Scenic from start to finish.
Bask in the view from above the clouds. If you’re up for a picturesque and challenging hike, head to Mount Shibutsu, just a few hours from Tokyo.
Shibutsu, which is on the list of “100 best mountains” in Japan, is located within Oze National Park in Gunma Prefecture. A nature retreat in the Kanto region, Oze is covered in preserved marshland areas with crystal-clear streams and wooden walking paths. You could go to Oze for a light hike, but the nearly 400-kilometer park also includes several mountains.
After staying in one of the near-by mountain inns, jump start your hike in the wee morning hours — at about 5 a.m. The climb to the top is 2,228 meters and estimated to take a modest 3 hours. The rocky path is easy to follow. It’s part wooden stairs, part wooden planks and part rocks, with the occasional chain to help climb up a large boulder.
The total length of the journey will be around 5 hours. That may seem like a long while, but the scenery, including rock formations, peaks, and rolling mountain meadows accented with purple and yellow wild flowers, is worth it. When you make it to the top, it is customary to join the other hikers in taking a rest and eating lunch while basking in the view from above the clouds.
The descent features a wooden staircase which goes down the side of the mountain. Once you get about half way down, it’s an easier hike than the rocky paths when you first descend. When the trees clear, the end is near. After, celebrate with soft cream ice cream and iced coffee from the mountain shops.
Recommended months to climb Shibutsu are anywhere from mid-April to November.
Two ways to hike
There are two ways to climb Shibutsu. You can either climb/descend to Hatomachi-toge or climb from Yama-no-hana and descend to Hatomachi-toge.
The Yama-no-hana trail to the summit is for only climbing; you cannot descend that trail. It’s closed for people descending because of the rocks. The trails are marked well for those who can read Japanese.
Mt. Shibutsu is a challenging hike, but a beautifully memorable experience.