Immerse Yourself in Nature through Waterfalls and Trekking: Hinohara Village in the Deepening Fall

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Hinohara is the only village in Tokyo besides those of the city's islands. With 90% of its area forested and many waterfalls, it is a peaceful retreat. Just two hours by train and bus from the city center, one can enjoy nature uncharacteristic of Tokyo. Visiting Hinohara for the first time was JIN, a hiking-video creator who shares the joys of hiking in his popular vlogs. Sengen-one ridge in Hinohara has many trailheads to suit any preferred duration and fitness level. JIN walked us through the Sengen-one ridge course, ideal for beginners hoping to reach the Sengenrei peak via Hossawa Falls. What views and thrills awaited him?
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Bask in Negative Ions: Hossawa Falls Entrance Bus Stop—Hossawa Falls (8:20 a.m.)

The Scenic Spot Selected as One of the 100 Best Waterfalls in Japan is Located in an Easily Accessible Location.

Before entering the trekking route, we first visited Hossawa Falls, a 20-minute walk from the Hossawa Falls Entrance bus stop. Hossawa Falls is the only waterfall in Tokyo that has been selected as one of the 100 best waterfalls in Japan. It is easily accessible and a recommended sightseeing spot for those who do not have confidence in their fitness. "We came at the perfect time to enjoy the fall leaves," said JIN. He said that on a good day, The weather is fine, and Mt. Fuji may be visible from the summit. He shared his enthusiasm for the day. "Let's have some fun."

Walking along the Trail for About 20 Minutes—the Fall Leaves were in their Full Glory.

The season was just at the height of fall leaves' full glory. On the side of the trail leading to the waterfall, the bright red maple leaves and the lingering greenery created a beautiful contrast, while the fallen leaves by our feet exhibited a beautiful assortment of colors with speckles of yellow mixed in with the brown. Surrounded by stunning fall leaves, the area was already filled with the season's delights. Going down a gently sloping path alongside a retro building, we headed further up the stream. The building is said to have been an old post office that was relocated to be made into a store. "The route runs along the stream and the path is well maintained. It's comfortable to walk," said JIN. After about 20 minutes of walking, we arrived at Hossawa Falls.

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What does a Waterfall in Tokyo Have to Offer?—Look Up to See the Grandeur of its Beauty.

As soon as JIN arrived at the waterfall basin, he was immediately taken aback by the scenery. The sight of the waterfall cascading down from a height of about 60 meters amid the deepening hues of fall leaves was truly spectacular! "There is an indentation, and the water falls from so high up," said JIN, who has loved waterfalls since he was a child and even started mountaineering in order to see them. "It's so beautiful!" He exclaimed in amazement. Hossawa Falls is made up of four tiers; what can be seen from the waterfall basin is the lowest tier, and the second tier is barely visible, if at all. It is remarkable that Tokyo is home to such a spectacular waterfall, which continues to a height far beyond what can be seen from below.

Fall Colors Deepening Further into the Mountain: Hossawa Falls Parking Lot - Tokisaka Pass - Takamine-so Teahouse (9:50 a.m.)

Feeling the Ground Beneath our Feet, We Made our Way up the Mountain.

Retracing our steps back along the trail, we proceeded past the parking lot and in the opposite direction of the waterfall. The trek to Sengenrei peak was about to begin. The sensation of treading on the ground was palpable as soon as we entered the mountain trail. A carpet of fallen leaves, rocky stairs, rough gravel paths... Turning our eyes to our feet, which we do not normally pay so much attention to, offered us the pleasure of discovering what nature had to offer. There were pink flowers and yellow fruits along the way. JIN stopped in places to take pictures as he went along. The sound of wild birds could be heard, bringing a heightened awareness of being in the mountains. Looking back after climbing the winding slope, we could see a quaint village below.

From the Tokisaka Pass, We Headed to the Mountain Trail Once Again. The More We Walked, the More Color the Trees Gained.

Tokisaka Pass is the midpoint where the mountain trail intersects with the roadway. Please be aware that there are no restrooms for more than 3 km to the observation deck after this point. After a short rest, we entered the mountain trail again, and the scenery changed drastically to a cool cypress forest. We weaved our way through the woods and came to an open are". "The fall leaves are so beautiful around he"e," said JIN. The trees seemed to deepen in color as the altitude increased, and we took pictures of the arches created by the fall leaves covering the trail from both sides.

The trail is not all uphill. Encountering various different terrains from the many ups and downs to the flat and open spaces is all part of the fun. The Sengen-one ridge course is an easy walk for beginners, as it goes back and forth between paved roads and mountain trails.

