Tag Archives: mountains visible from Saitama

Meizan on New Year’s Morn

In the pre-dawn light of January 1st, 2013, I drove the short distance from my house in Konosu City, Saitama, to Arakawa Panorama Park (荒川パノラマ公園), situated on the dyke near Route 66 and overlooking the Ara River. The temperature hung just below zero and the ground was frosty. A couple of dozen New Year’s sunrise viewers had gathered to watch the first daybreak of the New Year from the park’s elevated vantage point. Particularly, a small hill near the playground apparatus had collected a few loose knots of people. I arrived and surveyed the sky – clear of cloud almost everywhere except for in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, from where the sun would emerge, and a small ship of clouds docked over the peak of Nikko Shiranesan. I was indeed here not for the sunrise but for the mountain views as this New Year’s morning promised excellent mountain-viewing conditions.

Previously I posted about the Hyakumeizan (日本百名山) that I believed or had confirmed were visible from the Konosu/Gyoda/Kumagaya area of Saitama, and in November I managed to get a few long-range photographs of several of those mountains, which I subsequently added to that post. Today I am posting photographs I captured from Arakawa Panorama Park on New Year’s morning, going from east to west. All photographs were made with a Sony Alpha 350, using a Minolta 70-300mm lens and cropped on my computer. Some images had to be cropped so only a small portion of the frame was used. Other photographs were cropped little and captured with a wider focal length than 300mm, as in the cases of Akagiyama and Harunasan. Most of the images can be viewed larger if you click on them.

Tsukubasan 筑波山 as seen before sunrise from the top of the small hill in Arakawa Panorama Park. A better view can be attained by walking along the dyke toward the Route 66 bridge.

Tsukubasan 筑波山 as seen before sunrise from the top of the small hill in Arakawa Panorama Park. A better view can be attained by walking along the dyke toward the Route 66 bridge.

This image is rather interesting to me. According to the map, Chausudake 茶臼岳 in Nasu should be visible from my area but a smaller mountain of about 1,700 metres could partially be blocking the view. Cropped tightly from a 300mm photograph, in this image one can make out a mountain with its summit on the left side. A higher mountain stands in the background near the centre of the image. Is this Chausu? An even more distant peak seems to be situated to the right of this higher mountain. Is this Chausu? I am sure one of these two peaks is Chausu but I can't be sure which one.

This image is rather interesting to me. According to the map, Chausudake 茶臼岳 in Nasu should be visible from my area but a smaller mountain of about 1,700 metres could partially be blocking the view. Cropped tightly from a 300mm photograph, in this image one can make out a mountain with its summit on the left side. A higher mountain stands in the background. Is this Chausu? An even more distant peak seems to be situated to the right of this higher mountain. Is this Chausu? I am sure one of these two peaks is Chausu but I can’t be sure which one.

Nantaisan 男体山 is one of the four volcanoes clearly visible from the Kanto Plains. Below the left side of the mountain is Chuzenji Lake. The rugged-looking mountain on the right is the Nihyakumeizan, Nyohoudake.

Nantaisan 男体山 is one of the four volcanoes clearly visible from the Kanto Plains. Below the left side of the mountain is Chuzenji Lake. The rugged-looking mountain on the right is the Nihyakumeizan, Nyohousan 女峰山.

Moving north from east, the next visible Meizan should be Nikko Shiranesan, but as I mentioned above, it was the only mountain with a cloud cover. So the next mountain is Sukaisan 皇海山 seen here as the slightly higher peak on the right.

Moving north from east, the next visible Meizan should be Nikko Shiranesan, but as I mentioned above, it was the only mountain with a cloud cover. So the next mountain is Sukaisan 皇海山 seen here as the slightly higher peak on the right.

I never paid any attention to the beautiful snowy peak on the right shoulder of Akagiyama before but once I learned that Hotakayama 武尊山 was over that way I became enamored with its beautiful form. One day my wife noticed it catching the light at sunset and asked me what mountain it was. I was glad I could tell her the answer.

I never paid any attention to the beautiful snowy peak on the right shoulder of Akagiyama before but once I learned that Hotakayama 武尊山 was over that way I became enamored with its beautiful form. One day my wife noticed it catching the light at sunset and asked me what mountain it was. I was glad I could tell her the answer.

Akagiyama 赤城山. Next to Fujisan this is likely the most recognized mountain around here. The Wind of Akagi keeps cold winds blowing through Saitama in winter and I also believe was instrumental in keeping radiation fallout from Fukushima away from this part of Saitama. A map of the radiation spread I saw showed northern Saitama received the least amount of radiation fallout, and the weather forecast always showed wind coming from Akagi intercepting and blocking winds coming from the Tohoku area.

Akagiyama 赤城山. Next to Fujisan this is likely the most recognized mountain around here. The Wind of Akagi keeps cold winds blowing through Saitama in winter and I also believe was instrumental in keeping radiation fallout from Fukushima away from this part of Saitama. A map I saw of the radiation spread showed northern Saitama received the least amount of radiation fallout, and the weather forecast always showed wind coming from Akagi intercepting and blocking winds coming from the Tohoku area.

It was two years ago that I first noticed the white range of mountains to the left of Akagi. What was that range? According to the map it had to be the Tanigawa Range and the rugged peak just on Akagi's left shoulder should be Tanigawadake 谷川岳. And here it is!

It was two years ago that I first noticed the white range of mountains to the left of Akagi. What was that range? According to the map it had to be the Tanigawa Range and the rugged peak just on Akagi’s left shoulder should be Tanigawadake 谷川岳. And here it is!

This image poses an unsolved mystery for me: one of these mountains should be Kusatsu Shiranesan 草津白根山. I have studied the map and tried very hard to discern which one it should be but I have not been able to. Is it the large mountain on the right? Or the middle peak? If it's the middle peak then the peak on the left should be Gohandake 御飯岳. But then what is the big mountain on the right? All I can say is that in this direction lies Kusatsu Shiranesan. It's in this photo.

This image poses an unsolved mystery for me: one of these mountains should be Kusatsu Shiranesan 草津白根山. I have studied the map and tried very hard to discern which one it should be but I have not been able to. Is it the large mountain on the right? Or the middle peak? If it’s the middle peak then the peak on the left should be Gohandake 御飯岳. But then what is the big mountain on the right? All I can say is that in this direction lies Kusatsu Shiranesan. It’s in this photo.

Another distant white peak, this one to the right of Asamayama. The map suggests that the only big mountain out this way is Azumayasan 四阿山.

Another distant white peak, this one just beyond Harunasan’s left side (the foreground peaks) and to the right of Asamayama. The map suggests that the only big mountain out this way is Azumayasan 四阿山.

Asamayama 浅間山, one of Japan's most active volcanoes. Recently it has been taking a break, its signature plume of smoke unusually absent.

Asamayama 浅間山, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. Recently it has been taking a break, its signature plume of smoke unusually absent.

Perhaps the most distinctive peak of the Chichibu Mountains, Ryogamisan 両神山. From this angle the mountain blocks the view of Yatsugatake. From Gyoda to Kumagaya and Fukaya, Yatsugatake becomes visible.

Perhaps the most distinctive peak of the Chichibu Mountains, Ryogamisan 両神山. From this angle the mountain blocks the view of Yatsugatake. From Gyoda to Kumagaya and Fukaya, Yatsugatake becomes visible.

The gently rounded mountain peak on the right is also the highest point in Saitama, Koubushigatake 甲武信ヶ岳 at 2,475m. It sits on the borders of Saitama, Nagano and Yamanashi.

The gently rounded mountain peak on the right is also the highest point in Saitama, Koubushigatake 甲武信ヶ岳 at 2,475m. It sits on the borders of Saitama, Nagano and Yamanashi.

Kumotoriyama 雲取山 can be seen here just to the right of centre and with sunlight. It straddles the borders of Saitama, Yamanashi and Tokyo. From this view Daibosatsurei 大菩薩嶺 is not visible, but moving a little more southward it appears to the left side of Kumotori. The distinctive dark mountain on the right is the Nihyakumeizan, Bukozan 武甲山.

