Many Tokaido walkers may confuse Utsunoya something like lodging station. It never was. Utsunoya was actually an Aino-shuku, or in-between station between Okabe and Mariko. Usually in-between stations were rarely used for lodging and just served as resting places for travelers. Ironically Utsunoya is one of the most loved places in Old Tokaido Road. Take time for this nice old town. After enjoying the walks around this town cross a small bridge and you will encounter a wide road. Go along the road and you will see a divide. You can get to the Michi-no-Eki station at Utsunoya(Shizuoka side) either way.
When you see the road extending from Okabe side, turn right from there, and you will pass through dimly lit tunnel called Meiji Tunnel, the first toll-tunnel built in 1876. But until recently there had been no lights at all. Some people used to mock the tunnel as "Ghost Tunnel" or "Spooky Tunnel". Some old timers, however, miss such Dark Tunnel days. When I first passed the tunnel about thirty years ago, it was pitch-dark and was a bit scary. After passing the tunnel you will see a park area with a toilet and raised-relief of the tunnel area. To get to Utsunoya Old Town from the park you will have to go leftward road and shortly you will find a way down.
After walking along the sidewalk of Route #1 for a few minutes you will see a road going down to Sakashita area where the Utsunoya Pass Trail starts. To get to Meiji Tunnel go up the leftward slope. The unpaved road is nearly free of automobiles. After passing Daimoku Monument you will find a divide. Rightward up-slope leads to the start of Utsunoya Pass path. Old Tokaido Utsunoya Pass is only a few minutes away from the divide so if you are new to this area you can go there and back. Utsunoya Pass is just a short climb from the start of mountain path. After returning to the divide, go down the leftward road to meet the road from Okabe side.
From Megurisawa Hamlet, there will be 10 to 15 minutes walk to get to National Route #1. At the Megurisawa-guchi Intersection there is an overpass for pedestrians to get to Michino-Eki Utsunoya. You can have a drink or buy something or get some rest there. But hold on. 20 or 30 minutes walk you will get to another great old town Utsunoya. You can get to the start of Old Tokaido Utsunoya Pass Trail from either side of the Route #1. That day I went along the sidewalk to get to Sakashita hamlet.
As you get closer to the Megurisa Old Town, you will see some green tea plantations. When you see a green tea processing plant, you will soon find the Megurisawa hamlet. Around the mountain area there are some nice little once-thriving old towns such as Osaka at the start of Nihonzaka Trail from Shizuoka and Hanazawa the start from Yaizu. This time I will be passing through Megurisawa and Utsunoya Old Town. Megurisawa is a typical of once-thriving town linking Tokaido and Hanazawa area and the coastal area. The houses there are well-built but it is less touristry than Hanazawa or Utsunoya. In this town you will feel the decay of time. Some photographers seem to love this town.
There are a number of routes to Mount Takakusa from south slope but Megurisawa Rindo route is only way from the north slope. The lure of this route is to see the gorge and Megurisawa Old Town. Hikers often complain south slope routes are boring because all they find on the route are tea plantation, cedar trees, bamboo growth and agri-roads. So taking Megurisawa route takes a good balance to see the different face of Mount Takakusa area. As the boards show the road is barely enough for the cars to run. The road used to be popular for drivers with their children to reach the top by the cars. But the road is no longer open for automobiles except on emergency situation. It seems the road had been impassable until recently because of the damage by typhoons and downpours. It would take years until the renovation works may finish up to the summit area. For the hikers and cyclists it may mean the road is free of automobiles for the time being. Warning signs meant for cars. But during weekdays due to renovation works some parts of the road may not be passable.
It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours from Mount Takakusa summit to Utsunoya Old Town. There are a number of ways to get there but this time I took the easiest route. There is a relay tower management road to the summit. Some cyclists climb up to the summit through this road. I went down the road right behind the huge relay tower. It is getting old and ruined in some places. So it is no-entry for automobiles unless during emergency situation. Walking down carless road is quite a fun. About 40 minutes from the summit, the road meets neatly paved road. Then to get to Megurisawa I went down the paved road along the Megurisawa gorge.
