Hike – Mt Tsukuba 筑波山

14 10 2009

Quick Overview

Mt Tsukuba

Mt Tsukuba

Within a couple of hours from Tokyo by train and bus, this twin-peaked hike is a nice and easy day trip, suitable for families.  Mt Tsukuba offers a lovely view of the Kanto plain, and occasionally Mt Fuji.  Facilities include restaurants, a cable car and rope way.

Distance: 5km
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: easy to slightly challenging (some rocky bits, and lots of stairs)
Season:  Suitable all year
Starting point:  Tsutsujigaoka bus stop つつじヶ丘
Finishing point:  Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi bus stop 筑波山神社入口


A map of the hike can also be viewed at GPSies

The Mapple 山と高原地図 map series number 20, which includes Mt Tsukuba, can be bought on Amazon.co.jp. Note, these maps are in Japanese, but have some English and furigana.

The Hike

You can hike from either Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口 or Tsutsujigaoka つつじヶ丘, however this report starts from the later.  From Tsutsujigaoka つつじヶ丘 you can follow a trail to the summit of Mt Nyotai 女体山, across the ridge to Mt Nantai 男体山, and then down to Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口.  Regardless of which mountain you climb first, there are a lot of stairs, but if you prefer to climb up rocks rather than down, climbing Mt Nyotai 女体山 is recommended.

Starting from Tsutsujigaoka つつじヶ丘, the bus stops in the middle of the parking lot for the ropeway.  This ropeway goes to the peak of Mt Nyotai 女体山, and costs 600¥ one way, or 1070¥ return.  To hike, walk past the shops, ropeway station, and up the trail next to the giant toad. This is the Otatsuishi course おたつ石コース.  From the car park you can see a fair section of the trail leading up.  The first half is quite open, so bring a hat on sunny days.  It is also possible to hike to Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口 using the trail to the left at the trail head (the Mukaeba course 迎場コース).

Tsutsujigaoka trail head

Tsutsujigaoka trail head

After about 40 minutes of some pretty average hiking up stairs, you will reach a rest stop at the ‘Site of Benkei Cha-ya’ 弁慶茶屋.  From here take the path to the right to climb to the summit of Mt Nyotai 女体山.  The path to the left leads to Tsukubasan-jinga Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口(these paths are both part of the Shirakumobashi course 白雲橋コース).  Continuing up the mountain, from the rest stop, the path becomes steeper and rockier.  It also features a number of interesting rock formations.

Some of these rock formations are a little abstract, but interesting none the less.  A few of the rock formations are ‘Benkei returns seven times’, Takamagahara (a small shrine on a tall rock), ‘Mother’s womb’, ‘Departing and arriving ship’, Hokuto, and ‘Big Buddha’.

After approximately another 40 minutes you will reach the summit for Mt Nyotai 女体山.  There is a small shrine and a wonderful panoramic view of the Kanto plain.  On clear days you can see the Tokyo skyline and Mt Fuji.

Summit of Mt Nyotai

Summit of Mt Nyotai

From here, head down the other path.  You will come to a clearing with two paths.  The one on the left leads to the ropeway, and the other leads to Mt Nantai 男体山.  On the way to Mt Nantai 男体山 you will pass a couple more rock formations, the famous Toad Rock and Wagtail rock, and a few radio/TV towers.

Fork in the path - to the left the ropeway station, to the right Mt Nantai

Fork in the path - to the left the ropeway station, to the right Mt Nantai

Shops and Cablecar station with Mt Nantai in the background

Shops and Cablecar station with Mt Nantai in the background

Just before Mt Nantai 男体山 there are a number of little shops, the cable car station, and toilets.  These are good places to get some lunch.

Opposite the cable car station are stairs leading upwards, follow these if you want to go to the summit of Mt Nantai 男体山, although the view from this summit is poor compared to Mt Nyotai 女体山.  There is also a nature trail that circles around the top of Mt Nantai 男体山, accessible on the left behind the restaurants above the first flight of steps.  This circular trail takes about 20 minutes, is very easy, and exits next to the toilets in the cable car/shop area.

To descend Mt Nantai 男体山 take the path on the right of the cable car station.  If you choose to use the cable car instead, the cost is 570¥ one way, or 1020¥ return.  The path, known as the Miyukigahara course 御幸ヶ原コース, leads all the way down to Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口, running mostly parallel with the cable car lines.  When you reach the bottom the path branches out, but if you continue heading down on the right you will get to the cable car station.  On the left is Tsukubasan Shrine 筑波山神社, which is worth a quick look.

Heading through the shrine complex, you will pass the main building, a gate, an old wooden bridge and a stone tori-gate before finally arriving at the road.  Follow this road down until you pass through the big red tori-gate.  On the right here is the Tourist Information Center (a bit late to use, but you can pick up a free map in English here).  On the opposite side of the road is a car park, toilet and a souvenir store.  The bus back to the Tsukuba Center つくばセンター leaves from this car park.

