Komagatake - September 2009
When I came to extend my stay at the Toko City Hotel
I had a problem! The Japanese Government has changed the date of
Respect for the Aged Day (which now seems to be called "Respect
for the Elderly Day") and has moved it to the third Monday
in September, and for the first time this led to 5-days of holiday.
Whilst the Japanese have Golden Week in April, they now have "Silver
Week" in September. Whilst this is good news for them, it meant
that all the hotels were full and millions of people were travelling
to enjoy the five day break! The 5-day consecutive holiday break
will occur every 6 years, the next one being 2015.
The Toko City Hotel had a room for me for Friday
night, but they were full for Saturday and Sunday. Hence my top
prioirty was to go back to the Tourist Office at the station to
try to find a room for Saturday and Sunday, and to reconfirm my
flight. Having got all my travel and hotel reservations confirmed
I was ready for another day in the mountains. Because of Silver
Week, the fact that my rucksack was pretty heavy and the fact that
my right knee was giving me some pain, I wanted a walk where I could
gain height effortlessly but at the same time be at the 3,000 m
level. The answer was Komagatake, 2,956 m, in the Central Alps.
It was quite a warm day as I set off at 6 a.m. on the Saturday morning……..
the temperature indicator at Matsumoto Station indicated 16 deg
C already. I bought a Yen 1,110 rail ticket Matsumoto – Komagane
and took the 6-32 a.m. train to Okaya, arriving at 6-59 a.m.
Here I changed to the Iida Line, and had to wait
for the 7-28 a.m. train to Komagane.
Komagane train at "Platform
The Iida line is a very nice single track railway
that winds its way up the valley beneath the high mountains, and
the train arrived at Komagane at 8-52 a.m. I was soon out of the
station and on the bus (Yen 1,000 each way) waiting to take me to
Shirabidaira, 1,662 m above sea level.
Along the Iida Line
The bus went through central Komagane before climbing
up a valley via an incredible number of hairpin bends until it reached
Shirabidaira, the lower station of the Komagatake Ropeway. This
cable car, built in 1967 and rebuilt in 1998, takes you to 2,612
m above sea level to the upper station of Senjojiki Col. This is
at the foot of a cirque directly below Hokendake, 2,931 m. The vertical
lift is 950 m, which they claim to be the largest of any cable car
in Japan. The ride takes just under 8 minutes, and each gondola
can carry 61 people. The fare is Yen 2,200 return for an adult.
I arrived at Senjojiki at 10-05 a.m., and the temperature was already
12 deg C. It was going to be a beautiful day on the peaks.
I exited the cable car station, had the obligatory photograph taken,
and headed up the trail to the left towards Gokurakudaira. The path
is man-made and is not too steep, and there are ropes to keep people
off the side of the track to protect the alpine flowers that grow
there. I reached Gokurakudaira at 10-55 a.m.
Path to Gokurakudaira
Looking back down to the cable car
From Gokurakudaira you have majestic views of the
surrounding valleys and mountains. Fuji-san could just be seen in
the distance behind the Southern Alps chain, and nearer by Mt. Ontake
stood proud of the surrounding plain standing isolated on its own.
The ridge to Hokendake went off to the right, and after a fairly
flat bit turned into an exposed ridge of broken rock.
Mt Ontake in the distance
It looked quite challenging ahead, but there are
numerous chains and footholds that have been put in place to help
you over the difficult bits. At one point, which is quite exposed,
you have to jump from one rock to another a short distance away,
relying on an overhead chain for security!
The trail leading to Hokendake along
A hiker in red can be seen half
way down the peak
A tricky bit, where you have to
jump from one rock to another with the aid of a chain
Hokendake 2,931 m
Fuji-san can just be seen in the
I reached the top of Hokendake, 2,931m by 12 noon,
and began the descent down the other side to the col over quite
steep rock slabs. The path traverses a very narrow exposed ledge,
but again you are assisted by chains for security. I reached the
col and the two lodges located there, Tengu Sanso and Hoken Sanso,
at 12-30 p.m.
Tengu Sanso and Hoken Sanso with
Nakadake and Komagatake peaks ahead
Looking back to Hokendake from Nakadake
Up from the lodges is a peak named Nakadake, and the trail falls
away the other side to another col with another lodge.
View of Komagatake from Nakadake
The trail then makes the final climb to Komagatake,
2,956 m. I reached Nakadake by 12-45 p.m., and Komagatake by 1-15
p.m. I stayed there for 10 minutes or so taking photographs and
looking at the shrine, and then made my way back to the col where
the two lodges are located.
Lads in the small shop atop Komagatake
Looking back from Komagatake towards
Nakadake, with Hokendake in the background
It was by now 1-45 p.m. as I started to descend down a steep twisting
path down towards the cable car station. After a while the path
levels out and traverses across the cirque towards the cable car
View back towards Nakadake
Mt. Fuji visible in the distance
I was back at the top of the ropeway at 2-25 p.m.,
and after a short wait took the cable car down. I was back at Shirabidaira
by 2-50 p.m. The 3-10 p.m. bus took me back to Komagane Station,
and I was there by 4 p.m. Ahead of schedule, I was able to take
the 4-25 p.m. train instead of the 5-25 p.m. one, and reached Tatsuno
Station by 5-11 p.m. Here I had to wait until 5-53 p.m. for the
train to Matsumoto, and I got back by 6-31 p.m.
Monkeys on the road down from Shirabidaira
What a wonderful day out. In approximately 12 hours I had been able
to visit the Central Alps and scale a peak (with assistance from
the cable car!) of 2,956 m height and enjoy four and a half hours