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.
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
Things to bring: trail map, raingear, flashlight, map, camera, sunscreen, plenty of water, camera, gloves, sunglasses, warm hat, onsen towel
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)
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
6 hrs, 30 mins.