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Sunday, April 8, 2001

Putting your best foot forward

The simplest of all outdoor activities has its own charm


Staff writer

When the mountains are blanketed with the fresh, green leaves of spring, it's peak hiking season. Hiking has always been a popular activity as it presents a challenge surmountable for most people, regardless of age. It's easy to prepare for and not as risky as rock-climbing or other hardcore outdoor sports requiring skill and experience.

Here's our selection of hiking routes in the Kanto region. So hop on the express train and enjoy the changing landscapes of the countryside.

Cutting-edge scenery

Nokogiriyama hiking course in Chiba Prefecture: Enjoy the extraordinary sight of the Nokogiriyama mountains that make a sawtooth (nokogiri) pattern when seen from Tokyo Bay and the Miura Peninsula. To start, take the ropeway from Hamakanaya Station on the Uchibo Line, or take a taxi on Nokogiri-dori. The hike downhill is through the grounds of Nihondera Temple, where you'll see the 31-meter-tall Buddha statue (the largest daibutsu in Japan). Walking time: about one hour and 40 minutes.

Dreamy panorama

Yume no Teien/Kokushi-dake course in Oku-Chichibu, covering Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures: Kokushi-dake is 2,592 meters high and was once thought to be an unapproachable mountain. Now, however, you can take a taxi to the top of Kokushidake Mountain via Odarumi Pass. Enzan Station, the starting point of the course, is one hour and 40 minutes by express train on the JR Chuo Honsen Line from Shinjuku Station. In the middle of the walk you'll pass a natural garden, Yume no Teien (Dream Park, "fashioned by the forces of nature," according to the tourist office). Walking time: about two hours and 30 minutes.

Out to pasture

Tennyo-zan/Utsukushimori-yama hiking course at the foot of Yatsuga-take Kogen in Nagano Prefecture: This is the only area where you can walk long distances in meadows in the Kanto region. Cows and horses are out in the pastures between May and October, framed by Aka-dake, the main peak of Yatsuga-take. A highway bus departs from the west exit of Shinjuku Station to Nagasaka or Takane. Take a taxi from there to Tennyo-zan, the start of the hike. You'll pass Kiyosato Kitazawa Museum of Art on the way to Kiyosato Station, the end of the hike. Walking time: about three hours.

Sacred path

Kamakura Alps hiking course in Kanagawa Prefecture: This popular course starts from Kita-Kamakura Station. Recommended route: Kita-Kamakura Station -- Enkakuji Temple -- Meigetsuin (famous for its hydrangeas during the rainy season) -- Kenchoji Temple -- follow a hiking course in the Kamakura Alps -- Kamakura Station. Walking time: about three hours.



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