Tokyobling's Blog

Gionyama – Hiking in Kamakura

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on June 17, 2015

Yesterday I hinted as to the best hidden reason to visit the Yakumo Shrine in Kamakura City, and here it is, the “hidden” trail up to Gionyama mountain. If you walk past the shrine on the right of the main building, you find a narrow path up to a tiny shrine altar (the first photo), but take off to the right just before that and you will be on your way up a very narrow (and probably very slippery) trail towards the summit of Gionyama. From the summit you will find a nice view over Kamakura City, and on clear days even Mount Fuji itself will be visible! If not you can console yourself with the views of the Pacific Ocean and the Yuigahama beach in the far distance. The hiking trail goes quite a bit further along the ridge and then down on the other side, not a difficult walk if you are young and in reasonable shoes but it might be more nature than you want to spend your time with, if you are on a hectic schedule to see a lot of Kamakura. Despite the trail being quite hidden it is by no means unknown to locals, and I met maybe three or four couples or families on their way up and down the trail. Living in Tokyo there are few chances to get out in nature like this so when you are here it is a pretty amazing feeling. For those of you who live closer to nature my enthusiasm for this spot might look a little bit silly, but after a few weeks in Tokyo you will get it too!

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Walking Lake Okutama

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on October 29, 2013

Well, not really. Walking the whole lake, even though it is quite small, would take a day or two due to the unusual shape – long and with lots of inlets and valleys. Halfway around it there’s a quite pretty floating bridge made from old oil drums. The only problem is that during drought (as it was when I visited) this bridge is removed and people not knowing this can be in for quite a surprise if they walk all they way too it and then find that they have to walk all the way back, a good 4-5 hour detour. I just walked part of the way from the dam further east but someday when the floating bridge is in place I’d like to make it a whole day event.

The hiking is very easy with a good path wide enough for cars and there shouldn’t be any problems but in reality it can be dangerous. Not only are there a lot of Japanese giant hornets, the biggest hornet species in the world, but also land leeches that are easy to pick up if you move through the underbrush and can be quite unpleasant with their bites. I actually spent some time looking at a massive hornet nest before I figured out what it was and very quickly made my way to a safer distance, it must have been about half a meter long, as you can see in the photo. These hornets are actually the deadliest animal in Japan, responsible for about 30 deaths every year, most in September and October when they are especially protective of their nests.

The scariest animal in the area though is the Japanese black bear. These are quite numerous and often appear suddenly in the dense undergrowth of the forest near the hiking trails. For this reason hikers are advised to wear bells or other noisy metal things to ward of bears. I was a bit wary since there have been at least three bad bear attack in this area in the last nine years, but the other hikers there didn’t wear any bells at all. Well, rather safe than sorry I always say! The Okutama visitors center publishes a list of all bear sightings (in Japanese), but I am glad I didn’t see any this time.

If you have the chance to visit lake Okutama and need a break from all the concrete in Tokyo I can really recommend it! It is amazing that this kind of place exists in a metropolis like Tokyo, although it is just on the extreme edge of Tokyo, where it intersects with Yamanashi and Saitama prefectures.

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Lake Okutama – Ogouchi Dam

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on October 27, 2013

On the absolute norhternmost and westernmost points of Tokyo, as far north west as you can get before entering Yamanashi and Saitama prefectures, lies the long and winding Lake Okutama (奥多摩湖), and the Ogouchi dam (小河内ダム). Before World War Two, the valley where the lake is now was the home of a series of small villages, with 945 homes. The 6000 people who lived here all had to move when the building of the dam was announced. In 1943 the dam was left uncompleted due to the war, and it was not finally finished until 1957. A staggering 87 people died during the construction of the dam. Work place safety was something else back in those days. Today the dam functions as a reservoir providing clean drinking water for a large part of western Tokyo, and generating about 19 000kWh when in full use, mainly powering Ome City and Okutama Town.

Looking at old photos of the village, it is a bit sad that the famous shrine and village onsen now lies hidden under the water, but the mountainside has been extremely successfully reforested and is now home to plenty of wildlife. The lake is easily accessed by buss from Okutama Station, but there are also a lot of hikers and cyclists here, all of them wearing plenty of bells to ward of bears. Visiting places like this without ever leaving Tokyo is quite a luxury. It is great to get out of the concrete every now and then. Okutama town, the largest municipal area in Tokyo, is becoming my favorite spot for a lazy day trip.

In these photos you can see just how dry our summer has been, the water level is incredibly low. But just a couple of days after taking this a massive typhoon passed over the area so there should be a little bit more water in the reservoir by now. More photos to come!

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Japanese Macaque

Posted in Animals, Nature, Places by tokyobling on June 19, 2010

More wild monkeys from Nagano. These images were all shot with a Sigma 70-300mm lens (the cheap old red-circle version). If I had known these monkeys were there I would have brought a nice lens. But the Sigma is cheap (I don’t care if it breaks), good and above all, light weight.







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