With Sapporo City’s annual first-snow still not here (two days shy of the latest in recorded history), Haidee and I decided to take a leisurely hike up Mt. Moiwa. It was Sunday, and we’d nothing better to do. Plus, for us living near Shin-Sapporo Station, we only had one subway train to catch, we we’d be in the ritzy area of Maruyama to start the hike.
It always feels like a different world stepping out of the subway into the upmarket Maruyama Class shopping mall. This is where the well-to-do seem to congregate in Sapporo. This was reflected in the prices at the bakery. But, their dried tomato, basil and spinach freshly baked rolls were to die for (if you didn’t choke on the 450yen price tag to start with).
Once away from the tempting goodies in the mall, we started our brisk walk to the trailhead. First along the noisy Route 230 for a bit, and then onto quiet side streets. Beautiful sprawling residences had done their winter garden preparation and were clearly waiting for the snow to come.
It was chilly when we set off, but by the time we’d arrived at the trailhead, we were stipping off layers. The climb starts in earnest from the Asahiyama Park trailhead, up a dirt track. We met a number of trailrunners along the climb up – it seems like a popular spot, close to the city. At this point, we had signs pointing us in the right direction with English on them. The remainder of the route would only have Japanese signs.
The trail climbs to a ridgeline and then follows this all the way to the summit of Mt. Moiwa. The peak always seems tantalizingly close, almost within reach. Each rise in the ridge seems like a false summit, only to drop down again for another climb up. Part way along the ridge, however, before getting to the Jikeikai Hospital Track junction, is a clearing with great views across the city. From there to the junction is a few more ups and downs.
From the Jikeikai Hospital Track junction, the trail becomes even more well defined and well-used. When we were there in mid November, there had been some snow in the previous few days which had melted, leaving the track with about 7cm of soft mud on the surface of the track. Below this was hard-packed soil. After about 20 minutes of stomping through mud, we started the final rocky (and dry!) zig-zag climb up to the summit.
At the summit of Mt. Moiwa is a beautiful cable-car building with restaurant, toilets, boot-washing area, rest area for hikers, and vending machines. We happened to be there during their annual between-season closure (early to mid-November), so only the ground floor hiker’s area was open. The rooftop viewing area was open to the public, however. Up a couple of flights of stars, we had one of the best views of Sapporo I’ve ever seen. Really quite impressive.
To the west, the mountain ridge extending from Mt. Eniwa all the way to Mt. Sapporo was visible, but shrouded somewhat by menacing looking clouds. The whole environment felt like it was just waiting for the winter’s snow to come.
While it was only 2pm, the clouds to the west were shielding the sun, so it was feeling much darker and later than it actually was. Nonetheless, we decided to hurry back down and try to get to a cafe for a coffee before 3pm. This proved perfectly doable, as we returned via the shorter, less circuitous Jikeikai Hospital Track. We had been warned that this track was particularly muddy, and it was to a certain extent. Sneakers or even trail-running shoes would have been hard going with the track in this condition.
Part way down the trail was a foundation of the first ever ski lift in Japan. The lift was built in 1946, but removed in 1959 in order to protect the natural environment.
Not long after this curiosity, we arrived at the trailhead. We made a dash to the nearest cafe, and ended up at Cafe Vanilla (here). You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the entire cafe is a semi-tropical tree store. The cake set was reasonable (800yen for a slice of cheesecake and cafe latte).
We took a windy pedestrian-friendly route back to the station. This involved stairs, back streets, and gravel side roads. It was quite the shock to arrive back at the flashy upmarket Maruyama Class department store.
To finish the day off, Haidee took me to the Sapporo Beer Cellar (here, near Nishi 11-chome subway station). She had been introduced to it by some colleagues the night before. It’s main offering is craft beer, mainly from Oregon, it seems. They also have a few local craft beers on tap. The great thing was that we got home by 5pm. A great way to spend a day out in Sapporo, having left home at 10:30am. A very cruisey Sunday in the city.