Kumotoriyama 雲取山 can be seen here just to the right of centre and with sunlight. It straddles the borders of Saitama, Yamanashi and Tokyo. From this view Daibosatsurei 大菩薩嶺 is not visible, but moving a little more southward it appears to the left side of Kumotori, behind the bumpy peaks visible in this image.

No introduction necessary, Fujisan 富士山.

No introduction necessary, Fujisan 富士山.

Fujisan with Mitsutogeyama 三ッ峠山 on the right.

Fujisan with Mitsutogeyama 三ッ峠山 on the right.

The Tanzawa Mountains 丹沢山地 with Hirugatake 蛭ヶ岳 as the highest.

The Tanzawa Mountains 丹沢山地 with Hirugatake 蛭ヶ岳 as the highest.

I guess the next thing to do is to bring a compass along next time and check directions against my map. Perhaps then I can verify any of the peaks that still leave me guessing.

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How Many Mountains?

At the start of July, 1999 I came to Japan for the third time and this time was not for a visit but with the intention to stay at least six months, hopefully longer if the lifestyle and culture agreed with me. Thanks to a woman I had met in Vancouver, I was able to secure a room for rent in Okegawa, Saitama and within the same week I got a job at an English school in Kumagaya, a few stops along the Takasaki Line from my station.

After a week or two of commuting by train and staring out the window at the small cities and suburbs interspersed with remnant rural scenes, I one day noticed that there were mountains to the west. Until that day the haze had remained too thick to see that far, but indeed there was a range of mountains out there. Once at work, I wasted no time in examining the map of Saitama that hung on the wall in the office. I had noticed the mountains on the map before but had not realized just how close they might be. Thus I became acquainted with the proximity of the Chichibu Mountains to Okegawa and Kumagaya.

Perhaps I had mentioned this to my landlord’s wife, because I recall her telling me that Mount Fuji was visible from Okegawa. I went to the rooftop parking of a nearby 3-story department store but saw only the blue skyline of the Chichibu Mountains. Then one clear October day I remember standing in that parking lot and to my great surprise I clearly saw the white tent shape of Fujisan. Though much farther away that the local mountains, Fujisan demanded attention, seemingly to dominate that distant corner of the sky. In August of ’97, during my first visit to Japan, my girlfriend had taken me to Hakone where we had hoped to see Fujisan from Lake Ashi. But the thick haze had dashed our hopes. Now I was getting my first view of the famous mountain, albeit from 100 kilometres away!

Over the next few years, I slowly became familiar with many of the famous mountains in Japan, some of them near, some far away. I began climbing some of those peaks and learned to recognize many more. When I found out about the Hyakumeizan – that special list of 100 mountains in Japan – I was pleased to discover that I had already climbed 13 of them. Then I returned to Canada for 15 months and did some traveling and hiking abroad before returning to Japan. I stayed the first two years in a part of Saitama City before buying a house in Konosu, between my former haunts of Kumagaya and Okegawa. Now with a car for transportation and a family to drive around, I began to notice just how many mountains were visible from this part of the Kanto Plains, and gradually over the last year or so I have started to identify the Hyakumeizan that are visible from here. A couple of nights ago, I spread out on the floor a map of Japan’s mountains, included in Gakujin magazine’s January 2011 issue and I checked which mountains I should be able to see from here. Starting from the east and moving counter-clockwise to the west, here are the mountains I can or should be able to see from around Konosu.

Tsukubasan – The lowest of the Hyakumeizan, Tsukubasan is a small mountain island in the eastern part of the Kanto Plains. Connected to no chain or range, Tsukuba is easy to identify because it stands as an isolated mountain to the east of here. According to my map, Nasudake should have no obstructing mountains high enough between Konosu and Nasu, but I have not yet had the chance to compare a clear view of the mountains out that with the map. From a rooftop parkade or bridge it is possible to make out some distant mountains out that way, but as yet I don’t know what I am looking at.

