During the first week of May or so, there is a clustering of national holidays known as the "Golden Week". It starts with 昭和の日 (Showa Day) on April 29th, and usually ends with こどもの日 (Children's Day) on May 5th. This year, due to an overlap with a weekend, it ended up looking like this, where red are the days off:
Japanese workers are notoriously short on vacation, with something like 12 working days per year being about average. Even then, in a Japanese company, it is being frowned upon to actually use the full yearly vacation budget, so in reality, people take maybe half of those 12 days.
Unsurprisingly, a cluster of national holidays like during Golden Week makes the Japanese workers rejoice, since by taking just 2 days off, they can get 9 days off in a row. They will then happily rush to Thailand, Hawaii, or maybe some more exotic destination, do as much travel as they can during that short time, and then show off where they have been by bringing お土産 (Omiyage) to the office, little sweet snacks for the co-workers bought overseas.
For some reason, I didn't manage to properly plan a full-scale vacation for this year's Golden Week, so we just stayed in Tokyo, enjoying the relative peacefulness of a slightly-less-than-usually packed city.
On Tuesday then, I seized upon the chance to head out, and climb a mountain road that the local cycling people use to casually show off just how hard their trip was. I was warned that it would be a difficult climb, and headed out along 浅川 (Asakawa) towards 高尾 (Takao), the shortest possible approach.
It happened to be May 5th, which is called "Children's Day", but in reality, it's "Boy's Day". There is a "Girl's Day" 2 days earlier, where the girls get to see some creepy dolls they are not allowed to touch, or so I heard. On May 5th, though, parents proudly show off their sons in public, by putting up colorful fish made of paper, suspending them from poles or ropes, where the wind is supposed to make them look as if they swam in the (hopefully) blue sky:
But I had a goal, so I kept going past 高尾, heading to 和田. I took the forest road approach, which can be used by just going straight instead of turning left. There are 2 chains to keep off motored vehicles, making it completely quiet, but slightly dirty. That's fine for climbing, but a little dangerous on a fast descent:
For the first kilometers, I was not sure why this road was even worth mentioning to so many people, it was surely nice and quiet, but not particularly steep. About halfway through though, the real climb begins, and from there, it's all 10%+:
(The plot starts in front of 高尾駅, goes up the forest approach, down the regular road, and back to the station. The little bump on the left is some artifact in the GPS data, and not a 200% climb.)
It doesn't flatten out at all, if anything, it's getting steeper at some points. It's really tough and really nasty, but on the bright side, since it's so steep, it's relatively quick. Once upon the top though, it's a bit disappointing, since there's really not much to see, except for more trees, and an idea of a view in the distance:
The trick here is to not rush down again right away, but lock the bike near the cafe at the top, and keep walking on foot up the stairs on the left:
They lead to a path that is only 750m long, and climbs another 50m or so, eventually leading to the summit of 陣馬山 (Mount Jimba). On the top, there is an open field with a couple of cafes, and some really great views, including 富士山 on a clear day:
The detour is less than 10 minutes in each direction, and after having it made so far, there's really no reason to not go up there and take in the scenery.