As we're coming up to summer in Japan, it's time to dust off your hiking boots and slap on some sunblock and a hat for some hiking on Japan's famous mountains. Oh, and don't forget your camera!
Photo: Tsuda (つだ) on Flickr
While Mt. Fuji is naturally the most famous mountain in Japan, in summer, it is absolutely packed with visitors, and the experience can feel a lot less special when being jostled by hundreds of tourists and having to wait for occasionally up to an hour for the long line of trekkers in front of you to move. Instead, why not try hiking on some on Japan's less busy but arguably just as beautiful mountains? Apart from Mt. Fuji, two of Japan's particularly well-known mountains include Mount Haku (Haku-san, meaning 'white mountain') and Mount Tate (Tate-yama, meaning 'standing mountain'). These three mountains together are known as the Three Holy Mountains of Japan (keep checking our website for our page on Climbing Mount Fuji for some more info on the most famous of the three mountains). The other mountain discussed in this article which is a little less famous but easily accessible from Tokyo is Mount Takao (Takao-san, meaning 'high-tailed mountain').
Photo: Tsuda (つだ) on Flickr
Mount Haku, located in the Gifu and Ishikawa Prefectures, is a perfect place for a summer hike, and official climbing season is from late July to October (autumn is perhaps the best time for a hike as you can see the red leaves on the mountain). Depending on who you ask, it is said to have three or five peaks, and has a range of lakes near the summit. It is actually also an active volcano (be aware that recently due to the large earthquake in Japan that caused the tsunami and a separate volcanic eruption in Japan late last year, some countries have released travel warnings about hiking on the summits of volcanoes in Japan, so it is always best to check your country's government's travel advice website about Japan before you start your hike). It's a long hike as the mountain is 2702 metres high (if you start at the base of the mountain, this is actually a longer walk than most Mt. Fuji routes, which typically start half-way up the mountain at the 5th station). If you choose to hike during the on-season, be aware that you may be sharing the path with quite a few other hikers (nowhere near as many as Mt. Fuji of course), so try to pick a weekday to avoid the crowds. The best way to get to Mount Haku is to catch a shinkansen to Kanazawa and then catch a bus from Kanazawa Station to the mountain.
Photo: yuki_alm_misa on Flickr
If you want to do a walk a little earlier on in the year, Mount Tate's hiking season is between April and November. This mountain, located in Toyama Prefecture, is one of the tallest mountains in Japan, with a peak of 3,015 metres. If this sounds a little daunting to climb, you could always decide to catch one of the many buses running through the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route from Tokyo. This is a long and dramatic road carved out of snow metres deep. The buses stop at designated places along the road for the passengers to get out and take pictures of the wall of snow several metres high all around them. There are also cable cars and walking paths along the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route (not on the same route as the buses, however). While you would think that this route would only be open in winter, it is in fact closed during the winter, and only opens from April. From the summit of Mount Tate you can even see Mt. Fuji!
Photo: deep.deepblue on Flickr
Photo: Joy Lin on Flickr
Mt. Takao is only about an hour out of Shinjuku, making it one of the most popular nature-filled areas near Tokyo. Unlike Mt. Fuji, Mt. Haku, and Mt. Tate, however, it is relatively small, at a maximum height of 599 metres. This does, however, naturally make it a much easier and perhaps relaxed hike than these other mountains. It also has a range of hiking trails, and only takes an hour and a half to climb to the summit. There is also a cable car if you don`t feel like walking the whole way and wish to rest your weary legs. Like Mt. Tate, you can see Mt. Fuji for the summit, but this mountain also has a few other things to offer, including a range of temples along some of the routes, and a monkey park! This mountain is great to walk in any season except winter, and it particularly famous for its cherry blossoms and also brightly coloured autumn leaves. Like pretty much any attraction near Tokyo, things are bound to get busy on the weekend, so try to make a weekday if you can!
Photo: toooooool on Flickr
Japan is a great country for hiking, and has a lot of challenging and beautiful mountains to offer outside of the famous Mt. Fuji. Grab your boots and get hiking in Japan this summer!