By Sherilyn Siy
For people looking to get out of Tokyo for a bit, Mt. Hiwada (日和田山) is an excellent choice for getting back to nature. Its beauty, convenience and ease of hiking make it a good destination for a day hike for people of all ages. Mt. Hiwada (305 meters high), located in Hidaka City, Saitama, is most notable for its two large, majestic torii gates, which belong to Kotahira Shrine (金刀比羅神社).
The hiking trails are quite straight-forward and easy to follow. After a steep incline at the base of the mountain, the slope becomes more comfortable and cuts through some very pretty forest. Trekkers will come to the first torii gate, a massive stone structure tucked into the thick forest of the mountain, creating an almost supernatural feel. Just past that, the trail forks into the very non-politically correct "Men's Route" (more difficult - not recommended for kids) and the easy "Women's Route." The two routes rejoin a short way up.
Follow the trail leads to the second torii, situated on a rocky clearing at a high edge of the mountain and frames an amazing scenic view of the region. It's a big, open area that usually has a handful of people eating lunch, relaxing, or taking photos. On a crisp, cool day Tokyo and even Mt. Fuji can be seen. Just beyond the rocky clearing is the unassuming Kotahira Shrine.
Proceed past the shrine to the summit of the mountain, which is marked by a stone structure and has a nice open area with some benches to relax and enjoy the view of the world below, which includes the scenic mountains of Chichibu.
Overall, the mountain is quite manageable for people of all fitness levels. Tour groups and scout packs can be seen making their way up, and during the height of the fall color season the summit is packed with hikers eating lunch.
Though Mt. Hiwada can be climbed on its own (which takes about an hour), it can also be used to connect to many of the surrounding mountains, leading all the way to Chichibu (秩父). A nice day hike suggestion is to follow the trail connecting Mt. Hiwada, Mt. Takasashi (高指山), and Mt. Monomi (物見山), and ends at Musashi Yokote Station (武蔵横手駅). This trail can be found just below Mt. Hiwada's peak, cutting to the left when the way to the peak is to the right.
Mt. Hiwada can be accessed by a 15 minute walk from Koma Station (高麗駅) on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line. Next to the station there is a large, detailed map of the area that shows the way to the mountain, as well as other features of the region. There is also a parking lot at the base of the mountain. As this is a quite rural area, most signs are written in Japanese, so hikers may want to familiarize themselves with the kanji of key places beforehand.
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