to spend a half an hour walking by the road to Plumtree Flat, there’s actually a trail straight from the station that goes up the ridge to connect with the trail. It bypasses Plumtree Flat entirely, but it will ensure that you maximize your time on the actual trail. If you’re interested, look for the Takao-Oto Course (高尾・大戸コース).

Finally, for those who like overnight hiking, there are some decent places to pitch a tent along the route, though as the trails in this area are really popular, it might not be to your taste to plan an overnight on this section of trail. However, if I had to recommend a spot, it would be the top of Castle Mountain since the views there are really good and there’s plenty of flat space. Do note there that there’s also a mountain hut where you can buy meals there. I wouldn’t recommend pitching your tent until the workers clear out as it might be frowned upon to camp right there.

My Stats

Kilometers Hiked: 16.2/1,799 (0.9%)
Courses Completed: 1/160 (0.6%)
Days spent: 1


This post is part of an ongoing series on the Fureai Trail. To view other posts in this series, click here.

© 2017 Brian Heise

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The Kantô Fureai Trail: Intro

(It’s been a long hiatus, but I’m back to start a new hiking series documenting a project that I’ve just started: through-hiking the Kantô Fureai Road (関東ふれあいの道), a roughly 1,800 km hiking path that runs along the rim of the Kantô Plain, the largest flat area in Japan which happens to contain Tokyo and a large portion of the country’s farmland as well. Over the course of the next two years or so, assuming that I stay living in the Tokyo area and I don’t suffer a catastrophic injury, I’ll be going out more or less weekly to hike a section of the trail and I’ll be documenting the experience here. Unlike my previous series on my hike in the Chichibu Interior from a few months back, this series will be focused more on pictures and less on narrative since I expect that there won’t be so many exciting or interesting things happening. Each post will contain some background on the area, any noteworthy events that happened to me on the trail, and the rest will be pictures with captions. I hope you all enjoy it!

Trail Overview

The Kantô Fureai no Michi is 1,799 km long and consists of 160 separate courses, each usually around 10 km long, though some are closer to 20. The trail, part of a larger network called the Long-Distance Nature Trail (長距離自然歩道) that spans the entire country, winds its way around the Kantô Plain passing through six separate prefectures as well as areas administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which is its own distinct administrative unit outside of any prefectural government. The name of the trail roughly translates to “The Kantô Contact Road,” though a lot is lost in translating the word fureai, which indicates more that the road connects all of the areas of the Kantô together and also has implications of intimacy as the word is often used to describe spending time with loved ones or the contact of lips during a kiss. The fact that the trail loops around the edge of the Kantô also means that it circles around Tokyo as well, lending it a second name, Capital Nature Trail (首都圏自然歩道). Stay tuned for pictures and stories from section 1 of the trail: The Lake Path (湖のみち).

My Stats

Kilometer’s hiked: 0 (0%)
Courses completed: 0 (0%)
Days spent: 0


This post is an intro to an ongoing series on the Kantô Fureai Trail. Click here to view all posts in this series.

© 2017 Brian Heise