Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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Thanks to its location in a tectonically active region, Japan is home to many beautiful mountain peaks. This doesn’t only mean that you can find many relaxing and healthy natural hot spring sources, but it also means that there is no lack of mountain hiking opportunities. But what is the best mountain in Japan? Whether you are an avid mountaineer or more of a beginner who just likes an easy hike in nature, Japan has something to offer for everyone. Let us introduce 10 of the coolest mountains to hike in Japan!
1. Mount Fuji
Let’s kick off with Japan’s most symbolic and famous mountain, the grand Mt Fuji that’s located around 2.5 hours west of Tokyo. It is not only impressive to see Mt Fuji from different vantage points in the area, if you come in the right season, you can also hike the beautifully-shaped volcano. Mt Fuji’s hiking season runs from July to early September, and it is a hike that is doable for anyone who is in decent shape. As hiking Mt Fuji is on many people’s bucket list, it tends to get rather crowded with hikers of all ages. Pro-tip; start hiking in the evening, spend the night in a mountain hut, and wake up bright and early to arrive at the summit in time to see a majestic sunrise.
2. Mount Ishizuchi
For the ridgetop trails of Mt. Ishizuchi you need to go to Ehime prefecture in Shikoku, Japan’s 4th largest island. At 2000 meters, it is the highest peak on the western side of Japan. Rather than having one summit as the goal of your hike, the mountain range that Mt Ishizuchi is a part of offers a succession of peaks along a narrow trail. The Ishizuchi peak is the most famous one on the range because of the amazing sweeping views of the whole area including the cities of Shikoku and the Pacific Ocean. Broad-leaf bamboo leaves are ubiquitous and give the area a very green feel. There are a variety of trails available for hikers of all levels, including a chain-assisted trail for those looking for a challenge.
3. Mount Aso
Located on southern island Kyushu, because of the large smoking Nakadake crater and the green landscapes surrounding it, Mt Aso is one of the must-visits of the island. Kusasenri’s endless grassy plains and the perfectly shaped cone of Komezuka are sights you can’t see anywhere else in Japan. As one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mt Aso offers an extra dimension of excitement to your hike. This is why it is important to always check the mountain’s official website to see current safety warnings.
In Nagano prefecture, you can find a true hiker’s paradise called Kamikochi. Here, any hiker from total beginner to true expert can find a trail to their liking between late April and mid November. Kamikochi is a remote highland valley that features alpine flora and fauna with a backdrop of high mountains. The easiest hike is only 1.5 hours and leads past the famous Taisho Pond and Kappabashi Bridge, but you can also do day hikes and even overnight hikes with a stay in a tent. During the autumn foliage season, Kamikochi is at its most popular with thousands of hikers descending on the valley around October to see the environment erupt in fall’s warm colors.
If you are looking for spirituality along the way, Koyasan below Osaka is a great destination for a hiking trip. Mount Koya is a temple complex that was founded more than 1200 years ago, and it is one of the most important Buddhist places in Japan. Highlights on your walk will be the Okunoin with its moss-covered lanterns and statues, the Kongobuji with Japan’s largest rock garden, temple complex Danjo Garan with the famous red Pagoda, and majestic main gate Daimon. If you’re not afraid of the dark, you can take a guided night walk from 7 pm, and many visitors stay overnight in one of the temple lodgings. For those who want to take the original hike up the mountain, you can follow the 24 kilometer long Koyasan Choishi Michi trail that starts at Jison-in temple.
Check out our article on a Koyasan weekend trip for more detailed information.
6. Kirishima Mountains
All the way down in the south of Kyushu there is an active volcano group called the Kirishima Mountains. Because of the fertile volcanic ground the area is covered in forests and wildflowers, and the tectonic activity has created beautiful cobalt blue craters and crater lakes. It is no wonder that this is the area that inspired many mythological stories of which the creation of Japan is the most well-known tale. The area can be visited year-round, but is especially beautiful in the spring when the colorful azaleas bloom. One of the best hiking courses is the Kirishima Ridge Trail which is 12 kilometers long and will take around 6 hours to complete. It is best to travel here by (rental) car, as the area is not easy to access by public transportation.
Click here for a trekking map of the Kirishima Mountains.
Located around 75 kilometer away from Fukui city, Mount Haku is one of Japan’s 3 holy mountains alongside Mt Fuji and Mt Tate meaning the mountain is kami (Shinto god) in itself. As Mt Haku is a dormant stratovolcano that hasn’t erupted for hundreds of years, the environment has had the chance to grow and bloom abundantly. Its hiking season runs from July to late October, and the most popular trail starts at Bettodeai (別当出合登山口). Because of high humidity, parts of the trail are often misty. It is good to note that this will be a strenuous hike that is only suitable for people with a good fitness level. A round-trip takes around 8 hours, and the peak is at a 2702m elevation.
Click here for a map of the trails in the area.
As mentioned before, Mt Tateyama in Toyama prefecture is the 3rd holy mountain in Japan. A visit to the Tateyama mountain range is especially popular during the summer months when many people are looking to cool down a bit. Many people combine a hike in the area with sightseeing at the Kurobe Dam and the impressive Tateyama Snow Corridor in Murodo. If you are looking for a short and family-friendly hike in the area, look no further than the Midagahara Wetlands with wooden boardwalks to make your walk easy. For a challenging hike with an overnight stay, you can traverse the three peaks of Mt Tate, starting at Tateyama Murodo.
Check out our article on a Tateyama day trip for more detailed information.
9. Mount Mitake/Odake/Okutama
Don’t feel like leaving the Tokyo region but still want to be surrounded by nature on your hike? The Okutama area west of Tokyo will certainly not disappoint! Especially in the warm summer months, Tokyoites flock to the edge of the metro area to cool off near the sides of Okutama’s rivers. Calm wide flowing rivers and white water, you can find it all in Okutama. There is even an impressive underground limestone cave called Nippara that is fun to discover on a particularly hot day as the temperature here always hovers around 11 degrees Celsius. For a good hike, Mt Mitake and Mt Odake are great destinations in Okutama. You can easily hike to both peaks on the same day, starting at Takimoto, hiking Mt Mitake, and then onward to Mt Odake. It will take you about 6 hours in total, and you will be treated to wonderful river views and a temple on top of Mt Mitake. For those who prefer to not walk the whole way, you can take a cable car to the top of Mt Mitake as well.
10. Mount Takao
And last but not least, the most popular hiking spot for people who live or stay in Tokyo; Mt Takao. Only one hour away by train from Shinjuku, it is a much-loved little getaway for people of all fitness levels. Mt Takao is usually approached from the main trail that leads past a monkey park and a temple complex, and after a hike of around 1.5 hour you will reach the summit. From here, you can see sweeping vistas over the area including a great view of Mt Fuji if the weather is clear. Going back downhill can be done by 7 different trails, depending on whether you want to challenge yourself or take it easy. If you take the main road down, we recommend taking the cable car for the last part down as it is a nice experience to ride the steepest incline in Japan surrounded by trees.
Check out our article on a Mt Takao day trip for more detailed information.
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