Golden Week 2019: Agano Hikes

Golden Week of 2019 was a pretty special one. This year it was ten days in a row, to celebrate the abdication of the Emperor Akihito, with his son, Naruhito, taking up the position. This is the first abdication in Japan since 1817, so it is a unique chance to be able to experience it. Ten solid days off meant that most of Japan decided to take a trip. Consequently, travelling for us was off the cards as it was going to prove to be a little too expensive and a planning nightmare. Thus, we decided to enjoy the ultimate staycation in Tokyo, taking day trips out of the city and enjoying our local area even more.

The first day  we decided to hit the ground running with an *almost* 20 km hike. We took the local train to Saitama Prefecture, to get back to nature and experience some peace and quiet. Saitama is just over 1.5 hours out of central Tokyo, but it is like being in a completely different world. Gone are the skyscrapers, lights, noise, and people, to be replaced by trees, rivers, birds and flowers. It was bliss.

On arrival, we were a little unnerved that everyone else stayed on the train as we departed onto a very rural platform…and watched as the very full train round the corner. Still, we did have a plan and as we followed it through, it became apparent that we had nailed it, despite our initial fears! Golden Week is notorious for hoards of people seeking nature. As such, most hikes, it is advised, in train distance to from Tokyo, are extremely busy. However, it seems that we had managed to find the one that was empty! We barely saw anyone else all day and so got to experience a unique and rural hike, without crowds of people, along the little known Koburi Pass.

The Koburi Pass is a hike in the Agano area of Saitama, which can be extended or reduced depending on the walkers. Dan and I decided to make a full day of it, enjoying lots of different trails, deep woodlands, and incredible mountain views. Admittedly, at one stage we were climbing a rock-face with our hands on the so-called Route A, we did wonder if we had lost our minds…however once we reached the top of this grueling section, we felt immensely proud of our achievement and got rewarded with some breathtaking views. The hike was punctured by shrines and some small hamlets we could rest and recuperate in. It made for an extremely interesting hike, unlike any other I have completed in Japan.

Across the day, we hiked a whopping 20 km and took over 30, 000 steps and came home feeling absolutely exhausted! Still, it was well worth it, and so we got Golden Week 2019 off to a very strong start.

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