To sum up your adversary you must first size it up, and Mount Ashigara aka Mount Kintoki is supposed to be one of the best places to view my next day’s challenge – the iconic Mount Fuji. If it weren’t for the clouds….
Of the four trails up Mount Fuji, Alex and Cath of KL Hiking had chosen the Gotemba trail for our climb. It’s the longest and least popular, starting much lower down the mountain at 1450 meters (the others start between 2000 and 2400 meters) and requiring an altitude gain of 1840 meters to get to the 7.9 station, where we would spend the night.
For that reason we would be based in Gotemba, a small city of 88,000 inhabitants, whose main attraction besides its Fuji view is its Premium Outlet village. I’m not a shopper but even I could see the attraction: 210 stores set across two zones – East and West, selling luxury and lifestyle brands like Alexander Wang, Burberry and Prada at ridiculous prices. Out of necessity I picked up a wooly hat at Columbia for RM50, while two hiking buddies picked up a backpack for RM250 a piece. Bargain.
Not to waste an opportunity, while we were here for 2 days and one night, a short, easy hike through the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park to the peak of Mount Ashigara had been planned on the day of our arrival. Also known as Mount Kintoki, it’s reputed to be the wilderness home of Kintaro aka Golden Boy, a wildly popular Japanese folk hero with impressive strength and forest animals for mates.
One of the trails leading up KIntoki’s 1212 meter peak, passes a shrine to the young Kintaro, but our path would start further up the Hanoneura Highway, just next to a Lawsons.
The 1 hour 15 minutes leisure hike would take us through towering pine forest and tall bamboo groves, past hydrangeas in bloom and wild lilies heavy with fragrance. Muddy to begin with due to the summer rains, wooden stairs cut into the hill and ropes assist with the ascent, while closer to the peak the terrain becomes rockier.
Apart from the pretty flora and scenery, the reward of summiting Hakone’s parasitic cone would have been views of Mount Fuji were it not for the rain clouds that blocked our view. Still, we did enjoy panoramic vistas of Sengokuhara nestled in the valley below and Lake Ashinoko (or Lake Ashi for short) in the distance.
False starts enroute to Gotemba ruled out summiting nearby Mount Myojingatake, so our return journey took a direct route along a series of ridges before descending through forests until we exited at the entrance to Otome Pass, just before the Otome tunnel and about 100 meters short of Fujimi-Chaya tea house.
The tea house is frequented for its Fuji views and bronze statue of Kintoki wrestling a bear. Considered good luck to rub Kintoki’s shiny metal ass, I did, but not before smacking the tyke’s bare behind. No kid should be wrestling bears. Tsk.
Altitude 1212 meters.
Time 1 hours 15 minutes up, and an equivalent amount of time down.
Rating Easy with some rocky terrain towards the peak.
Facilities None, but there are restaurants, shops and rest stops along Hakoneura Highway where the trail starts and end.
Tip Winter is the best time to visit for the clearest blue skies and best views of Fuji-san. You can also view Japan’s most sacred mountain from these recommended spots here.
Getting there At the Fujiyama-Guchi side of Gotemba train station, we hopped on the free shuttle bus to Gotemba Premium Outlets, before catching the connecting Hakone-Tozan Kankone-Shisetsu-Meguri bus up Hanoneura Highway.
The bus winds its way up into the mountains past driving ranges and golf courses. In addition to the Ashigara trailhead, if you purchase the Hakone-Tozan 1-day free pass (Adults: 1,000 Yen; Kids: 500 Yen), you can also stop at the following attractions: