Some mountains draw attention for the marvellous views they give across their surroundings. Others, however, concentrate all that beautiful intensity into themselves, and discharge it in through your boots with every step you take. The mountain featured today falls into the latter category, and is especially popular in the last days of May, or early June, when the way to its summit erupts in white azaleas.
Make no mistake though. Hinokiboramaru (檜洞丸) is no overcrowded, tourist-encumbered Ōyama or Takao-san. Proximity to these flowers is something each of the people in these photos has earned by offering up buckets of sweat and lactic acid. This 1600m peak, whose name denotes a “circle of cypress caves”, lurks deep in the Tanzawa mountains, and an excursion up and over it is less a hike than a swashbuckling, sinew-grinding adventure.
The beauty of the Tanzawa mountains is in their diversity, and here that colourful variegation is on show in all its glory. To demonstrate your worthiness to see it, Hinokiboramaru lays down challenges no less mercurial: the paths and environment transform before your eyes, zone after zone, each time settling into a new configuration for you to negotiate. Expect plenty of this:
And certainly no shortage of this:
As well as a fair bit of this:
And if you are lucky, perhaps even this:
So while it does not demand specialist equipment or more preparation than other day hikes, Hinokiboramaru is not for the faint of heart. The way up the mountain is somewhat strenuous and often narrow of path, while the ridge that follows presents challenges of an above-average technical difficulty, featuring a rumbling series of ladders, hand-assisted or chain-assisted rock climbs and boardwalks. Injury opportunities are plentiful if you aren't careful, and if you get stuck, the only way out of this remote mountainscape involves misery, expense and a helicopter.
But don't let that put you off. These mountains reward you commensurately for every ounce of courage you put in, and so long as you approach them with respect, a cool head, and even only moderate fitness, you will be able to get from beginning to end of this route and feel better for it. The area is well looked after by the Tanzawa national park authorities, with excellent signposting and trail maintenance. Even dogs and small children do this walk, as encountered on this occasion, on a day when the average age of people on this hike seemed nonetheless well over fifty.
Do, however, plan well. Good hiking shoes are absolutely essential, as is enough food and water to last you the full way. Pay attention to the weather forecast and do not go on a day with a significant chance of rain, which would make this walk's many high and narrow trails too precarious. And avoid trying it in winter unless you have special equipment for the ice and snow, along with past experience with such conditions.
It takes about an hour and a half to get from central Tokyo to Shin-Matsuda (新松田) station on the Odakyu Line, followed by another hour on the Fujikyū Bus (1180 yen either way, regular and runs throughout the day, click here for timetable) to reach the West Tanzawa Nature Classroom (Nishi Tanzawa Shizen Kyōshitsu, 西丹沢自然教室), where the walk begins and ends. As the walk can take a good six to seven hours, an early start is strongly advised.