Nantaisan and Shiranesan – I have known about Nantaisan for many years. Its distinctive volcanic cone rises high over the surrounding mountains and in winter and spring it sports vertical stripes of snow down its flanks. Nikko Shiranesan only just became familiar to me during my visit to Nikko last month but since then I have been able to easily pick out the white snow-covered and treeless cone of that volcano. The to right of Nantaisan is the Nihyakumeizan, Nyohosan.

Sukaisan 皇海山 (second high peak from left) and Nikko Shiranesan 日光白根山 (white peak) as seen from the highest of the burial mounds at the Sakitama Burial Mound Park in Gyoda City. Photo added November 21, 2012.

Sukaisan and Hotakayama – Next, according to the map and what I can find on Google Earth, I should be able to see clearly Sukaisan and quite possibly, in the far distance beyond many smaller mountains, I can see on a clear day Hotakayama. The other day, I looked carefully at the peaks to the left of Shiranesan and indeed there were two high mountains – Kesamaruyama standing in front of Sukaisan. Hotakayama should also be one of the mountains I can see out that way, just to the right of Akagiyama, and last weekend I was indeed able to see a higher peak with snow out that way. Far beyond that lies Shibutsusan, however, unless someone or a photograph could actually point that one out to me I can not confirm being able to actually see Shibutsusan. From around Konosu, if it is visible at all, it is likely that it would appear only as a distant blue hump among other blue humps. (After this post I confirmed that from ground level this mountain is not visible.)

Akagiyama – With out a doubt, the next visible mountain is Akagiyama. Though not the nearest mountain to me, it appears as the largest. From my house I can reach the crater lake of Onuma within two and a half hours. I was first introduced to this mountain in December of 1999 and in September, 2007 my wife and I climbed it together. Farther to the left is another Nihyakumeizan, Harunasan. Both mountains are ancient volcanoes with multiple summits and lakes.

Akagiyama 赤城山 from the highest burial mound at the Sakitama Burial Mound Park in Gyoda City. Photo added November 21, 2012.

Tanigawadake – Perhaps it was last winter (2010/11) that I was surprised one day to see a chain of white mountains far off in the distance behind Harunasan and extending in behind Akagiyama. The only high range I could think of out that way was the Tanigawa Range that borders Gunma and Niigata Prefectures. So, the other weekend, when the range was visible again, I checked with map on my phone and discovered that Tanigawadake was the higher, more rugged looking peak just off the left shoulder of Akagiyama. In fact, I felt I could almost make out the cliffs at Ichinosawa.

Asamayama – The most exciting of the nearby mountains for me is the active volcano, Asamayama. In September of 2004, the volcano coughed and a couple of mornings later I found a thin layer of grey ash on my bicycle seat. Sometimes, even when the view to other mountains is relatively clear, Asamayama is hidden in haze. But it is visible throughout much of the autumn and winter season as a distinctive high cone, often with a small plume of smoke issuing from its crater. Because of its recent and frequent activity, the slopes have no forest cover and thus it sports a stark white cloak in winter, another factor that makes it stand out from the other mountains whose trees hide the snow cover. Just below Asama and to the left of the mountain is the rotten-stump skyline of Myogisan – another ancient volcano and Nihyakumeizan. To the right of Asama and far in the distance lies Kusatsu Shiranesan, however, even though it lies in a direct line from Konosu without any higher peaks in front, since beginning this mountain identity quest in earnest I have not been able to confirm if it is visible from Konosu or if the hulking form of Asama doesn’t block the view.

Asamayama 浅間山 seen from Arakawa Panorama Park in Konosu City. Photo added November 21, 2012.


The low but ragged peaks of Myogisan 妙義山 as seen from Arakawa Panorama Park in Konosu. Photo added November 21, 2012.