A Shrine, a Teahouse, and the Odaikan Resting Place—This was the Main Street of Ancient Times.

"We are at 2.8 kilometers now, so we should be about halfway through. There are no steep hills, so it is an easy walk," said JIN. Once we could see the shrine and the teahouse Takamine-so, we were at the halfway point to the peak. The path continued into the forest, and along the way in the shade of the trees, there were benches made of huge trees piled with fallen bright red maple leaves. We immersed ourselves in nature as we basked in the energy of the woods. Further on, there was a building with the sign "Ruins of Odaikan (local magistrate) Resting Place." The Sengen-one ridge route was an important ancient road that once led to Koshu (current Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo), and there are many old ruins throughout the area that are reminiscent of that time. Besides immersing yourself in the grandeur of nature, pondering over the long history woven by people throughout the ages might be another great way to enjoy the walk.

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Takamine-so

To the Peak that Overlooks Mt. Fuji: Observatory—Sengenrei peak (12:10 p.m.)

The Deep Forest Evoked Our Inner Explorers, as We Soaked up the Energy of Nature's Great Wonders Up Close.

JIN went further into the forest to reach the observatory. The forest grew thicker and thicker, creating an even richer carpet of fallen leaves beneath our feet. We crossed a mossy bridge as we followed the stream upwards. Moss grew on the rocks all around this area, and the light filtering through the gaps in the forest and the leaves dancing down were magical. "The trail is so peaceful throughout. It's very pleasant," said JIN as he stopped to smell the forest and listen to the murmuring of the stream. There are only a few places in Tokyo where you can walk through forests like this, and it is a very pleasant experience.

Alternately Stepping on Rocks and Fallen Leaves, We were Getting Closer to the Peak.

We continued through the deep forest and entered a relatively steep area of today's route. Thick roots of bent trees formed the path, and we felt nature becoming more and more dynamic. Just as we thought we would have to walk on rugged rocky terrain, we found ourselves on a soft carpet of fallen leaves. The landscape kept changing rapidly from rocks to fallen leaves, back to rocks then fallen leaves again. Even on the same mountain, nature takes many different shapes. One of the great pleasures of hiking in the mountains is enjoying their ever-changing landscape. This area offered a spectacular view, and we admired the red and yellow mountains as we continued on our way.

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We Reached Our Highest Point for Today—the 903-Meter High Sengenrei peak.

After crossing the Koiwa and Matsubaeyama branches, we arrived at the observatory. This scenic spot commanded panoramic views of Mt. Odake and Mt. Gozenyama to the north and Mt. Fuji to the south. The sky felt close above us, and the views of the mountains ahead and behind us were absolutely beautiful. Since it was a clear day, we could also see Mt. Fuji in the distance. We sat on a bench and had a light meal while admiring the spectacular view. Even though it was the same meal as usual, the exhilarating feeling made it taste quite different.

JIN enjoyed the spectacular view from the observatory, but the real peak was just a little further away. The 903-meter high peak of Sengenrei is located past the side of Sengen Shrine, where a signboard is attached. This was today's highest point! "We made it, we have reached the peak of Sengenrei!" Even for JIN, who is an experienced hiker of many mountains, reaching the peak seemed to bring him a special kind of joy.

Continue Enjoying the Spectacular Views Downhill: Henbori Pass - Kazuma Branch - Sengen-one Ridge Trailhead Bus Stop (2:00 p.m.)

After Reaching this Point, All that Remained was the Descent. The Views were Different from those We Had on the Way Up.

We passed the peak and were now on our way down. Our destination, the Sengen-one Ridge Trailhead bus stop, was at an elevation of about 600 meters, so there was not much difference in elevation from the ascent, which started at about 300 meters. The trail continued through a dense forest of cypress trees. "The sun shining through the trees feels very pleasant. Though I'm not sure if we're on the right path," he laughed, checking the map on his GPS. The pink tapes wrapped around the trees in places were also an important guideline. In contrast to the uphill trail with ever-changing landscapes, the downhill trail continued through the trees for about an hour, but there were occasional scenic spots where the view opened up, and we descended the mountain while admiring the fall leaves. "This is Henbori Pass. We continue straight on at this branching point."

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Steep Path? No Big Deal. Seeing the Monkey Stone Meant that We were Almost There.

The trail became narrower after passing the Henbori Pass. According to JIN, "The route is rather easy to walk as long as you watch your feet along the side of the path, which is cut off at some points." The descent may seem easier, but be aware that it is hard on your legs. Walk carefully on the narrow paths and use the naturally formed steps of wood and stone to distribute your weight on steep descents. As we saw the Monkey Stone with a sign that read "A large stone with a monkey's handprint" in Japanese, we were almost at the end of the trail. The surrounding trees were gradually becoming thinner and thinner. We arrived at the Kazuma Branch, which also leads toward the Kazahari Pass.

