10 minutes. If only I had bothered to check the bus schedule before setting off from Tokyo. The next bus wasn’t until early afternoon, but I had a mountain to knock off before returning to Osaka and couldn’t waste time loitering in Maebashi. I consulted with the wallet, trying to determine if the finances could handle a taxi ride up to Lake Onuma. The door of the taxi opened: I used my best Japanese to ask about the damage. “About 7000 yen”, replied the white-gloved, immaculately groomed chauffeur. If climbing the Hyakumeizan didn’t bankrupt me, I don’t know what would.
The taxi ride itself was non-eventful, but as we climbed the asphalt switchbacks up and over Hachou pass, I was shocked to discover Mt. Akagi covered in an expansive shroud of greyish fog. There was no turning back, however, as the financial investment meant I’d climb this peak – rain, cloud, or shine. Once out of the taxi, I checked the bus schedule for the return journey and scooted down the paved asphalt byway to the start of the trail to Koma-ga-take.
Buzzed with the excitement of the impending climb, I marched up the steps built in the hillside trail like a long-lost samurai in search of its master. After hitting the ridge, I turned north, topping out on the horse-shaped peak just in time to see the clouds lift and Akagi’s majestic form pop into view. The weather was absolutely wonderful in the late spring sunshine. The peaks of Nikko sat gracefully to my right, while the bushy summit of Mt. Kurobi rose towards the sky, a long col between here and the top. Bare of foilage, the tree branches waited patiently for winter to release its brittle grip. A large patch of snow hung firmly on the shady reaches of the western face as if expecting frozen friends to return, but with May just around the corner, it would be a long wait.
After dropping to the col, the route skirted a short knife-edge ridge before ducking into the dense thicket of trees just below the high point, which was marked by a small unassuming shrine. Resting for a brief moment, I turned towards the lake, following a path whose designers had a shortage of patience when it came time to lay out the route. Perhaps they were just following the prints of our 4-legged friends, because it was easily one of the steepest and gnarliest trails around. Step after unrelenting knee-knocking step it dropped, ignoring geographical features en route to the shoreline, where the roadway provided much-welcomed relief to my aching joints. I returned to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare until the next bus, surveying the explored pages of my guidebook in search of more of Gunma’s unclimbed treasures.