Spring is a time for flowers and sunshine. A time when the sun comes out and heats everything up – with birds chirping and bees buzzing. But this was not the case when a friend and I decided to undertake a hike up another one of Japan’s many, many mountains: Mt Tsukuba.
Tsukuba-san is a mountain that is well-known for it’s two peaks – Nyotai (877m) and Nantai (871m). And while the majority of mountains in Japan are volcanic, Mt Tsukuba is an exception – being made out of non-volcanic rocks such as granite and gabbro.
I must admit, though, that I was not concerned with the composition of the mountain as we began taking the route up to Nyotai-san. Instead, I was preoccupied with the mist and clouds that hung over the majority of the mountain. Mist that gave me an eerie and ominous feeling…
But despite this sense of foreboding, we pressed on – making our way through a dripping wet forest. You see, the night before my hike, rain had poured down – turning dry, dusty paths into slick mud. And after hiking for a few minutes, I felt like I had become one with the mountain as my boots sank into the mud. “But never mind that!” I thought to myself “This is what hiking is for! To get down and dirty!” And so once again, we pressed on…
A total of roughly four to five hours, Mt Tsukuba is perfect for anyone who enjoys the Stair Master at the gym – with a few extra twists and turns included.
But as we did, my feelings started changing. The mist had actually begun to give me a melancholy feel – a humble feeling of isolation in a sea of beautiful green and brown landscape. It made it feel like we were on some sort of adventure… an adventure to defeat some evil spirit or rescue some trapped prisoner. And with these fantasies in mind, the hike became thoroughly enjoyable.
After reaching the top of Nyotai-san, we were greeted by large clouds that prevented any view of the landscape below. Luckily, the wind would occasionally shift these clouds – allowing us a glistening view of the Tsukuba area.
And while we enjoyed the sights, we encountered a rather friendly Japanese gentleman. A gentleman who gave us a detailed lesson about Mt Tsukuba. He told us about how each peak on Tsukuba-san is said to represent a female deity (Nyotai-san) and a male deity (Nantai-san). And, according to legend, these two deities wed and gave birth to other Japanese deities – and even to Japan herself!
After this our very fitting conversation about the mysterious origins of mountains in Japan, we made our way back down Tsukuba-san. A hike that was a killer on the knees thanks to the many, many stairs and the slick mud. But at the end, we were greeted by the wonderful sight of cherry blossoms surrounding the local shrine. All-in-all, a wonderful end to an eerie hike.
Overall, I would rate the difficulty of the hike a 3. Because even though the mountain is not particularly high, the amount of stairs can be a killer on the knees.
To access Tsukuba-san, take the Tsukuba Express Train from Akihabara to Tsukuba Station and transfer to the local shuttle bus to Tsukuba shrine.
You can also access the mid point of the two peaks of Tsukuba-san via cable car.