Mount Ono, All to Myself
The neighbouring Kanagawa prefecture offers an abundance of hiking trails for Tokyoites seeking escape. The Miura Peninsula, for instance, offers the memorable Cape Tsurugi coastal walk across creepy caves, rocky cliffs, and sandy beaches. Much further ashore, varied experiences can be had in the Tanzawa Oyama Quasi-National Park: a religious pilgrimage to the Mount Oyama shrines; a jaunt to streams and waterfalls in the Omote Tanzawa Kenmin Forest; even a stop for nabeyaki udon at the peak of Mount Nabewari. This past weekend, I opted for a quiet hike in the western part of the prefecture: Mount Ono.
The path to Mount Ono starts at Yamakita Station, an hour and 45 minutes away via public transport from central Tokyo. From Shinjuku Station, I took the Odakyu Line to Shin-Matsuda, where I disembarked and walked to the adjacent Matsuda Station. There, I transferred to the more infrequently-running JR Gotemba Line, perhaps best known for its access to the Gotemba shopping outlets. It’s a short two-station trip from Matsuda to Yamakita. Signs for Mount Ono (大野山) begin outside the station exit and do not let up, making it nearly impossible to get lost.
The distance to the official trailhead is quite lengthy, about an hour’s walk from the station. It involves short passes through the center of the town, along the railroad tracks, and on some non-descript roads next to a highway. From there, the path goes through a small tunnel and then ascends into the hills. The changes in scenery add to the charm of the trek; the winding walk through the residential district becomes especially memorable with a modest bamboo grove and a couple of small tea plantations. Just when I start questioning whether I have somehow gotten lost, I reach the trailhead.
The walking sticks amassed for hikers are a foreboding sight. Still, despite some narrow parts along the ridge, and rather steady climb begins, the hike is not particularly challenging. The trail opens into a wide clearing about 150 meters from the summit, allowing a clear glimpse of both the north and south sides of the mountain, with breathtaking views of the village in the case of the latter. The actual peak of Mount Ono (at 723 meters) takes only about five minutes walk from that point, past a collection of wooden animal carvings that are inexplicably there. Lake Tanzawa to the north provides a gorgeous sight.
The descent southwest toward Yaga Station provides perfect scenery. I did miss out altogether on what is supposedly one of the best views of Fuji from the east, having started late on a foggy March afternoon. But with golden fields in the foreground, villages dotting the river in the middle ground, and assorted peaks in the distance, I found the landscape hard to beat, nonetheless. I wind my way down the mountain and through the forest quite easily. As I emerge back into civilization, with sounds of traffic coming from the adjacent highway, I run into a villager tending to her rice field. She is the first person I have seen in three hours.