As I approached Mt. Tsukuba from a distance, I could see the two peaks that symbolize this mountain. The peak to the east, Nyotai-san, represents the goddess Izanami. The peak to the west, Nantai-san, the god Izanagi. My mind raced back to the pages of Kojiki, the oldest history book of Japan, where it was said these gods stirred a spear together in the mud, and a drop from the spearhead was what started the world as we know it.
At the foot of the mountain, there were plenty of people to be seen for a weekday. I finished off the baked sweet potato I had bought from one of the many street vendors, and I followed the signs and the small group of school children ahead of me.
I noticed lots of young people on this trail due to the nearby Tsukuba Expo Science Center, I figured. I was impressed with hearing elementary school children discuss Tsukuba-san’s granite content. The granite from the Tsukuba-san area is considered beautiful and is renowned all over Japan—and is still mined today.
At the toad-shaped shrine, I could not help but burst into a giggle. There was toad paraphernalia everywhere! From toad medicines to toad grease to toad ceramics, I was encouraged that it would bring good luck and protect me against harm.
I was especially impressed with the toad grease, said to be used in ancient times to protect and toughen a warrior’s skin against injury in battle. It sounded good to me. I wondered if it had any strength against wrinkles, so I dabbed a little bit around my crow’s feet and continued along the mountain.
Trail Tips: This is a great day-hike for those who want to get a little exercise while exploring the myth-rich town of Tsuchiura. From various temples to rows of historic buildings along old Mito Avenue, there is a lot to do in this town before or after hiking Mt.Tsukuba.
Though you can climb year-round, the winter does get quite chilly, and care should be taken to dress warmly while on top of the mountain. On clear days, panoramic views of the Kanto Plain are visible from the top of Tsukuba-san. For those with small children, the summit of Tsukuba-san can be easily reached by ropeway or cable car.
Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5
Location: Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture
Peak: 877 meters
Duration: Day hike
When to go: Year-round
How to get there: Take the local train from Ueno to Tsuchiura (express option is available for double the cost). Buy a bus ticket at Tsuchiura Station, which will take you to Tsukuba City. From there take a taxi to Tsutsujigaoka and approach the mountain from the main entrance sign.
JR Ueno Station⇒ Tsuchiura ⇒Tsukuba City ⇒ Tsutsujigaoka
(70 mins., ¥1,110) ⇒ (55 mins. ¥890) ⇒ (15 mins. ¥3,000)
Things to bring
Raingear, flashlight, map, camera, sunscreen, water, gloves, sunglasses, warm hat.
Tsukuba Tourist Information Center: (029) 855-8155
Tsuchiura City Tourist Information Center: (029) 821-4166
Things not to miss:
Tsukuba-san Shrine located in the middle of Mt.Tsukuba.
Tokakuji Temples from the Kamakura Period. (15-minute walk from Tsuchiura Station).
Tsukuba Expo Center which consists of a Children’s Park, Science Forum and Cosmic Hall Planetarium.
Historic Building on the Old Mito Avenue (10 minutes from Tsuchirura Station)
Hiking Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes