I’ve always wanted to shoot Fuji from the top of Mt. Kokushigatake. I tried to climb the mountain last November, but the gate of the forest road leading to the mountain was closed earlier than usual due to heavy snow. I was very busy with my exhibition in summer. I waited for ten months, and eventually I got an opportunity to try again.
I left home at midnight heading to Oodarumi Touge (大弛峠), which is located on the northern border of Yamanashi prefecture. My house is located in the southern part of Yamanashi prefecture. According to Google Map, it takes three hours, much longer than going to Gotenba or Hakone. Two deers and one fox jumped in front of my car on my way there. Since I expected some animals would do it so I could safely avoid them. Yamanashi prefecture is one of the least populated prefectures in Japan. If you see a sign board making alert of animals, drive slowly so that you can safely avoid them.
The Oodarumi Touge car park has restrooms for both men and women. I used it before climbing to the top. According to the sign board placed at the entrance of the mountain trail, it takes 40 minutes to the top of Mt. Kokushigatake. The mountain trail was arranged well and it was quite easy to hike to the top. But it was the first time for me to take this route and I hiked in pitch darkness with two cameras and one tripod. In addition, I went there with a good friend of mine who is not experienced in hiking very much. We were equipped with headlights but soon swallowed by a cloud and couldn’t even see three feet ahead. We were so careful not to get lost that ended up spending over an hour to get to the top.
We dared to climb the mountain in pitch dark because I knew the trail is short and arranged well, and, most of all, I wanted to shoot Fuji at dawn. But it is rather dangerous to hit a mountain trail in pitch dark if you are not familiar with it. As a rule, I climb a mountain during daytime hours in advance.
When we arrived at the top of Mt. Kokushigatake, we were in a cloud and couldn’t see anything. The air had a lot of moisture making dew drops in my hair. Even an opportunist like me expected it would probably be impossible to see Fuji from there this morning. But we waited as I know we can never precisely predict what nature would do. As time went by, it got brighter and I could see rocks and stones around me without the headlight but still we had very poor visibility. We couldn’t see Mt. Kitaoku-Senjoudake that is located just a couple of hundred meters away.
But suddenly, as if by magic, mountains in front of us emerged into view.
That’s Mt. Fuji!
I shouted involuntarily. I quickly removed the rain cover from my camera and took the above shot. Well, to be honest with you, it was the second shot. The first shot was defocused as it was too sudden and I wasn’t prepared.
Weather was much better after that. I took dozens of photos of Mt. Fuji with a grin on my face. I thought it would be quite desperate when I arrived there. But it turned out to be a good shooting opportunity. You don’t know what’s gonna happen.
I created the vertical panorama shot shown above by stitching five horizontal shots. Normally, I use a 3-way head to take vertical panorama shots but I had to use an arca-swiss compatible ballhead attached to my tripod this time. I made the overlapping part bigger than usual to ensure perfect stitching.
The above picture shows Mt. Kinpu, which is located next to this mountain and is also known as a great vantage point to admire Mt. Fuji. This mountain is called Mount Kinpu in Yamanashi Prefecture but called Mount Kinpou in Nagano Prefecture. The rocks standing at the summit of the mountain is Gojouiwa. The view from the top of Mt. Kokushigatake was really amazing but we got a little tired and determined to go back.
We got to a crossing after walking for just five minutes. We determined to go to the top of Mt. Kitaoku-Senjoudake as it only takes several minutes from this point.
We couldn’t see Mt. Fuji from this place but the view was really amazing. Later I was told by a guy who is familiar with this mountain that Fuji is visible if you go further towards Mt. Oku-Senjoudake. It is a good idea to also visit this mountain when you hike Mt. Kokushigatake.
The top of Mt. Kitaoku-Senjoudake provides an awesome view of the Southern Alps. The highest peak at the centre is Mt. Kitadake, which is the second highest mountain in Japan (3,193m). This mountain is also famous for the amazing view of Mt. Fuji. I want to try to climb Mt. Kitadake before the mountain huts close in early November.
We enjoyed the views from Mt. Kitaoku-Senjoudake a great deal. We said good by to the mountain and retraced the trail back to the crossing.
We got to the top of Mt. Mae-Kokushigatake after walking a little further from the crossing. We couldn’t see anything on our way to the top of Mt. Kokushigatake since it was too dark. We were pretty amazed by the beautiful sceneries when going back to the car park. If you hike Mt. Kokushigatake in the daytime, read this article from the bottom to check out the route.
There is a detour called ‘Garden of Dreams‘ that branches off and joins together with the main route. This alternative route also provides amazing views . It doesn’t take too much time. I think it is worth while.
It is fun to take pictures while hiking this mossy trail. I’d encourage you to bring a small camera with you when you hike this mountain.