Hiking has become more and more popular in the last ten years in Japan. You’ll find a wide range of people from students to pensioners on the hiking trails of Japan’s mountains, including many of the high peaks. Hiking in Japan is one of the best ways to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, in a country that is really blessed with terrific mountainous terrain. Many mountain ranges offer panoramic alpine views, while others allow you to look out as far as the sea.
If you are new to hiking, you will need to prepare or purchase some equipment. Some hikers are rather minimalist, but if you don’t have the experience to make sound weather forecasts and decisions on the trails, it is better to take too much rather than too little. Beginners should take a map and a compass as a minimum. Bearing in mind that most maps of hiking trails in Japan are only available in Japanese, care needs to be taken when matching the kanji characters on the map to the signs on the trail. Get yourself some good hiking footwear, easy dry layers and a waterproof layer. Also check for mountain huts and water sources. If there aren’t any, or if the huts are closed, you’ll need to carry enough food and drink for the whole trip. You’ll likely need 300 ml of water for each hour on the trail. Some people drink more, and some drink less, so know your own body. Sports drinks will keep you better hydrated when you are sweating heavily.
Hiking notifications and insurance
Leaving a detailed plan at a local police station or in a box at the trailhead is being urged by hiking associations and local authorities around the country. There have been many deaths over the last few years that may have been avoided if rescuers had known where the hikers were and been able to get to them faster. Insurance is also encouraged. Most travel insurance does not cover dangerous sports, and hiking a 3,000 meter tall mountain is normally considered a dangerous activity by the insurance companies. Check before you hike, and if in doubt consider getting insurance to cover the cost of a mountain rescue. Even if you are very careful, there are people unlucky enough to be stung by bees, bitten by snakes and attacked by bears each year. While these people are in the minority, it is worth thinking about how much a helicopter mountain rescue would cost, and be appropriately insured before you go.
Top mountains to hike in Japan
Mount Fuji – the highest
Of course the most famous mountain in Japan is Mount Fuji. Japan’s tallest mountain is 3,776 meters tall and can be climbed from July to September quite safely. Having said that, it might take you 10 hours to complete the climb. Even if you split that over 2 days with an overnight stay at a mountain hut, it’ll still require some will power and endurance. It is certainly worth it if you are able to reach the top. The views on a clear day are fantastic, so aim to summit early before the clouds roll in. Many hikers summit for sunrise, and climbing the Yoshida trail gives you a wide selection of mountain huts to stop at overnight before you resume climbing at around 3 am.
-English Name – Fuji goko foreigner sightseeing information counter
-Japanese Name 富士五湖観光案内所
-Address – 6663-11 Funatsu Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi
-Open Hours / Closed Day open year round, 09.00 – 16.00
-Lat/Long －35.360555, 138.727778
-Phone number – 0555-30-1888
Kamikochi – Japan Alps
Located in the Japan Alps, Kamikochi is a vastly popular destination for hikers. Hiking season starts a little earlier here, in June. The hiking terrain is easier and therefore much better suited to the family.
Walking around Kamikochi feels like you are a million miles from work and city life. You’ll enjoy a serene environment with some of Japan’s finest scenery. Your riverside stroll with bamboo grass at your side and Japan Alps as a backdrop will make you want to stay much longer than your vacation allows. Kamikochi is one of the top destinations throughout the season, but come autumn and the changing colours and Kamikochi is one of Japan’s finest jewels. The area explodes with colour and is truly remarkable.
-English Name – Kamikochi
-Japanese Name 上高地
-Address – Azumi, Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture 390-1520
-Open Hours / Closed Day – visitor centre open year round, 09.00 – 16.00
-Lat/Long －36.250032, 137.638422
-Phone number – 0263-95-2433