“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
(See page 2 for German version)
You might have guessed it from reading this post, but from time to time I feel Wanderlust. Getting a breeze fresh air, being surrounded by the lush greenery, listening to the rustling of the trees has a wonderfully relaxing effect on me. It can be pretty exhausting, but you will be rewarded for your efforts with scenic views. Saying that, in Japan you can probably find almost as many hills and mountains as there are people who love hiking (mostly sprightly people in their sixties who would easily overtake me on the mountains), and even close to Tokyo there are many great hiking trails besides Mt. Fuji. As it was recommended in our Japanese hiking book (the title roughly translated as „Mountain Hikes – Secure Maps“), we decided to head once again to the Saitama Prefecture. This time, however, our destination was not Hanno, but the Shoumaru Station, which is a few stations away in a more rural area. There we wanted to do the Izugatake (851m high) hike. 12.4 km that would take about 5 hours and 25 minutes, – that was what our book told us at least. Since we started walking at around 10am, we would have plenty of time to finish the hike on time, or so we thought. However, it turned out a little bit differently.
But at first, it all started really well. We walked along a small road until we got into the forest, where we were more and more surrounded by the deep green of the trees and shrubs along the way, a landscape only interrupted by a few yellow and orange autumn leaves that you could see from time to time. The clear water flowing down many small streams shimmered as much as the spider webs here and there that were reflecting in the mid-morning sunight. With the vibrant nature around us, I felt full of energy and took thousands of pictures running around. „Are you happy?“ My boyfriend asked. „Yes,“ I said.
Then we actually began ascending the mountain, which was quite steep. I took less and less pictures, we met more and more fellow hikers, but when reaching the top of Mt. Izugatake we still felt really good, and being able to see the first Momiji leaves turning red also lifted the mood. However, our hike did not end there, no, our way led us to the next mountain peaks, Komitake (890m) and Takahata-yama (695m), and to some smaller hills, so that every time we had to descend and ascend the steep paths again, which was pretty exhausting. At around 3pm I thought at some point that we would arrive at our final destination soon, but then the last hill appeared in front of us, even being about 500m high. After getting past it, we were rewarded with even more colorful foliage at a large temple on our way. However, by then it was already 4pm and it slowly started getting darker in the forest. Since we were still far away from the station, everything got a little bit hectic, because getting lost in the forests at night didn`t seem to be such a good idea.
In the end, when it was already pitch black outside, but we were fortunately back in civilization again, we almost ran to be able to get on the train departing to Tokyo at around 5:30pm. It took us more than 7 hours to finish our hike and I could feel that through every aching muscle the next day!
“So, what mountain do we conquer next?” I asked.