If you’re ever feeling the urge for beautiful scenery, exercise, combined with a good hike, Nikko is an excellent place to go. Nikko (日光) is a city in northern Tochigi prefecture that’s famous for its sacred mountains and temples. Although the city is still relatively rural compared to other famous cities in Japan, it’s still a popular tourist destination for both foreign and Japanese tourists. While most tourist think of Mt. Nantai as the only mountain in Nikko, there are many smaller much less rigorous courses for visitors to try.
Meet Mt. Nakimushi (鳴虫山), a small mountain in Nikko that is about 1,200 meters high. Finding the beginning of the trail is as simple as a twenty-minute walk from the Tobu Nikko station. Once there, you’ll immediately know where to begin since there are several signs in the area to point you in the right direction. From the beginning the view was incredible and you could start to see some of the spiritual influences from Nikko left on the hiking trail. About twenty minutes into the hike we came across a small shrine that visitors could pray at for luck and safe travels along the trail.
Most of the trail has been worn down due to erosion but, the trail is very straight forward making it very hard to get lost. There are three separate peaks each about an hour apart. From each peak, you can get an amazing view of Nikko City from above which includes parts of the Toshogu Shrine and Lake Chuzenji. Once you reach the very top you can sit down and enjoy a nice lunch, and take in the view of your accomplished hiking trip.
Although the hike up was tough, it wasn’t comparable to the hike down. The downward path on the other side of Mt. Nakimushi was made almost entirely of lose rocks and branches which made keeping your footing hard. There were ropes on this side to help you up and down but most of them were ineffective in terms of getting down the mountain. However, once you reach the end, the trail does lead you to some interesting places such as the Nikko Botantical Garden, the Boke-Jizo, and the Kanmanga-Fuchi Abyss. Then once you finish walking for the day, you can visit a nearby onsen to relax your muscles.
According to the Tobu mountain travel website, Mt. Nakimushi only ranks a 4/10 in terms of difficulty for climbing and is recommended for beginner to intermediate hikers. While I wouldn’t say, you need top notch hiking gear to climb the mountain, the path is very engaging and you should be prepared to get in some very rigorous exercise. The full length of Mt. Nakimushi is about 1,200 meters, but the entrance to the trail starts at about 600 meters up the mountain. Even though you’re only climbing 500 meters up the mountain the trail is still estimated to take about four hours to complete.