Mt. Hikarujo Hike
The Mt. Hikarujo(yama) (光城山, 912m) hike is perfect for a short day hike, picnic, or even night hike. The trail takes about 40-60 minutes to reach the top and offers spectacular views of the Azumino valley and Northern Alps. The Mt. Hikarujo hike is famous for its cherry blossom canopy which winds all the way to the top of the mountain. The hike is beautiful all year round but cherry blossom flowers are only in bloom for 1-2 weeks of spring.
There are alternate courses along the mountain, but to do this trail follow signs for Sakura (さくら) Course (Cherry Blossom Course). It is fairly obvious and clear the direction of the main trail but if you do not read hiragana just ask someone along the way if you are unsure. You most certainly do not need to read Japanese to do this hike though.
The top of the trail (pictured left) is very spacious and relatively flat with a small shrine and plenty of opportunities to look out over the whole of Azumino. At the top, there are basic bathroom facilities and a small building, but water or food preparation facilities are not available so bring your snacks, water, and/or food with you. And don’t forget to carry your trash out as well as there are no trashcans.
Access to the starting point
A 30-minute walk from JR Tazasa Station / a 10-minute drive from Toyoshina IC (Japanese Map)
Hiking difficulty level
The Mr. Hikarujo Hike can be done by people of any ages with any physical ability.
There are many families who do the hike with young children and some people even go up with their dogs. I did witness some Japanese women in heels, but I strongly do not recommend this. You do not need heavy duty hiking shoes, but sandals would be difficult. The trail does not require any technical hiking experience or rope work.
When to do the hike
If you are able to do the hike during cherry blossom season (which varies from mid April to early May depending on the weather) the entire trail is canopied by white and pink sakura or cherry blossom tress. Azumino is famous for the Mt. Hikarujo trail's cherry blossoms and can be very busy during cherry blossom season, but is well worth the crowds if you are lucky enough to catch the sakura in bloom!
Unlike many higher climbs in the Azumino area, you can probably get away with doing Mt. Hikarujo as early as March depending on the snow season. Many larger hikes in Nagano ken (prefecture) can hold snow until late May or June so make sure to check the tourist information before going if you hope to do higher climbs or backcountry camping in the Azumino area or greater Nagano prefecture.
The Mt. Hikarujo hike is also illuminated at night during cherry blossom season if you are in the mood for a nice night hike or want to see the views of the valley at night.
This is a wonderful hike and I highly recommend it for any one interested in short day/night hikes, amazing views of the Northern Alps and/ or Azumino valley, or nice picnic hikes.