Tourist Information Center

Tourist Information Center

Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi bus stop and shops

Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi bus stop and shops

To and From

As always, the following routes are just recommendations.  Please use Hyperdia or Jorudan’s Train Route Finder to find the most suitable route for you!

From Akihabara 秋葉原 you can catch the Tsukuba Express つくばエクスプレス line to the Tsukuba Center TXつくば駅/つくばセンター.  The rapid train takes 45 minutes, and costs 1150¥.  Trains leave regularly.

From the train station take Exit A4, and turn left to the bus terminal.  Currently the shuttle bus to Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口/Tsutsujigaoka つつじヶ丘 leaves from Bus Stop 1 every hour on the hour between 8am and 3:30pm on weekdays, and also on every half hour on weekends.  The shuttle bus costs 700¥ to Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口, and 850¥ to Tsutsujigaoka つつじヶ丘(40 and 50 minutes respectively).  Make sure you can catch the last bus back to the Tsukuba Center, leaving Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口 at 5:10pm.

Check the Tsukuba-san Website for current bus time tables (all in Japanese) http://www.kantetsu.co.jp/bus/tsukuba_shuttle/tsukuba_shuttle_index.html

There is also a discount ticket that includes return fare on the Tsukuba Express, return shuttle bus, and return cable car or ropeway for 4300¥ from Akihabara.  The ticket is valid over 2 days and available at Tsukuba Express stations.

A JR Bus also runs from Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit to the Tsukuba Center and takes 65 minutes.  The cost is 1150¥ and the bus leaves every 20 minutes.


Mt Tsukuba official website (Japanese) http://www.tsukubasan.co.jp/

Mt Tsukuba Tourist website (Japanese) http://www.mt-tsukuba.com/ (also includes a map of all hiking courses on the mountain)

Mt Tsukuba Shuttle Bus website (Japanese) http://www.kantetsu.co.jp/bus/tsukuba_shuttle/tsukuba_shuttle_index.html

My Flickr photo set from Mt Tsukuba http://www.flickr.com/photos/michelelisa/sets/72157622368085803/

Map of hike on GPSies http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=wywylzdtcntmkryi

Useful Kanji

Mt Tsukuba 筑波山
Tsutsujigaoka つつじヶ丘
Tsukubasan-jinja Iriguchi 筑波山神社入口
Mt Nyotai 女体山
Mt Nantai 男体山
Otatsuishi Course おたつ石コース
Mukaeba Course 迎場コース
Benkei Cha-ya 弁慶茶屋
Shirakumobashi Course 白雲橋コース
Miyukigahara Course 御幸ヶ原コース
Tsukuba Center TXつくば駅/つくばセンター

in which michele remembers *why* she loves Japan

15 09 2009

There’s something about hiking that brings out the best in people.  I’m not sure if it’s because you are surrounded by nature, or if its because you can recognise something similar inside yourself and other hikers, regardless of fitness levels, but people are friendlier on the trail.

Here’s my experiences on Sunday, when I went hiking by myself in Tsukuba.  Within a space of four hours I had 3 encounters that had me smiling, and remembering why I love Japan.

Firstly, while resting at a way point, one lady came over to me and offered me some cut nashi pear.  It was a really simple exchange, she just came over and said ‘Please’ while offering me the fruit.  I said thanks and took it, and then she left.  But what a lovely random act of kindness.  I am also convinced that fruit tastes better when you are hiking.  Nothing like exercise to make healthy foods taste great!

Next, on the way down the mountain I ran into a group of guys from a university.  One of the older guys in the group was trying to speak English with me, which happens kinda frequently in Japan, however it didn’t feel like he was trying for the sake of practicing, but more for the sake of conversing with me.  He was rather impressed with the time I’d been in Japan, and soon realised my Japanese was better than his English, but then he made the younger boys practice introductions with me.  They were all pretty cute (as in action, not physical appearance… mind you, some were cute in both ways….) and they all said ‘Hello’ again when they passed me later.

Finally, when I was close to the end of my hike, a group that passed me earlier as they were going up the mountain over took me coming down (so, Im not very fast… or fit…).  These guys were also university students, but they had great english.  They walked with me the remaining way (about 15 min) and we had a lovely conversation about nothing in particular.    I was particularly impressed that they managed to do the mountain (up and down) in an hour, and wearing sandals…

Of course, in Japan hikers are polite and courteous.  Almost everyone you pass will say ‘Konnichi wa!’.  People passing you will say either ‘Sumimasen’ or ‘Osaki ni’, excusing themselves or excusing themselves for going first respectively.  And then when you let someone move through a narrow way before you do they say their thanks, or excuse themselves again.  But its the people who will go out of the way to have a conversation with you ‘just becuase’ that really make me love hiking in Japan.

On top of Mt Tsukuba

and for those intrested, I will do a write up on hiking Mt Tsukuba soon!