Beautiful Mountains in Japan: Best 10 Hiking Destinations

Years ago, I never had any idea how the mountains in Japan look like. Of course, except for Mount Fuji! As I create our itinerary for our Japan trip, I discover the rest of the mountains in Japan. I was surprised that some of these mountains look VERY spectacular, comparable to the European Alps or the Canadian Rockies!

It’s just I love how the mountains fill me with awe. It makes me happy. When I climb and reach the summit, I feel that I’m on top of the world. It empowers me. Like, if I can conquer this mountain, I can overcome my fears too.

Mountains in Japan, Japan

In this blog post, I share with you the most beautiful mountains in Japan that I discovered. I included the city or town nearest to these mountains, so we know where to go to see them. There are also facts and hiking information to give you more idea about them.

100 Famous Japanese Mountains

In 1964, the mountaineer Kyuya Fukuda wrote a book called 100 Famous Japanese Mountains. It has the list of the most beautiful mountains in Japan, which were selected based on the following criteria:

  • Grace
  • Individuality
  • History

The book became famous when it was remarked by Emperor Naruhito when he was still a prince. Since then, it inspired many people to reach all the summit of these 100 peaks.

I used this book or at least the 100 mountains stated on it as a reference in choosing what mountain ranges are to feature. All the peaks listed below are Kyuya Fukuda’s best selections too.

Nevertheless, I also conducted my research, watch youtube videos, and scanned hundreds of photos on the internet to select what belongs to my 10 Best Mountains in Japan.

Mount Yari

Mount Yari is a mountain in Japan in the Northern Japan Alps located in the Nagano and Gifu prefecture. Its summit reaches an altitude of 3180 meters or 10,433 feet above sea level, making it one of Japan’s tallest mountains.

Mount Yari, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Yari

Mount Yari’s spectacle lies at its peak, which looks like the tip of a spear thrust up to the sky. It is the reason why it is called “Yari,” meaning a spear. And also, because of the shape of its peak, it obtained the title the “Matterhorn of Japan.”

Summit of Mount Yari, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Summit of Mount Yari

Mount Yari Interesting Facts

  • The first-ever man recorded to reach the summit of Mount Yari is a Buddhist priest named “Banryu” in the year 1828. 
  • 50 years after it was first conquered by Banryu, William Gowland climbed and reached the summit of Mount Yari. He is the first foreigner who succeeded in climbing Mount Yari. 

Source: Kamikochi.com

Nearest Town to Mount Yari

It may be hard to determine where the peak of Mount Yari is from afar. But we can go to Matsumoto in Nagano prefecture to have a spectacular view of the Northern Japan Alps, where Mount Yari lies. Matsumoto is also the city where we can start hiking Mount Yari. 

How hard is it to hike Mount Yari?

Climbing Mount Yari follows Kamikochi Course, a 38.5-kilometer (24 miles) out and back trail starting from Matsumoto. This course will let us face a whopping 2321 meter (7614 feet) elevation gain, which could be very difficult for beginners.

According to reviews of Mount Yari from Brad Jaeger, the last 6 kilometers of the trail has the steepest with an elevation gain of 1500 meters or 4921 feet. However, the first 10 kilometers of the course would be mostly flat and would be slightly much more of a hike.

Source: alltrails.com

Mount Iwate

In the northern part of Honshu Island in Japan, we can find the “gracious” looking mountain in Japan called Mount Iwate, which height reaches an elevation of 2,038 meters or 6,686 feet. This makes it the highest in the whole Iwate prefecture.

Mount Iwate, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Cherry Tree and Mount Iwate

Mount Iwate is also regarded as one of Japan’s ultra prominent peaks, even if it is joined with its parent range, Ou Mountains. Its topographic prominence of 1,745 meters or 5725 feet created its shape that can be clearly recognized from afar – the reason why I included it in this list.

On the Road to Mount Iwate, Mount Iwate, Mountains in Japan, Japan
On the Road to Mount Iwate

The mountain’s curve graciously scrapes the sky, creating a charm similar to what Mount Fuji does. Actually, it is also called Nanbu Fuji because of the resemblance it makes with Mount Fuji.

