Visited in March 2020
One of the most loved hiking spots of Tokyoites is the area around Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山). Located in Ibaraki prefecture, easily accessible by an express train from the city center of Tokyo, it is an obvious option for a short day hike.
As a rough guide, we used the suggested route below. We followed the Shirakumobashi Trail (orange) to reach the first mountaintop, continued to the Sancho-Renraku Trail (purple) to access the second mountaintop and returned back down following the Miyukigahara Trail (blue). The total was about 6km, relatively easy with a casual pace.
You can get to the base of the mountain by hopping on the bus from Tsukuba station to Tsutsujigaoka (つつじヶ丘). As soon as you get off at ‘Tsukuba shrine entrance” (筑波山神社入口), you are greeted by a giant red torii gate next to the Mount Tsukuba Tourist Information Centre.
The Tsukuba shrine is located at the foot of the mountain and there are two cable cars that can take you up to the top (Tsukuba Kanko Railway Cable & Tsukubasan Ropeway). I don’t doubt that the view from the ropeway is amazing, but we decide to walk, we came to hike after all. The entrance to the path is on the right of the shrine entrance. The mountain has two peaks; the male peak Mt. Nantai（男体山） and female peak Mt. Nyotai（女体山）. We started heading first towards the lower Nyotai peak.
The path changes a lot as you move forward. It starts relatively flat with smooth dirt, changes to rocky steps and finally to steps made of tree roots. The opposite path going up towards Mt. Nantai is mostly covered with wooden steps so it is a bit harder to climb up, although safer.
There are a couple of small shrines along the way that make the landscape interesting.
The path is properly marked with a lot of signs and maps, so it is really difficult to get lost.
After a while the path turns rocky again. Did you know that one traditional entertainment in oriental Asia is “Rock appreciation”? In Mt. Tsukuba there are a lot of rocks, properly marked with signs and given names, that according to the locals are beautiful or even spiritual.
The cable car is mostly hidden during the hike. It only appears to the field of view when you reach closer to the top.
Both mountain peaks have a shrine on top, although the one on top of Mt. Nyotai is more lavish. It also has better view, almost 360 degrees around. The gray pole at the top, informs that Mt. Tsukuba is one of the 100 most famous mountains of Japan.
After climbing up, you get back down towards a plateau between the peaks, where the arrival stations of the cable car are also located. There are a couple of restaurants and souvenir shops as well. It seems like a really crowded place during peak visiting season.
After a couple more roots and steps, we reached the top of Mt. Nantai. The shrine there was much more simple. A relatively old meteorological station built with western architecture is located next to the shrine.
So, once more we head back to the plateau, get some coffee and ramune (the japanese version of lemonade, with a characteristic blue bottle opening with the old way of pushing a glass bead down).
In late March starts the season of the Katakuri lily (Erythronium japonicum), a purple flower growing in the woods of Japan and Korea. As a result, there were dozens of large purple banners informing the visitors that the wildflower is in full bloom.
On our way down, we reached once again the shrine complex of Tsukuba shrine. Nothing too fancy about this temple, but it offers a calming aesthetic.
Alas, soon it was time to catch the last bus back to the station. Now, I was able to realize that the view from the bus stop was nothing other but the two mini mountain tops I conquered a few hours ago.
For more information regarding the mountain, hiking maps, access and events, you can visit the official website mount-tsukuba.com.