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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Japan’s National Parks: Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park

Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park (秩父多摩甲斐国立公園, Chichibu Tama Kai Kokuritsu Kōen) is one of Japan’s 32 National Parks—this 1,216 square kilometer park is located in the Kantō area of Japan at the intersection of Saitama-ken, Yamanashi-ken, Nagano-ken and Tokyo-ken. This is the last of six national parks in the Kantō region.

The lovely parkland encompasses five rivers, hiking trails, ancient shrines and lots of mountains, with eight of them inching over 2,000 meters in height.  The rivers are: Fufuki (富士川, Fuji-kawa or Fuji-gawa); Tama (多摩川, Tama-gawa); Ara (荒川, Ara-kawa); and  Shinano (信濃川,  Shinano-gawa) the longest river in Japan.

Approaching from Saitama-ken, sites to see include the Nakatsu Canyon (中津峡, Nakatsu-kyō), a 10-kilometer long ditch carved by the Nakatsu River - a tributary of the Ara-kawa. This is on the Saitama-ken part of the park. There’s also the Tochimoto Sekisho Historical Site (栃本関所跡, Tochimoto Sekisho-ato) with a small hamlet located there, retaining its feudal era look.

To be honest, the Tochimoto Sekisho Historical Site looks like any other place I've ever visited in Japan outside of Tokyo and Osaka. Image from
If you are coming from the Yamaashi-ken side, there’s the:
  • Daibosatsu Pass (大菩薩峠, Daibosatsu-tōge) that cuts through three mountains peaking at around 1,900 meters. Lots of flowers to see at certain times of the year;
  • Mitake Shosēn Gorge (御岳昇仙峡 Mitake Shosēn-kyō) carved by a tributary of the Fuefuki River - lots of birds in the gorge, plus the Shosēnkyō Museum of Art, which mainly displays shadow play (paper puppets) and kirigami (see HERE) exhibits. Oh… and apparently plenty of traffic jams;
  • Nishizawa Canyon (西沢渓谷, Nishizawa-keikoku) carved by the Fuefuki River, there are lots of stream pools, a nice walking trail, and plenty of waterfalls including Nanatsugama-godan Fall (七ツ釜五段ノ滝, Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki), one of the best 100 falls in Japan.
The Nanatsugama-godan Waterfall is one of the prettiest waterfalls in the world, in my opinion.
From Nagano, the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park has the Chikuma River Upstream Course (千曲川源流コース) through the mountains where in Mōkiba you can see azaleas in June and an entrance to the famous Jūmonji Pass (十文字峠)… no wait… the pass has nothing to do with that excellent Robin Williams movie. It goes right to Mount Kobushi (甲武信岳) which rises to 2,475 meters above sea level.

Jūmonji... pass. Image from
If you are coming from the Tokyo side, you can see Mount Mitake (a measly 929 meters high) and Mount Mito that’s 1,628 meters high and famous for its Fagus Japonica, which isn’t what I thought, as it is a species of tree known as the Japanese Blue Beech (Inubuna, aka ‘dog buna’).

Now, the smaller Mount Mitake is considered to be a sacred mountain where the shinto Musashi-Mitake Shrine (武蔵御嶽神社, Musashi Mitake Jinja) was first erected in 90 B.C. It houses a Zaōgonge statue made in 736AD… and since we are all lazier than the ancient Japanese, you can now take a cable car up to see it.

By the way… if you look up Zaōgonge on-line… there are four entries exactly the same, with NO explanation of just what the Zaōgonge statue is all about. There are 28 images in Google—but not one of them actually shows the statue.

So… since I may be working against myself by using English, if anyone out there can find me a link to an image or a description of what the hell the Zaōgonge statue is all about, it would be greatly appreciated.  

Andrew “One of the best 100 gaijin not currently living in Japan” Joseph
PS: Image at very top is from, showing the Mitake Shosēn Gorge.

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