Mount Kobushi to Karisaka Pass hike overview
Altitude change: ~1,400m
Difficulty: Medium – Hard
Season: Late spring to autumn | Winter for experienced climbers
Time: 2-day trip from Tokyo
Hiking map link: Yamap
I’m a fan of hiking in Japan all year round, but the cooler months have to be my favorite. One of the reasons for this is the incredible views over great distances afforded by the very clean and dry air. And o this Mt. Kobushi to Karisaka Pass hike are some of the best views of any route in Japan I’ve hiked so far. With bonus points for Mt. Kobushi numbering among Japan’s 100 famous mountains and Karisaka one of Japan’s 3 great passes.
More than just the views, this mountain is also known for it’s beautiful flowers from the rainy season to late summer. We did this hike at the end of November, after the autumn foliage had gone and when the first snow had already arrived: a spectacular sight. Hiking from December to March would only be recommended for experts who have experienced snow expeditions. Note also that mountain huts aren’t manned during the winter season (except for the New Year period 1-4 Jan). It’s also worth noting that Nishizawa Gorge (where the trail starts) is a very popular koyo (or autumn leaves) spot in October, and is probably significantly busier that the rest of the year.
This route is a two-day trip, including train and a bus connection to and from Tokyo. With some serious stamina and your own transport you could do this hike or a shorter variation as a day trip from Tokyo. Our friend David from Ridgeline Images has a slightly more leisurely three-day route approaching Mt. Kobushi from a different side.
The hike is well served by public transport from Tokyo, with the Azusa or Kaiji limited express JR train running once an hour from Shinjuku to Yamanashishi or Enzan (can be used with the JR Rail Pass). There’s three morning buses from Enzan (from April to November) and two from Yamanashishi (all year) taking you to the Nishizawa Gorge. The hike starts from the last stop of either bus line.
Check for the up-to-date timetable. At the time of writing, the 7:30am Azusa limited express from Shinjuku arrives at Yamanashishi Station just in time to catch the first bus at 9:12am.
Day 1 – Mt. Kobushi
10am start at Nishizawa Gorge – 3pm arrival at Kobushi mountain hut
From the last stop of the Nishizawa Gorge bus, continue north up the path and under the road bridge. After about 1km you’ll pass a rather well constructed toilet, with the Nishizawa Gorge path off to the left (which is another great hike), but don’t take that, keep going straight along the path.
Further along are two paths leading up. The first “Chikamaru” 近丸新道 path you’ll soon see just behind the Nishizawa Hut (西沢山荘), where the trail starts. But don’t take this path*! Instead, continue further until you reach the “Tokuchan” Path (徳ちゃん新道).
*It’s unsafe as multiple landslides have swept much of the path away leaving it in a very dangerous condition; we lost the trail and had to scramble up steep slopes hoping to find it again.
The path rises up quickly through forest along a steep ridge, and after two and a half hours you’ll reach the knee of the ridge at 1869m where it merges with the Chikamaru path. From there as the trees and foliage change, you’ll take another two hours or so to hike the next 600m to the Mt. Tokusa (木賊山) summit. There’s a left/right junction, right leading to Mt. Hafu (破風山), but follow the left sign towards Mt. Kobushi and head down the ridge.
It’s 25-minute descent to the Kobushi mountain hut and if you prefer check in/leave your bags here before heading up to the summit of Mt. Kobushi.
Kobushi Mountain Hut
We stayed the night at this wooden log hut. The staff are friendly, rugged mountain types, and we shared the dormitory with about 10 other guests. It’s fairly well-equipped as mountain huts go: a warm filling dinner and breakfast, fresh ground coffee available, good mobile reception (Docomo network) and even has a TV! But it was rather cold at night when we stayed at the end of November. You’ll need to call beforehand to book—if you don’t speak Japanese this could be a little tricky, although all they need to know is the date, how many people, meals/no meals and where you will start the hike from (Nishizawa Gorge).
Accommodation only: ¥5,100
Accommodation plus meals (breakfast, evening + bento): ¥9,100
Booking number: 090-3337-8947
Open: Spring to end of November
Day 2 – Karisaka Pass
7am Kobushi Hut – 2:30pm Mitomi
I strongly recommend getting up in time for sunrise atop Mt. Kobushi; if the air is clear and free of clouds you’ll be able to see an extraordinarily long way. We could see from Tokyo Bay and Mt. Fuji on one side, to mountains far into Nagano.
When you’re ready to continue on the hike proper, as you leave Kobushi hut turn left you either: retrace yesterday’s steps and hike up again to Mt. Tokusa summit OR follow the faster direct path sign posted to Mt. Hafu.
The path drops steeply down a few hundred meters and back up again to Mt. Hafu. Continue along the ridge, heading to Karisakarei (雁坂嶺) and then to Karisaka Pass (雁坂峠)—enjoying views on either side. At Karisaka Pass, there’s a few benches and a most splendid view with which to take your lunch.
From Karisaka Pass it’s about a three-hour hike back down to the Mitomi “Michi no Eki” recreation area and bus stop. The afternoon buses, are at approximately 3pm and 4pm, so depending on your pace, you could spend a little longer walking further along the ridge. (If you’re really early and really ambitious, you may even have time to continue to Mt. Korei (古礼山) Gantoge (雁峠) and descend from there to the Shinchidaira (新地平) bus stop. That should take 5 hours, so you’ll want to leave from Karisaka Pass at 11am at the latest.)
The descent, steep at first, is quite pleasant, very open with the forest building up as you reach the mountain stream. Eventually you hit a rather neglected mountain round, which you follow the last hour or so. The path is sign posted to Lake Hirose (広瀬湖), but near the end take the forest path sign posted to “Michi no Eki” (道の駅), which leads back to the bus stop.