Tateshinayama? – One day last year I looked over to Ryogamisan on a clear January day and thought I could see some white peaks in the distance, behind the mountain. Were they mountains or just clouds? Because haze frequently obscures views beyond the nearest mountains, it was quite some time before I had a chance to see those mysterious white “peaks” again. I kept it in mind to check the map and last week, after spotting them again, I decided to check and found that in that direction, just to the right of Ryogamisan, I might be able to see the north end of Yatsugatake, including Tateshinayama. I had believed these mountains were just too far away to see but the map confirms that there are no higher mountains between Tateshinayama and Ryogamisan. If I can indeed see a range of white mountains in winter they should be Tateshinayama and its neighbours.

(Update: November 21, 2012. From Gyoda it’s possible to see Tengudake, Ioudake, Yokodake, and the final slope of Akadake. See photo below. From Kumagaya, Akadake should be visible too.)

The white peaks in the far distance are those of Yatsugatake 八ヶ岳, 90 kilometres away. Seen here from the highest burial mound at the Sakitama Burial Mound Park in Gyoda City. Photo added November 21, 2012.


From right to left, the distant snowy peaks are: Ioudake 硫黄岳, Yokodake 横岳, and the slope leading up and disappearing behind the closer blue peak is the slope to the peak of Akadake 赤岳.


The distant white peak is Tengudake 天狗岳 of Yatsugatake.

Ryogamisan, Kobushigatake, Kumotoriyama – Ryogamisan is one of the most easily identifiable mountains around Konosu and the one with the most distinctive shape. For many years I have looked at its serrated incisor-like shape, biting into the sky. I long since thought about climbing it and in September of 2010 I finally did. I returned again in May of 2011 because I enjoyed the short but steep climb so much and the scenery was beautiful on the way up. Kobushigatake and Kumotoriyama I knew should be visible from Konosu because from the upper deck at Kita Konosu Station I have a great view of the Okutama Chichibu Mountains and some peaks in the background are definitely higher than other closer ones. Checking with my phone map the other morning I found Kobushigatake but couldn’t confirm which was Kumotoriyama exactly before my train arrived.

Kumotoriyama 雲取山 is the distant peak just slightly left of the exact centre of this image. The prominent peak in the right side of the photo is Bukozan 武甲山, a Nihyakumeizan. Seen from Arakawa Panorama Park in Konosu City. Photo added November 21, 2012.

Daibosatsurei 大菩薩嶺 – Left of the higher Okutama Chichibu Mountains are a few more peaks in front of Fujisan. I never paid them much attention until I discovered (just last night) that another Hyakumeizan, Daibosatsurei, raises its summit there. For now I can’t be sure exactly which peak it is, but there are no higher mountains between Konosu and Daibosatsurei, so I think I can count it on my list of visible Hyakumeizan.

Fujisan – Easily identified when visible, Fujisan this morning was a gorgeous white swam wing that looked positively huge in spite of the 100 kilometre distance.

Fujisan 富士山 seen from Arakawa Panorama Park in Konosu City. Photo added November 21, 2012.

Tanzawasan 丹沢山 – From the roof of the five-story building in Saitama City where my work place used to be located, I could see a crest of mountains just to the left of Fujisan. Were these the mountains of Hakone? Or were they the Tansawa Mountains? Last week I checked the map and learned that they were the Tansawa Mountains. From a bridge in Konosu, I looked over towards Fujisan and to the left of it I spotted the same crest of mountains. Which summit is exactly Tanzawasan I am not sure but I would guess the highest one is.

So, from around Konosu, Gyoda and Kumagaya Cities in Saitama, it is possible to see:
Tsukubasan
Nantaisan
Nikko Shiranesan
Sukaisan
Hotakayama
Akagiyama
Tanigawadake
Asamayama
Akadake
Ryogamisan
Kobushigatake
Kumotoriyama
Daibosatsurei
Fujisan
Tanzawasan

And it may be possible to see:
Nasudake
Kusatsu Shiranesan

I will be looking at the mountains carefully when the sky is clear, though spring haze will begin making them harder to see. And someday I hope to add my own photos and re-post this in parts with maps and satellite images. That would be cool.