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 it attracts a different kind of visitors: the hikers. Guilty as charged I am one of these hikers. Ever since I set my foot in Sendai I have heard Izumigatake as a good hiking spot. Thus it has beckoned me over and over again until I finally had the time and companion to climb its height.
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 2 ski areas in the mountain range. The one that we have to make a stop when taking bus is the Izumigatake Ski Area near Izumigatake Center of Nature (泉ヶ岳自然ふれあい館 or fureai-kan) where a camping ground is located, not the other ski area named Spring Valley Izumikogen Ski Area which the last stop of the bus route. I made a mistake to alight at the last stop so that we needed to walk back towards the camping ground.
On a lighter note, that mistake allowed me to tackle the most difficult trails out of Mt. Izumigatake’s 4 hiking trails to the peak, 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 has its own characteristics but relatively easy compared to Ura.
Refer to the image above, the trail explanation 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 literally means ‘descent’ because it used to be a ski slope until the vegetation overgrew the path. Although the view in this path is said to be the best, it gets slippery pretty easy 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 in the direction of Nanakita River. The trail name, meaning water-god, if not mistaken is named such because the people 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 quite view to the surrounding areas at sunny day. Since we climbed during 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 some long detour 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 center / fureai-kan. It is advised to check with the staff in fureai-kan about the trails before starting hiking. Sometimes due to some unforeseen circumstances it is possible to have some changes or detours.
The fureai-kan itself has a comfortable rest area and a restaurant that opens until around 3PM. You could rest after the hike here while waiting for the bus. Another note, on some days the bus towards Sendai does not stop by at the bus stop inside camping ground but only by the bus stop beside the main road, so make sure about it beforehand.
From Sendai station take 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.