35.22°N/138.21°E, Yamanashi-ken, Central Honshu (Minami Alps)
There are basically two approaches to Shichimen-san: the long one (A) from Umegashima Onsen in Shizuoka-ken and the short one (B) from the Haruki-gawa Rv. at the foot of the mountain.
Umegashima Onsen (900 m) - 2 hrs - Hakkore (1819 m) - 1 hr 30 min - 1964 m Mountain (1964 m) - 1 hr 15 min - Shichimen-san (1982 m) - 20 min - Keishin-in Temple (1700 m)
Haruki-gawa Rv. (500 m) - 3 hrs - Keishin-in Temple (1700 m) -30 min - Shichimen-san (1982 m)
Go to the top
Shichimen-san itself is not a very spectacular mountain, it is not very high, there are no impressive rock formations, even the view from the summit is rather restricted because it is forested. What makes this mountain special is its unique location 30 km due west of Mt. Fuji and the Keishin-in Temple on a plateau 250 m below the summit. Even though the view from the summit is restricted, the view of Mt. Fuji from the temple is absolutely breathtaking. Twice a year, exactly at the vernal and autumnal equinox, the sun rises right behind the cone of Mt. Fuji.
I usually visit Shichimen-san and the temple once a year in the winter. The following is a description of the hike (A-Course) I took with my Canadian friend David in February 1995:
||I got up early and took the 6:20 AM Shinkansen which arrived an hour later in Shizuoka. David picked me up at the station and we drove north on Route 29 along the Abe-gawa Rv. to Umegashima Onsen where we arrived at 8:45 AM. We parked the car right in front of the gate of the Abe-toge (pass) road which is closed during the winter.|
|Umegashima to Hakkore
||We left the car at 9:00 AM. The trail immediately started climbing steeply up the mountain through an evergreen forest of cedar and pine. After about 45 minutes we crossed the Abe-toge road at 1300 m. In the summer it is possible to drive up from Umegashima and park right here. The trail continued through kumasasa, the bamboo grass that grows in Central Honshu between 1000 m and 2000 m. At about 1600 m we reached the top of the ridge and were rewarded with an unobstructed view of Fuji-san. The trail continued up and down the ridge, there wasn't too much snow on the ground, about 30 cm maybe. At 11:00 AM we stood on the summit of Hakkore (1918 m) on the border of Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures. |
|Hakkore to Shichimen-san
We spent half an hour on the summit of Hakkore and enjoyed views of the main ridge of the Minami Alps before continuing north towards Shichimen-san. Leaving the summit the trail immediately drops for about 150 m. There is a lot more snow on the north slope than on the Umegashima side and we sometimes were up to our wastes in it. Fortunately the section right after leaving Hakkore has the deepest snow and soon after the going became easier. The trail is marked but sometimes not easy to follow, far fewer people trek here than on the Umegashima - Hakkore trail. After an hour and a half we reached the next landmark, a sign marking a no-name mountain with an elevation of 1964 m; it can also be found on the map. The trail more or less follows the ridge north, and after another hour and 15 minutes we reached Shichi-men-san (1982 m).
|Shichimen-san to Keishin-in
||From Shichimen-san it was an easy 20-minute stroll down to the temple of Keishin-in. The trail skirts around the upper edge of a huge landslide, there are occasional glimpses of Fuji-san. Soon the red roofs of the temple buildings can be seen to the left. We entered the temple grounds through the upper gate. There is a large terasse overlooking the Harukigawa valley, the majestic summit of Fuji-san dominating the scenery.|
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|The Temple of Keishin-in
||We went down the stairs to the main building, its slanted snow covered roof glowing in the late afternoon sun. We checked in and were shown to the dormitory, a 20-tatami room. They even have a communal bath there, and we took a long soak in the hot water. After that we relaxed at the fireplace sipping hot tea. At around 5:00 PM we were asked to join the prayer in the main hall. The monks were chanting sutras, the pilgrims joining in: "nam-myoho-renge-kyo". This weekend in February there were not too many people, maybe twenty or so. The hall wasn't heated, the temperature just a little over 0°C. After the prayer a vegetarian dinner was served, sake included. Soon after the futons were rolled out and we went to sleep. |
||We woke up early the next day, just before 5:00 AM. We sipped some tea, I got my camera equipment ready. At 5:45 we were standing on the terasse, the dark contour of Fuji-san clearly visible against a purple sky. It was cold, about -15°C. It gradually got lighter, and at 6:15 the sun finally rose to the right of Fuji-san. There were only a few people with us. At equinox, when the sun rises right behind the crater, there are so many spectators that it is hard to find a place to watch.|
||When the sun was well above the horizon we went back to the temple for breakfast. It was traditional Japanese fare: rice, miso-soup, pickled vegetables, natto and green tea. Actually a good start of the day, much better than tasteless white bread or greasy bacon-and-eggs.|
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|Back to Umegashima Onsen
||We were not in a hurry to leave and took our time. At 8:00 AM we finally said farewell to the monks and hit the trail. At 8:35 AM we reached Shichimen-san. It was sunny, the trail in the snow easy to follow. At 11:30 AM we were back on the narrow summit of Hakkore where we had a quick lunch. From here it was an easy 90-minute descent back to Umegashima Onsen 1000 m below.|
||Keishin-in is a temple of the Nichiren sect located on the eastern slope of Shichimen-san at an elevation of 1700 m. The main building is over 300 years old. Two things distinguish this temple from all the others I have visited in Japan: the view of Fuji-san from the observation terrasse and the fact that there is no road up, the shortest way is a 1200 m climb from the Haruki-gawa valley.|
|| Nevertheless its a big temple with all the amenities of modern life such as electricity and telephones. They told me the temple could accommodate 1600 pilgrims, but then it must be really crowded. Visitors usually stay in large 20-tatami rooms. At bedtime two large bedrolls are rolled out on the tatami, and about ten people each sleep next to each other under a 10-meter blanket. There are also private rooms available, but it is up to the monks who gets one, you can't make a reservation for them.|
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||The overnight charge, including two meals, is a very reasonable ¥ 4,000 per person. One should keep in mind, however, that this a temple and not a hotel. The visitors are required to attend the evening prayer, for example.
The address of the temple is: