At the beginning of May every year, a cluster of holidays provide workers a brief respite known as Golden Week. As such, scores of hikers head to the mountains to enjoy the usually pleasant weather every year. Avoiding such crowds can be tricky, unless you’re armed with a list of peaks so obscure that even seasoned mountaineers scratch their head upon hearing their names. Hence, the aptly-named Sengamine, a 1000-meter peak nestled deeply in the mountains of central Hyogo Prefecture.
Tomomi and I set off early along the JR Tokai line to Kakogawa station, where another train whisked us north through the Bantan plains northward to the Shisō region dominated by a string of 4-digit peaks stretching uninterrupted to Hyonosen, Hyogo’s highest point. At Nishiwaki station, we boarded a bus an hour further northward, alighting on a rural road at the base of the towering ridge. From there, it was another hour walk along a forest road to the trailhead. Luckily, the first car that passed gave us a ride to the start of the track, shaving off a couple of hundred vertical meters of ascent.
Soon after entering the forest, the path skirted the edge of multi-tiered Mitani waterfall, whose whitewater shoots flowed gracefully down the contours of the angled flank of the mountain. Huge swaths of planted cedar marred the beauty somewhat, a reminder to the great lengths the government has gone to ensure there’ll be no shortage of unwanted timber. The plantations extended high into the upper reaches of the sawa before finally yielding to a colony of deciduous trees basking in the May sunshine.
The angled eased at the ridge, where a trail led off to the left to Zenkōji temple at the southern foot of the mountain. From here, it was a stroll on the undulating spine of the range before a final scramble just below the summit plateau. Tomomi and I topped out shortly before noon and grabbed a bench on the wind-swept summit. A couple of small hiking groups occupied the far corner of the broad, open top as we studied the map for an alternative way off the mountain. A bit further along the ridge to the north there is a trail that descends a valley parallel to the one we ascended, so after fueling up we once again made forward progress.
After half an hour, the route lost altitude quickly, running headlong into a paved forest road with a couple of parked cars holding fort. From here the trail continued through a cedar forest, but was hard to pick up amongst the toppled trees and thick underbrush. The path eventually connected with the forest road again, where our stroll turned into a trot upon the sudden realization that we may not make the final bus back to the station. What the map indicated would take 40 minutes we covered in just 10, arriving with mere seconds to spare before collapsing in a heap of sweat and labored breaths.
Another peak in Hyogo could be safely checked off the list, and with the week just beginning, I was hoping to strike gold by knocking off a couple of other tough ones.