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Published on : Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Japan’s first ever ‘Yama no Hi’ (Mountain Day) national holiday is coming up on 11th August, which will commemorate the mountain climbing season being fully underway in Japan. People from all across the world flock to Japan to attempt to tackle Fuji during the summer months, but if you’re Nihon-bound this summer there are several mountains you can tackle, from short, leisurely climbs to serious uphill treks. See below for ideas.
The Big One
Mt Fuji stands a whopping 3776 meters high, overlooking the natural surroundings of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. This year, the trails to the summit are open from July 1 to September 10. Most climbers trek halfway up the mountain, sleep for a few hours at a mountain hut, and then continue onwards in the early hours of the morning to reach the peak at sunrise. The climb takes around 6 hours (depending on your starting point), and there are four different trails to choose from. The more popular trails are those lined with mountain huts, and can often be very, very busy during peak season. Booking these mountain huts can be difficult for non-Japanese speakers, so we recommend booking via an agent for this.
Willer Express bus services offer a guide, accommodation and meals, as well as return transportation from Tokyo. Alternatively, UK operators such as InsideJapan Tours can assist with your bookings, discussing the various available options with you, depending on your choice of trail.
The Sacred Option
Dewa Sanzan refers to three sacred mountains in Yamagata prefecture, in northern Honshu. The mountains represent birth (Haguro-san), death (Gas-san) and rebirth (Yudono-san). Infinitely quieter and calmer than Mt Fuji at this time of year, the three mountains offer the additional pleasure of shrines on or near their summits.
Dewa Sanzan is the centre of Shugendo, a folk reglion based on mountain worship, so where better to visit to celebrate Mountain Day? As well as being able to visit the Japanese shrines, you’ll also be able to watch as pilgrims tackle these trails, or see the Yamabushi – Japan’s ascetic mountain hermits. If you’re keen to plan a trip to traverse these three peaks, Audley Travel will be able to advise and assist with tackling these holy mountains.
The Day Trip Climb
If you’re planning to stay in Tokyo during your Japan travels, there are still mountains within travelling distance, meaning no excuses for not getting your hiking boots on this August.
Mt Takao, rated 3/3 stars by the Michelin Green Guide to Japan, is around a 50 minute journey from central Shinjuku station. On a clear day, expect to be able to spot the crest of Fuji in the distance once you’ve reached the top. Along route, you’ll be treated to various means of entertaining yourself; from old, wooden soba restaurants, to monkey parks and beer gardens. A new hot spring facility was also added, meaning you can spend an entire day relaxing in nature – all without leaving Tokyo. Visit the official Mt Takao website here.
(Psst, if you’re not much of a climber, take the cable car to the top!)
The Great View
If you’re visiting Hiroshima and plan to stop off at Miyajima Island, hike to the top of Mount Misen for fabulous views across the Seto Inland Sea. There are three courses for reaching the top, all of which take between 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the summit, which stands at 400m high. The rocky, moss filled trails are reminiscent of the Princess Mononoke forest. Expect to be intersected by deer along the mountain paths (or occasionally wild monkeys). The Miyajima Tourist Association website will be able to give you detailed information on which of the three courses you might like to take.