The sound of traffic woke me up, and I quickly threw the sleeping bag to the floor and flipped open my mobile to check the time. It was 6:10 a.m. and, damn, I overslept. I had I intended to catch only a few hours of shut-eye in the back of my rental Corolla after driving the previous evening from Tokyo to Gifu Prefecture. I arrived at Mizaka trailhead around 9 a.m. and, after a quick breakfast and gear check, I was on the way to Enna-san.
It was the beginning of Golden Week and, though there were a few cars in the parking lot near Mizaka trailhead below, it was easy to see not many people had been on the mountain yet this season. The path was a bit over-grown and a few trail-signs were broken and unkept. It had been a tough winter with a lot of snow in these parts, and I wondered how much would be piled up ahead on the trail.
It was warm, but the sun was playing hide-and-seek with the fog, and the snow-capped Alps in the distance were only faintly visible. My new gortex boots were fighting off the snow, but I wondered how long my feet would stay dry as I couldn’t be bothered with gators, and snow kept on sneaking in through the tops of my boots.
A middle-aged hiker with soaked pant legs descending the mountain greeted me. I inquired about the snow ahead, and he said the last hour was going to be rough; the trail was under five feet of snow. I continued along my way, following footprints the hiker had left behind and checking red ribbons which hung from tree branches marking the path.
I moved faster, trying to make up time as it was already past noon, but I was dismayed to find the early morning sun had made the snow soft which made me sink thigh-deep into pockets of snow. Cursing and sweating, I pulled myself out each time and finally decided to make a new path parallel to the one I was on. But I was hopeful; in an hour lunch awaited, and I would be on the summit of Enna-san.
Trail Tips: If coming from Tokyo, traveling to the trailhead requires a bit of a commute, so it’s advisable to start early in the morning or get lodging the night before in Nagano or Gifu. Also, there is a small, un-manned hut near the summit of the mountain, open and free to stay, though one should bring sleeping bags and cooking equipment and clean up afterwards.
If taking a taxi up the trailhead from Nakazukawa, make sure you negotiate a pick-up time with the taxi driver before he leaves. Reception can sometimes be a problem, and you are unlikely to see taxis waiting at the trailhead to take you back to town.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5
Location: Border of Gifu and Nagano
Peak: 2,191 meters
When to go: June- early November
How to get there:
From Tokyo take the Shinkansen (Nozomi 19) to Nagoya Station. From the station take the Chuo main line express train (中央本線快速) to Nakazukawa. From there jump in a taxi to Mizaka-toge trailhead (神坂峠) where the hike begins.
By car, get on the expressway headed to Nakazugawa I.C. (about four hours), then get on Highway 19 until you see a sign for Mori local forest road leading up to Enna-san trailhead. The forest road is 35 km. and has a parking lot just below the trailhead.
Tokyo ⇒ Nagoya⇒ Nakazukawa⇒ Mizaka Togei Trailhead
(1 hr. 40 mins. ¥6,090) ⇒ (47 mins. ¥1,280) ⇒ (40 mins. \8,000)
Things to bring: trail map, raingear, flashlight, map, camera, sunscreen, plenty of water, camera, gloves, sunglasses, warm hat, onsen towel.
Nakazukawa Taxi: (0573) 66-13310
Nakazukawa Town Tourist Information: (0573) 66-1111
Things not to miss:
Onsen Park/Kua-Resort Yubunesawa (クアリゾート湯船沢):
This is a huge onsen park facility that provides towels, indoor pajamas, and a relaxation room. A family park with water slides and option to stay the night or just for dinner is available as well. Onsen only with towel set costs ¥1,000.
Recommended Hiking Schedule
Day 1: 6 hrs, 30 mins.