Leave our machiya at 8:00, local bus to Kyoto Station, 9AM Shinkansen train to Maibara on the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, Tokaido Main Line to Omi-Nagaoka station, bus to the Mt. Ibuki trailhead at Sannomiya Shrine. By then it was 11:00. And the mountain looked very high. Though the cheery route map at the trailhead appeared to indicate that small children regularly raced to the top.
The night before I had found a very informative web page about hiking Mt. Ibuki and we had decided to give it a try. One of the many advantages of spending twenty nights in one location, not as part of a group and with no fixed itinerary, is that you can do whatever you want whenever you want!
The web page, written by an American guy named “Mac” who appeared to have a serious case of wanderlust, said the hike would take approximately 5 hours. Since he looked to be about half our age I had to assume that it could be longer for us. When we arrived at Omi-Nagaoka station I asked about the bus to Mt. Ibuki (Mac had linked to a bus schedule page which was only in Japanese and Google Translate would not even attempt to translate it). The JR Rail employee directed us to exit the station and “turn left”. We did and found a closed bus ticket office, an old bus parked with chocks on the wheels, and no one around.
We were relieved when about 10 minutes later a bus pulled up and the nice driver informed us that the bus would be leaving for Mt. Ikubi at 10:50. Then two young Japanese guys with small backpacks appeared. One spoke pretty fair English and told us that he had hiked the mountain before and it was “pretty steep”.
The bus left on time and at 11:00 we took off up the trail while the Japanese guys were still getting their gear organized. I told them I was sure they would catch up with us and they laughed. The trail was decent and initially there were some switchbacks; then it got steeper.
At the first trail marker there was a large swath of open hillside (a remnant of a no longer operational ski slope), several buildings, and a flat area with bathrooms and a place to sit, so we decided to eat part of our lunch. We had passed a huge group of Japanese hikers earlier, and now they caught up with us and decided to take their lunch in the same location. Rosemary started chatting with one of the women in the group and learned they were from the Osaka area and hiked together once a month.
We finished before they did and continued up, pausing to watch a group of parasailers attempting to get their rigs airborne. Even though there was a fair breeze sweeping up the mountain they didn’t seem to be having much luck.
An hour later we arrived at the third trail marker where there was another rest spot and a view of the remainder of the climb. Hmm…
Our two young Japanese guys were there resting as well. The English-speaking one told us that it was another two hours to the top (he had done the climb before). As the last bus left the trailhead at 5:30PM, we calculated that while we could certainly get to the top by 3:00PM, we would then have to rush down the mountain to catch that bus and it wasn’t worth the risk to Rosemary’s knees (which so far on our trip had given her no trouble). So we said goodbye to our new hiking friends and slowly descended.
The hike was a good workout and we were glad to have made the journey. On the first leg of the train ride home we enjoyed views of innumerable brilliant green rice fields and multiple fields of solar panels!
Waiting for the Shinkansen on the platform at Maibara Station, with our eyes directed to the north, we were stunned to suddenly and unexpectedly experience the blast of noise and air produced by a Nozumi Express Shinkansen train as it came up behind us and hurtled through the station without stopping on its way towards Tokyo! Then our southbound train arrived at the platform and soon we back in Kyoto.
Next post about our Kyoto trip >>> A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Katsura Imperial Villa…