Location: Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture
Height: Nantai Peak (877 m); Nyotai Peak (871 m)
Difficulty: Absolute beginner to intermediate
Duration: Climb – approximately 2 hours on a leisurely pace
Access: From Tsukuba Station (Tsukuba Express), take exit 3. The bus for Mt. Tsukuba arrives on Bus Stop # 1.
When to Go: May to June for lush greenery; Late October to late November for (a bit of) fall foliage
Date Visited: March 20, 2017
Route: Tsukuba Shrine→Nyotai Peak →Ropeway to Tsustsujigaoka (via the Miyukigahara Trail)
Mt. Tsukuba makes an easy day trip from Tokyo. Located in Ibaraki Prefecture, one can easily get to the mountain by hopping on the Tsubaraki Express or a highway bus from Tokyo Station. Both will take you to Tsukuba Center, where you can ride a bus to either Tsukuba Shrine or Tsutsujigaoka, which serve as the mountain train’s entry points.
Several hiking trails are available, but for this particular trip, I chose Miyukigahara. Frankly, I wish I didn’t, as the the trail was mostly composed of steep rocks. (I prefer to see lush greenery and flowers on my hikes.) The trail, however, is pretty straightforward, with markers along the way to tell you how far you still need to go to reach the top.
Mt. Tsukuba has twin peaks named Nantai and Nyotai. For those who want to enjoy the view from the top without the workout, there’s a cable car at Tsukuba Shrine and a ropeway at Tsutsujigaoka.
After getting off the bus I walked my way to Tsukuba Shrine. There’s a remarkable torii gate that welcomes guests who enter. Several shops and hot spring resorts dot the path leading to the shrine, which also make a good option for a post-hike shopping/relaxation experience.
To the left of the main shrine is a path that leads to the cable car station. The entry point to the Miyukigahara Trail is in the same place. From there, it’s mostly a rocky path, so make sure you have proper hiking shoes.
Halfway through, there’s a spot where you can hike along the cable car tracks. If you have time and are not worried about losing daylight, the spot is good place to take photos of the cable car. As much as I have a thing for trains, I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to pass by so I only have a photo of the tracks. Good job, Mizhelle!
The last 300 meters of the trail consists awkwardly-spaced wooden steps. They look more challenging than they seem; I had to take a few breaks before I could reach the end of if.
Alas, the mountain top. There are a few shops and restaurants in this area, as well as the cable car station. I tried the Mt. Tsukuba Oyakodon (egg and chicken rice bowl) at Koma Tenbōdai and well… it was nothing special. As a post-hike nourishing meal, however, it hits the spot.
From here, I followed the trail to get to the Nyotai Peak. On the way, I passed by Gama Ishi, a rock formation that people have likened to a frog with an open mouth. It is said that when you throw a rock and it manages to get inside the stone frog’s mouth, you’ll get good fortune. Rocks eating rocks. Sure, that makes sense.
Another shrine rests at Nyotai Peak, which I find pretty cool. Except that when I drew an omikuji (paper fortune), I got suekichi, which means I’ve got rock bottom luck. At least it’s better than kyō (bad fortune).
The steps here are a bit tricky, but the view is amazing! I went on a weekend afternoon, so it was a bit crowded, but the gorgeous view made up for it. Nyotai Peak is also close to the ropeway station, which I opted to take on the way down for the love of lifts. It’s around a 6-minute ride to Tsutsujigaoka.
You can shop for souvenirs at Tsutsujigaoka Station, as well as try local goods. I recommend the kanrintō manju! It’s a sweet bun with a crust made of brown sugar.
Tsukuba is a mountain both seasoned and casual hikers can enjoy, be it solo, with a date, or with family and friends. I even saw a number of people hiking with their dogs, as Japanese people are wont to do. With easy access from Tokyo and several hiking trails, it’s a day trip easily doable on your day off.