Hiking Mount Tenranzan Part 2 (Tenranzan – Part 1)
When you reach the peak you’ll find yourself at an observatory platform that stands about 195 meters above sea level. A cool breeze welcomed me, as did a heavenly view of Hanno. Supposedly, on clearer days you can see Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City, Sky Tree and Mount Fuji in the distance. Imagine how ineffable a night time view from here would be.
At the peak, there’s a sign that offering some history about the mountain and the various name changes it had undergone from as early as the 1700s. In April 1883, Emperor Meiji ascended to the summit to oversee the operations of an army training camp in the foothills. From that moment, the mountain was dubbed “天覧山・Tenranzan,” which can be translated as “Imperial Inspectional Mountain.”
Four paths diverged from that high place. I went down the backside, where a long flight of steps wended through the underbrush. As I traversed the pathways that looped, dipped and climbed, I encountered several people, each one of them appearing to be at least in their seventies. Unlike Tokyo, where smiling to a stranger gets you a suspicious glare, I received nods and grins from these people as we passed one another. Then I’d be alone, left to stand amongst the slim evergreens and draw fresh air into my lungs.
After wandering for about two hours, I followed trail markers back to Nounin-ji. You don’t have to worry about getting lost.
At the end of my hike, I descended into something of a rice paddy. A babbling brook trickled along the gravely path. Shrouded amongst cattails and corn stalks were about a dozen wooden stakes no higher than my shins lining the trail. I was delighted to find lizards and native Japanese grasshoppers sunning themselves. Of course, they were on to me the moment I reached for my camera and went poof like ninjas.
Mount Tenranzan was immeasurably tranquil. For those who want to see more in Japan than the cityscapes, the trails around Saitama deserves some attention. From Nerima-ku on the Seibu Ikebukuro line, the ride was under an hour and cost me 820 yen round trip. Tenzanran’s not the only thing that was steep! Should you want to enjoy shopping on Ginza-dori or seek out the sake distilleries and historical attractions, just don’t go on a Monday.