Note: this post was re-posted from my old website, originally published in November 2016.
Lies on the outskirt of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture stands Mt. Izumigatake. As popular as it is in the winter as one of the ski destinations of the region, in summer and autumn, it attracts a different kind of visitor: the hikers.
One summer day, I took a bus towards Izumigatake from the last stop of Nanboku subway line in Sendai. It was raining, but I had determined to hike anyway on that day. Here is my account of the hike. Note: access information is written at the end of this article.
One thing to take note, the hiking base starts in the so-called Izumigatake ski area. But the thing is, there are two ski areas in the mountain range. The one that we have to make stop when taking the bus is the Izumigatake Ski Area near Owens Izumigatake Nature Encounter Center (オーエンス泉岳自然ふれあい館), where the camping ground is located. There is another ski area named Spring Valley Izumikogen Ski Area which is the last stop of the bus route.
On a lighter note, that mistake allowed me to tackle the most difficult trails out of Mt. Izumigatake’s four hiking trails to the peak, the Ura trail (裏コース) because it is the closest to Izumikogen.
The other trails, namely Mizukami (水神) (I am not sure if this is the correct pronunciation), Kakkou (滑降), and Kamoshika (かもしか), each have their own characteristics but are relatively easy compared to Ura trail.
Refer to the image above; the explanation of the routes is as follows:
- Ura – purple – 2 hours 10 minutes to the top: Ura is the shortest trail by distance, but as the change of elevation in Ura is quite big, it is the hardest trail. In a sense, it is a rather steep nonstop climbing all the way to the peak. Even so, hikers taking this route will be rewarded with some unique rock formations along the way.
- Kakkou – pink – 2 hours 10 minutes to the top: This trail means ‘descent’ because it used to be a ski slope until the vegetation overgrew the path. Although the view on this path is said to be the best, it easily gets slippery here, so tread with care.
- Kamoshika – green – 2 hours 10 minutes to the top: Kamoshika follows the ski slope of Izumigatake Ski Area, so it is a fairly easy trail.
- Mizukami – blue – 1 hour 50 minutes to the top: The easiest trail where even children could go with no trouble, this goes toward Nanakita River. The trail name, meaning ‘water god’, if not mistaken, is named such because the people who lived in the vicinity used to pray to the god guarding the river. There is a stone monument that serves as a sign of that old custom.
Mt. Izumigatake is only 1211 meters tall, but it provides you with a complete view of the surrounding areas on sunny days. Since we climbed on a rainy day, all we could see was white all around. Yet it gave a different kind of atmosphere. It felt like a completely different world with the mist and short field of view.
When we got to the top, the mist started to clear a bit so we could enjoy our lunch. Following a quick short break, we continued to the descent. We took a different route this time, the Mizukami.
We did not see the stone monument, but we found some streams along the way.
We reached the camping ground at the lower ski area after long detours because some paths were closed and diverted towards the early part of Kamoshika. We took our rest in the camping ground, which is located in front of the Nature Encounter Center.
It is advised to check with the staff there about the trails before starting hiking. Sometimes due to some unforeseen circumstances, it is possible to have some changes or detours.
The Nature Encounter Center itself has a comfortable rest area and a restaurant that opens until around 3 PM. You could rest after the hike here while waiting for the bus. On another note, on some days, the bus towards Sendai does not stop at the bus stop inside the camping ground but only by the bus stop beside the main road, so better check beforehand.
From Sendai station, take the subway Nanboku line and alight at the last station Izumi-Chuo. From there take bus no 10 from the station bus terminal. It costs ¥790 and takes about 44 minutes to get to the hiking base at Izumigatake Ski Area.