Once you get to the ridge of Mount Takakusa the rest is really easy. From Fujimi-toge there are some mild ups and downs. Around the ridge there are some paths for farmers, power tower management and so. But it is not that difficult to decide which is the right way. Go toward the a series of relay towers and you will never miss the main route. 15 minutes from the Fujimi-toge lookout, you will get to the west peak of the mountain. At the west peak there is a relay tower, monument for WWII soldiers and a trig point showing the elevation of 501.4 meters above sea level. As some of the benches suggest the area has a nice view of the Pacific Ocean, Yaizu and Fujieda. East peak is about three minutes walk from the west peak. At east peak there is a huge relay tower being the landmark of Yaizu residents. Also there is a small shrine called Takakusa-yama Daigongen. It was originally at the mid-slope of the mountain but it was moved to the summit area. As the name Daigongen suggests it might have been built by Buddhist temple(possibly Rinsoin Temple) . Yaizu people believed that the sacred mountain governs the weather so by praying toward the mountain it would bring rains after the long dry spell. Annual festival for the shrine is held on early May. East peak has more great views. You may even view Mount Fuji, Izu peninsula, and Nihondaira Highlands as well as Pacific Ocean and Yaizu port area. It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours from Miwa Shrine to the mountaintop.
Right after climbing from the paved road I came across the divide. There is no direction board. Then my experience of the climb thirty years ago flashed back. It was when I was climbing Sekikata route sharing the latter part with Miwa route with my club members. It was the same place we were stuck a while. We could manage to find the rightward path and get to the Fujimi-toge lookout. Flashback of my past memory made me reassuring. Fujimi-toge as the name suggests might have been a pass but I could find only the path running along the ridge. Fujimi-toge is a lookout to view the Mount Fuji beyond Mount Mankanho.
Shiramidaira has two ways of expressing in Kanjis. Stone direction has alternate Kanji name for the former lookout. There is an upward path right behind the lookout. The slope leading to the Fujimi-toge is nicknamed as Furikaeri-zaka, or the Slope of Looking Back. As you climb the steep slope you will see the reason why. It is because of the great view. You can have a short rest at somewhere at there. After crossing the road, you will see the milder slope between tall grass and tea plantation(some of them are abandoned and has become a shrub jungle).
After meeting a paved road you will soon find a path and another steep climb you will see another road. About 10 minutes walk you will see another. Then you will find a board explaining the place about Kumodani. or the valley of the clouds. It is said that the triple torii of Miwa shrine is directed toward the area. In olden time people believed that when the mist covers around this area it manifests the presence of god. From there you turn right along the road and you will reach the resting place called Shiramidaira. It used to have the great view of the Pacific Ocean but today no more.
At the start of the Mount Takakusa hike there is a jizo statue called Otaki jizo. After a few minutes walk from there you will see a narrow and steep path. From there tough climb to the west ridge of the mountain starts. After climbing the narrow path about ten minutes you will see a huge rock called Tokiishi. It is so called because the rock shows the noontime by the reflection of the sunlight on the top part of the rock. A few more minutes walk from there you will find a old stone roadsign built during Taisho Period(1912-1926). Soon after that you will meet the agri road. Maybe you will need a rest before climbing to the steep path again.
Miwa Shrine in Okabe, Fujieda has no prayer hall because the shrine sees Mount Takakusa as its main object of worship. Climbing Mount Takakusa from that shrine makes a lot of sense historically and from practical reason. There are no toilets in any of Mount Takakusa trail or summit. Miwa Shrine has the only bathroom facility. To get to Miwa Shrine also see my Okabe Transportation tip. After getting off from the Miwa-Jinja Iriguchi bus stop, first walk toward the lush green woods on the left. Miwa Jinja has triple torii and unless on festival or fair days the shrine is peaceful and quiet. After visiting the shrine first follow Yamanobe trail passing Jurinji temple and the hill the top of which is Kompira shrine. As you walk along the narrow and twisting road, you will soon meet the wider road. To get to Mount Takakusa turn right and pass Kofukuji temple which is rather a part of private residence than a Buddhist temple. After walking about five minutes you will see a sign showing the entrance of the Mount Takakusa trail. At the entrance there is a jizo, a map board, and soon afterward you will see the sign leading to the steep and narrow path.