Earlier this month, I took advantage of a sunny Sunday and headed out to hike another “new-to-me” trail in Hakone: Marudake (1,154 m) via Otome-Toge. As always, the hike information is at the bottom of the post.
I caught the highway bus from Shinjuku to Otome-toge; the route goes through Gotemba–where I caught a great view of Mt. Fuji–always an excellent way to start the day.
I’ve hiked the first part of this trail several times, and the view from the Otome-toge bus stop is one of the best anywhere when Fuji is in a cooperative mood. She was a little shy the morning I took this hike, but the view was still pretty spectacular.
The trailhead is about a five-minute walk from the bus stop, down a tree-lined path:
The ascent to Otome-toge takes between 20 and 30 minutes, along a fairly consistent (but not punishing) upward slope. It’s lovely at any time of year, but particularly in late spring and early summer, when the trees are green, the temperature is cool, and the humidity hasn’t kicked in yet.
Below: the view from Otome-toge. I waited for a sunny day to make this hike because of the views. Fuji often hides behind a cloud or two, even when the weather is clear, but she was mostly cooperative that day.
The trail splits in three directions at Otome-toge (four, if you count the trail back down to the bus stop). The northeast branch leads to Mt. Nagao and Mt. Kintoki, and the southeast branch heads down to the Otome-guchi bus stop (and the road to Hakone), but today I took the southwest trail, toward Marudake.
After leaving Otome-toge, the trail follows a ridge that ascends gradually toward the summit of Marudake. Some portions are wide and almost flat, while others are significantly more steep.
Here and there along the route, it’s possible to catch glimpses of Mt. Fuji through the trees. As you get closer to the summit of Marudake, you can start to see Ashinoko (Lake Ashi) and the Hakone side of the mountain too.
After hiking along the ridge for a little over half an hour (including time to stop for photos) I reached the summit of Marudake–which has amazing, beautiful views of Ashinoko and Owakudani.
I stopped for lunch at the picnic tables on the summit–which definitely had one of the best views of the day. The crater on the left is the active volcanic crater at Owakudani, the lake on the right is Ashinoko, and yes, that is a golf course in the foreground.
Japan’s hiking trails often look untouched by human hands, but most of them are quite well-curated; this also leads to some weird-looking “repairs” and “features,” like this section of handrail on the descent from Marudake.
Most of the descent looks more like the scene above: living bamboo tunnels, easy-to-follow earthen trails, and occasional views of Ashinoko or Mt. Fuji, depending which side of the ridge the trail is following at the time.
About halfway down the far side of Marudake, a wooden sign reading “Toilet” pointed down a side trail. 50 meters later, the trail opened onto a roadside rest stop with spotless toilets, a set of vending machines, and the unexpected view above.
The clouds rolled in a bit on the descent, though the forecast didn’t call for rain and the air didn’t smell like an approaching storm.
Periodically, the foliage opened up and offered views like the one above. Can you see the ship on Lake Ashi? (I could not have timed this better if I’d tried.)
The view above shows the route I hiked–Otome-toge is the dip to the right of the peak that has the radio tower on it. All in all, an excellent hike, and one of the less populated climbs in the Hakone area.
I love the shot above because of way it shows the trail descending through the forest of bamboo. (The fact that the ship lined up was a lucky coincidence.) The trail doesn’t continue straight down all the way to the lake–that’s an optical illusion–beyond the point that’s visible here, it enters a more traditional forest and switchbacks down to the level of the lake.
Another view, from farther down the trail. Some days, the weather is good, the clouds line up, and the pirate ships just happen to be precisely where you want them when you reach the overlooks on the trail. This was that kind of day.
The final stretch of trail switchbacks downward through a lovely forest (with lots of trees to block the worst of the sun) and emerges by the side of a road not far from Lake Ashi, about a ten-minute walk from the bus, sightseeing ship, and ropeway entrances at Togendai.
This was an excellent hike, and lightly traveled–I saw fewer than half a dozen other hikers after leaving the summit of Marudake, and not many more on the ascent. I suspect a lot of people make the climb from Otome-toge to Marudake, but then turn back and either descend or head across to Mt. Kintoki on the far side of Otome-toge, which makes this a great choice for hikers looking to get away from the city and enjoy some excellent views of Mt. Fuji on a peaceful, lightly-traveled route.
Access: Highway bus from Shinjuku to Hakone Togendai (get off at the Otome-toge stop)
Time: 5 hours (including a stop for lunch)–as always, YMMV