With the warmth of spring heating up, I decided to take another hike before the humid rainy season struck Japan. But instead of taking another famous hiking trail, I chose a more rural and uncommon spot: Koburi Pass.
Koburi Pass is a relatively easy hike that takes you to many different peaks in Saitama Prefecture – where you can get some stunning views of the green foliage and rolling mountains. And if you’re lucky, you can also get a view of Tokyo Sky Tree on clear days. The only real problem with the pass is navigating the bloody thing.
Truthfully, this hiking trail isn’t actually that far outside of central Tokyo – maybe 90 to 120 minutes – so it’s actually easy to access. However, actually finding the path itself, and sticking to it, can be a bit challenging – especially as the majority of the signs are only written in kanji or hiragana (Japanese alphabet systems).
So, to make it easier for anyone attempting to locate the pass, I’ve decided to map out some of the key points for any avid hiker. Tokyo Cheapo also does this nicely, so make sure to check out their directions too. However, I do still recommend taking a cell phone or GPS navigator with you to assist you with your journey (the signal is actually pretty great along Koburi Pass).
The Signs to Remember:
Firstly, the best way to access Koburi Pass is from Agano Station. Once you leave the station, locate the sign below and turn right – making your way down some stairs. Please note here the kanji 顔振峠 as we will be seeing is a lot (it literally means “Koburi Pass”).
At the bottom of the stairs, turn right again and follow the road until you come to this statue:
From here, you have two choices:
- Either you follow the road on your right for a few minutes until you can turn left towards an underpass that goes under the main road.
- Or you can turn left here and cross over the main road directly.
Once you go past the underpass on the other side, take a left and go up a hill past a school.
After the school, you’ll find yourself going down the hill again. Keep on this road and take a right when you come to a T-Junction. Follow this road for about 3 minutes until you see the 顔振峠 sign telling you to turn left into the mountains. Follow this winding road for a bit until you see the pass entrance:
From here, you can follow the path and enjoy the steady incline through the magical forest. But keep your eye out for those pesky 顔振峠 signs and stick to them! (They might go over the road a few times, so be careful!)
Overall, you will have about a 300m altitude gain before coming across a shrine on your right. But be careful when looking to your left! Your breath might just be taken away by the beautiful rolling scene of the valley below you.
Soon after this, you will come across a rest stop where you can enjoy eating at some of the restaurants. I highly recommend ordering a plate of delicious zaru soba (cold noodles) and enjoying the view of the valley below. It’s a great way to cool down on a summer hike!
After you’ve had your full, then you can make your way to Suwa Shrine (諏訪神社). The best way to get there is to follow the road to the right for about 5 minutes – keeping an eye out for the trail turn-off on your left (remember the 諏訪神社 kanji!).
After following the path for a bit, you should come out at Suwa Shrine, where you can enjoy the quaint buildings and snap a few photos.
From the shrine, you will find a clearing with the sign for Yugate (ユガテ) – written on a wall of tyres. Follow the path to this next spot and keep to the ユガテ signs as you go.
However, if you’re feeling adventurous, then you can take a quick detour to Ogamiyama (上越山) – a small peak that takes about 5 minutes to climb. From here, you can get a fantastic view of Saitama and the green foliage surrounding it.
Once you’ve had enough of the stunning view, then you can make your way back to the original path and keep following it for about 30 minutes until you get to Yugate – a lovely garden area with plenty of plants and flowers.
Throughout Koburi Pass, the trail crosses over the road a few times. But as long as you keep your eyes open and stick to the signs, then it should be relatively easy to follow.
Once you get to Yugate, keep your eye out for the next sign that points you towards Higashi-Agano Station (東吾野駅). In this area, the signs can get a bit tricky, but luckily many of the signs have tiny maps tacked to the posts. Just keep in mind the kanji 東吾野駅 and you should find your way.
Along the ridge to Higashi-Agano Station, there are plenty of detours and view points that you can enjoy – so take your time and enjoy the wonderful nature that this area has to offer.
But if time is not on your side, then just keep in mind that it takes between 35-45 minutes from Yugate to Higashi-Agano Station… we don’t want you missing your last train home!
This roundabout route from Agano to Higashi-Agano Station is actually really nice and the hiking is pretty plain-sailing – with some fantastic views and vegetation. And what’s great about it is that it’s reversible as well! So if you’re a rebel and don’t want to follow this route, then feel free to try and work through this path backwards…
Overall, I would give this trail a difficulty rating of 2. It’s easy, smooth hiking and is great for both beginners and experienced hikers. However, the lack of efficient signage can make it a fun challenge for you adventurers out there.