If you like a steep climb and rewarding views, Mount Mitsudoke/Tenmokuzan will not disappoint. Positioned on the ridge dividing Western Tokyo and Saitama, this 1,576 m peak boasts spectacular views stretching from Nagano to Mount Fuji. This mountain offers a taste of remote hiking that is normally impossible as a day trip from central Tokyo. Hiking Mount Tenmoku means venturing along a lightly trodden path, some way from humans and much closer to untouched nature and wildlife.
Mount Tenmoku day trip overview
- Altitude: 1,576 m
- Difficulty: Advanced/Expert
- Hike time: 8-hour round-trip hike
- Travel time: ∼5 hours for round-trip travel from Tokyo
- Trailhead: Nippara village (trail path starts near Higashinippara bus stop)
- Season: Spring and autumn are best; generally summer is too hot; winter should be reserved for those experienced in hiking in snowy/icy conditions (crampons are a must)
- Train fare: Roughly 3,000 yen return from Shinjuku Station
The hike starts from about 650 m altitude, so you’ll be pacing up about 1,100 m to reach the summit. The trailhead is the remote Tokyo village of Nippara (home to the Nippara Limesone Caves). To get to the trailhead, catch the holiday express and a bus transfer, which takes 2 hours and 20 minutes from Shinjuku Station. The whole of the trip is within Tokyo prefectural boundaries, but don’t be fooled by the address!
This is pretty remote path and you’re unlikely to see more than a few other hikers, so you’ll need an experienced hiker in your group for safety.
Day trip or overnight
The estimated time from base to summit is about 3.5 hours plus breaks, and slightly less for the descent (following the same route back down). It’s a long day—about an 8-hour round-trip hike, plus approximately 5 hours of transit time, so be sure to set off early. And if you’re hiking in winter months, be mindful of your pace and the very sparse bus times—it’s not fun waiting at a bus stop in the dark at a high altitude.
If you’re interested in extending your trip to an overnight one, there are (unstaffed) mountain huts near the summit of Mount Tenmoku and Mount Toritani, a further 2 hours or so along the ridge. Don’t attempt an overnight trip if you are inexperienced—you’ll need to do a lot more preparation, and this article is focused on a day trip only.
There are no shops or places to buy supplies along the way, so be sure to pack enough food and drink for your entire trip.
Getting to Mount Tenmoku
Ideally, you’ll catch the early weekend holiday express from Shinjuku to Okutama at 6:44 am, then transfer to the Nippara (日原) or Nippara Limestome Caves (日原鍾乳洞) bus from outside Okutama Station. The bus normally leaves from the stop directly in front of the station, but check with the bus station staff if you’re not sure. You’ll want to get off the bus at Higashinippara (the last stop if it’s the Nippara bus).
Top tip: Look up the bus schedule beforehand or to take a photo of the bus timetable at the bus stop as there are only a few buses per day, and you can’t afford to miss your slot!
We recommend you either buy a paper map or download and install the Yamap app, which allows you to download free hiking maps for use offline, even without mobile reception. While the hike is signposted, you shouldn’t attempt this route without guidance or decent maps. All the trail paths use Japanese characters, so make sure you know what you need to look out for: Mount Tenmoku 天目山 (with ippaisui 一杯水 as a way point) and for the return, Higashinippara bus stop 日原バス.
The trail path starts just above the bus stop. There’s a hiking map at the bus stop showing approximate walking times to all the various mountains in the area. Do make friends with any fellow hikers who joined you on the bus—chances are you’ll see them again along the way and waiting for the ride back at the end.
The first leg of the hike is a very steep ascent through a dense cedar forest. If you’re tracking your progress, don’t be disappointed by the apparent slow pace of the first section; you’ll have covered much of the altitude gain in the first 2 hours. Once the cedar forest recedes, you’re left with a much gentler and pleasant walk with many fantastic views along the rest of the way.
Eventually you’ll reach the mountain hut at a junction below the summit of Mount Tenmoku. This is a good spot for a lunch break before the final 20-minute push up to the peak.
The path up to the summit starts from behind the mountain hut and can be fairly difficult to follow. Keep an eye out for the colored tape marking the trail through the woods.
Mount Tenmoku summit
The summit itself stands above the trees and has a speculator and almost uninterrupted 360° view. Mount Fuji fans will be pleased to see the iconic cone shape poking up above the mountain ridges to the south. But on a clear day (particularly in the winter), you will be able to see mountains farther away toward the north in Gunma and Nagano, plus views of Tokyo and the Kanto Plain to the east. You may even catch a glimpse of the sea if it’s especially clear.
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