Take the Shinonoi Line north out of Matsumoto Station and before long you’ll see Hikarijo-yama pass by on your right. If it’s cherry blossom season you’ll see a line of flowering trees running up the side of the mountain – pinkish-white popcorn contrasting with the browns and greens of the nascent Spring.
If you jump off the train at Tazawa Station and walk up the street you can take a stroll right up the belly of that popcorny flowery snake.
A steep side road gets you to the trailhead parking lot where, oddly considering this is Japan, there’s a bathroom and not much else.
Don’t mind the bear warnings. The groups of hiking retirees do a thorough and honorable job of keeping them all away.
It’s a good steady climb up the side of Hikarijo-yama…
…but it doesn’t take long for the views to take your mind off the effort.
On the way up the path splits in several places. Take your pick, they all lead to the top. I think.
Whichever way you go, you’ll likely not be disappointed.
When you reach the point where the blossoming snake fattens and flattens out you know you’re almost at the top.
At the top take some time to soak up the wide open views of the Fuchu Plains below and the Northern Alps to the west.
And of course, there’s plenty of room for a little O-hanami.
Want to go ahead and check out Hikarijo-yama for yourself? Awesome. The train ride to Tazawa Station is a shade under ten minutes from Matsumoto. But be warned: trains only depart about once every ninety minutes. Once you get off at Tazawa you have a thirty minute walk to the trailhead. The hike up the mountain itself is another forty-five minutes to an hour.
This might all seem like a bit too much time and effort. But in cherry blossom season, a trip to Hikarijo-yama is worth your while.