The Path Down to the Trailhead was Safe and Winding.

After passing the Kazuma Branch, we crossed a roadway for the first time in a long while. After walking on mountain trails for so long, it was refreshing to see a paved road. From here, we walked all the way down a 280-meter drop in elevation. After descending the steps, the trail winded its way down the slope as we finally reached the last leg of our trek. "The slope looks steep on the map, but it's not actually a dangerous one because it is a winding slope," said JIN. The slope grew steeper, until finally we reached the exit of the trail. That was a great effort on a nearly 13-kilometer journey! JIN shared his impressions. "The route was a nice, easy one to walk with beautiful fall leaves. We were lucky to have good weather the whole way!" He seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed his first visit to Sengen-one ridge. After this, we headed to Kazuma-no-yu, located about 20 minutes from the trailhead from which we had emerged.

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Kazuma-no-yu

Soothe Your Tired Body after a Day of Trekking in the Mountains—Kazuma-no-yu (3:20 p.m.)

A Popular Public Hot Spring with an Open-air Bath.

We walked along the street to Kazuma-no-yu, about two bus stops away. We continued on a paved road that was easy on our feet. After walking for a while, we saw a sign that read "Hot spring fresh out of the forest" in Japanese. Warm steam was rising from behind the modern building. Hinohara Onsen Center Kazuma-no-yu is a popular public hot spring in Hinohara Village—equipped with a jet bath, sauna, and open-air bath, among others, it is visited by many mountaineers. Hot springs are the best for a tired body!

The Specialty Dishes of Hinohara Village Offer a Comforting Taste that Soaks Right into Your Tired Body.

At the cafeteria adjacent to the hot spring, diners can enjoy dishes made with ingredients from Hinohara Village. Popular dishes include Kazuma no Motsuni Teishoku (a set meal of a popular stew made with tripe, traditionally pork), Stewed Hamburger Steak with Hinohara Vegetables, Hinohara Maitake Mushroom Rice Bowl, and Maitake Mushroom Tempura. JIN chose the set meal, which he tucked into while it was still hot. The motsuni stew had Maitake mushrooms, a specialty of the area, offering a gentle flavor that was perfect for our bodies chilled from the trek! "Mmmm...this is delicious...!" JIN soaked up the delightful flavors of the comforting stew.

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Fall and Spring are Great, but Hiking in Winter is Also Good.

Finally, a few words about today's trek. "I enjoyed the fallleaves and the waterfalls, and I also really enjoyed the quiet forested mountains. People might think that mountains in Tokyo are crowded with people, but I want them to know that there are other options like here in Hinohara Village where you can enjoy nature in a quiet environment." JIN said that his style was to enjoy all aspects of hiking, including the route, scenery, and plants.

When asked what he recommended about the Sengen-one ridge route, he replied, "It is a little long but the path is not too hard, so I recommend it for beginners. It is a low mountain and I don't think it gets a lot of snow, so it should be easy to climb not just in spring and fall but also in winter if beginners want to enjoy snowy mountains. The leaves will have fallen from the trees and the view should be even clearer." Hikers and non-hikers alike can enjoy Hossawa Falls. It is a place that can be enjoyed in any season when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and spend time in nature. Hinohara Village is a great place to visit on a whim.

Hiking in winter (Reference: Hinohara Mura Tourism Association): The mountains in Hinohara Village are between 1,000 to 1,500 meters above sea level. You do not need heavy equipment for hiking in winter. In winter, the leaves fall off the trees and the view is clearer. However, even though the altitude is low, there are many north-facing slopes, and once snow falls, it does not melt easily. Please bring light crampons (four-pronged) or anti-slip shoes that are commercially available. Please also bring warm clothing and a headlamp, as it gets dark early, just in case.

JIN

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JIN has an outdoor channel that mainly features mountaineering vlogs introducing scenic spots and routes, as well as camping and gear.
His mountaineering vlog on the Hinohara Village Sengen-one Ridge Traverse Course is currently available on his YouTube channel JIN.
Watch the video on YouTube
*Japanese language site
Hossawa Falls https://hinohara-kankou.jp/spot/hossawanotaki

Kazuma-no-yu http://kazumanoyu.net/

*Japanese language site
Translation by Amitt

*This article was originally published on “TAMASHIMA.tokyo: Tourist information site for the Tama area and islands of Tokyo"
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