Off Road in Susono

Trail Running in Susono City, Shizuoka Prefecture

Outdoor Unbound

Susono may be eclipsed by more well-known landmarks like Mt. Fuji and the Gotemba Premium Outlet shops, but there’s a thriving outdoor scene for those in the know. Home to an expansive outdoor playground at a wide range of elevation, Susono provides numerous opportunities for the active-minded to run wild and free.

Over a mid-October weekend, we set off from southern Kanagawa Prefecture to Susono for two days of off road exploration. With the help of trail running locals and outdoor experts, we expanded our running repertoire and explored the undulating trails between Mt. Fuji and Hakone. 

Below, we’ve put together our itinerary and highlights to jumpstart your off road adventures in Susono! With favorable weather, you can plan for both a thrilling traverse of Mt. Fuji’s low-lying trails and breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji from the distance.

This content was made possible through a trail running monitor tour event funded by a Japan Sports Agency subsidy program and implemented by the Susono City Council for Sports Tourism Promotion. 

Learn more about outdoor experiences and events for the active sponsored by Susono City HERE (Japanese only).

At the Foot of Mt. Fuji

Located in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture, Susono is a small city at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Geographically speaking, Gotemba lies to the north and Mishima to the south; popular tourist destinations Lake Ashi and Hakone border the east. Susono is home to the Yeti Snow Resort, Grinpa kids amusement park, and Fuji Safari Park. 

Susono is easily accessible by public transportation and personal vehicle. From central Tokyo,  expect just under two hours by public transportation and personal vehicle. Those coming from Nagoya will travel approximately three hours. The closest airport is Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport in Maikonhara, about 60km from Susono.

Start from Mizugatsuka Park

Sitting at just under 1,500 meters in elevation, Mizugatsuka Park is a multi-purpose rest stop well-known for its spectacular unblocked views of Mt. Fuji, spacious parking lot (free of charge!), and winter sledding. 

Popular among bikers and cyclists climbing the Fuji Skyline, park facilities include a casual eatery and multiple vending machines to refuel before setting off for a fast and furious descent. The parking lot and bathrooms are open 24 hours. Among outdoor enthusiasts, the park also serves as convenient place to start and finish trail runs and hikes surrounding Mt. Fuji. The trail head is just across the road!

Route

Mizugatsuka Park

Gotemba Niwa-shita

Futatsu-zuka

Gotemba Trail New 5th Station

Maku-iwa

Ota-inai

Mizugatsuka Park

Start from Hakone Pass

Another trail head is easily accessible from the Roadside Station Hakone Touge (Hakone Pass). Compared to Mizugatsuka Park however, the facility itself is small and  parking is very limited. You may need to be dropped off or run from nearby to start from the trail at Hakone Pass.

We opted to run on the west of Lake Ashi – the Shizuoka Prefecture side – mostly tracing the Ashinoko Skyline on the left amidst the trails. Across Lake Ashi on the eastside, we enjoyed crystal clear views of Hakone, part of Kanagawa Prefecture.

From Hakone Pass, we traversed past Yamabushi Pass featuring countless stairs of varying depth, followed by a stroll through Mt. Mikuni (of Olympic road cycling fame) and then a stop at Kojiri Pass, right before the vehicle-only entrance to the Hakone Skyline. If Hakone Pass proves tricky, Kojiri Pass provides just enough parking for those in the know to set off into the trails surrounding Lake Ashi.

From Kojiri Pass, it’s a fast road race for approximately 8km, descending about 600 meters back to Hotel Coonel Inn.

Route

Roadside Station Hakone Touge (Hakone Pass)

Yamabushi Pass

Mt. Mikuni

Kojiri Pass

Hotel Coonel Inn

Nutritiously Balanced Meals

On Saturday, lunch was provided by Lily’s Garden, a dog-friendly cafe and lodge in the heart of Susono. After covering 8km on the trails, warm servings of Japanese curry rice and a light, nutritious egg drop and tomato soup were absolutely divine. 

In the evening, we were treated to a healthy multi-course dinner including pasta with local shirasu whitebait, salad, soup, dessert, and a main plate featuring tender chicken breast, tasty liver filets, and steamed vegetables. 

We started the following day with a breakfast buffet at the hotel. The day’s highlight was the lunchbox supplied by Yasai Shokudou Rafu, also known as Cafe Rafu. Each bento featured a wide range of finger foods such as curry pickled green tomatoes, purple potato in a sweet sauce, potato mochi with quinoa harvested in Susono, and persimmons wrapped in bacon. Lunch was also accompanied with warm bowls of locally made udon and vegetables – more than enough to fill our bellies!

Itadaki Meshi is a homegrown project overseen by a certified dietitian to make nutritionally balanced meals more widely available for athletes and sport enthusiasts training in Susono. Rich in protein, iron, calcium and daily nutrients, each meal is designed to optimize performance.

View the dietitian-approved balanced meals available at participating Itadaki-Meshi restaurants around Susono HERE (Japanese only).

Convenient Accommodation

Opened in 2018, the Hotel Coonel Inn is conveniently located two minutes by foot from JR Iwanami station and along Route 246, just off the Susono Interchange.

The rooms are spacious and immaculate; facilities include a hot spring bath, a convenience store next doors, and a multi-purpose space adjacent to the lobby. In addition, a large deck overlooks an impressive gorge and serves as a relaxing area for guests to enjoy the outdoors. A variety of meals are available at the on-site restaurant, Trattoria Coo.

Perks of Guided Tours

For the uninitiated trail rookies, guided tours provide rare opportunities to learn the basic (and unspoken) rules of trail running in Japan. While experiencing the great outdoors, you can receive tips on and practice the intricate skills necessary to conquer each dip and swell of the trails. Venturing beyond your comfort zone and challenging your abilities is made easier when you’re not suffering alone! 

Each day, our running guides started with a brief workshop on kinesiology tape for our ankles and knees. We learned about the use of the stretchy tape as an item used to provide support, lessen pain, reduce swelling, and improve performance. Following a demonstration, we practiced strategic application of the tape and experienced its benefits throughout the day. Learn about New HALE HERE (Japanese only).

Our guided tour came with a support vehicle that provided healthy lunches midway through our trail adventures. In addition, the vehicle carried extra layers for those of us seeking more warmth or a place to shed and store layers for those running hot. And if you were injured or just not feeling up to par, you could hop on and sit one out (as this author did). While not all guided tours come with a support vehicle, those that do provide unparalleled options that broaden the possibilities of exploration towards places less traveled.

See You in Susono!