Mount Iwate Interesting Facts

Thousands of years ago, Mount Iwate is a “twin” symmetrical stratovolcano with two parts. They are called Higashi-Iwate, meaning “East Iwate,” and Nishi-Iwate, or “West Iwate.” After an eruption, the east volcano collapsed, forming a caldera.

Mount Iwate from space, Mountains In Japan
Mount Iwate from space

Today, this caldera looks like a valley in the middle of Mount Iwate. It makes a fascinating scene from the sky as it appears to be a unique earth formation we can only find in Japan.

Source: volcano.si.edu

Nearest Town to Mount Iwate

We can have the best view of Mount Iwate from the Solitary Cherry Tree at Koiwai Farm. It’s the place in the photo where there is a cherry tree on a lush green field, with Mount Iwate in the background.

However, if we want to see Mount Iwate that looks like Mount Fuji, we go to Takizawa Area. It is also the town where we can start hiking and climbing Mount Iwate.

How hard is it to hike Mount Iwate?

Climbing Mount Iwate follows the Yanagisawa Course that starts and ends near Takizawa. It is an 11.4-kilometer (7 miles) track rated as a “difficult” climb. Yet, it is an excellent trail to watch birds and see beautiful wildflowers. 

The difficulty of the Yanagisawa Course is defined by a “huge” elevation gain of 1419 meters or 4327 feet. It will surely be a challenging hike, but the panoramic views from the top shall pay it all off.

Source: alltrails.com

Mount Tsurugi

“The most dangerous mountain climbable.” “premiere mountaineering peak in winter.” That’s what they call Mount Tsurugi. This mountain in Japan that reaches 2,999 m (9,839 ft) is recognized to have world-class long routes that challenge the most experienced hikers all over the world.

Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Tsurugi

Although Mount Tsurugi is one of the most dangerous mountains to climb, the number of fatalities from this mountain is “only a fraction” of much smaller Mount Taniwaga in Gunma prefecture.

Mount Tsurugi is situated with other towering peaks in the Northern Japan Alps in Nagano, Toyama, and Gifu Prefectures. What makes Mount Tsurugi beautiful and worth climbing, despite its danger, is its most visually distinctive peak that “outshines” other mountains.

Mountains in Japan, Japan
Summit of Mount Tsurugi

The peak of Mount Tsurugi majestically rests in the middle of the mountain ranges like a rugged jewel in a crown – a scene that’s most evident during winter, when the snow paints it white.

Mount Tsurugi Interesting Facts

It was only in 1906 when the “first-ever” successful climb of Mount Tsurugi happened. It makes Mount Tsurugi the last of the “major” peaks in Japan to be summited.

The twist happened when the first climbers of Mount Tsurugi believed that they made the first successful ascent to the summit. Because, upon reaching the very top of Mount Tsugiri, they discovered a 12th-century sword and staff at the peak, creating a mystery that now remains unresolved.

Source: japan.travel

Nearest Town to Mount Tsurugi

There are several places near the Northern Japan Alps where we can see the beautiful snowcapped mountains.

In Toyama Prefecture, the nearest towns to the mountains are Tateyama and Kamiichi. It is here the trek to the summit of Mount Tsugiri starts. 

However, towns on the other side of the Northern Japan Alps are much closer to the peaks. In Nagano Prefecture, we can visit Hakuba. This town both give us a better view of the mountains lots of skiing resorts as well.

Either way, the two sides of the Northern Japan Alps are connected with Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. It is a route that offers easy and scenic passage across the Northern Japan Alps from Toyama to Nagano Prefecture, vice versa. Visiting the two sides of the mountain range would rather be enjoyable than exhausting using this route.

How hard is it to hike Mount Tsurugi?

The hike to Mount Tsurugi starts from Kezanso in Nakaniikawa district, Toyama, with an out & back trail of about 4.5-kilometers or 277 miles in length. The course is rated “hard” with an elevation gain of 571 meters 1874 feet throughout. It is recommended for those who have enough climbing experience.

Source: alltrails.com

Mount Goryu

Mount Goryu is a mountain in Japan in the Northern Japan Alps belonging to Chubusangaku National Park, which summit reaches an elevation of 2814 meters or 9232 feet.

Mount Goryu, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Close up shot of mount Goryu during winter from Hakuba

Hiking Mount Goryu reveals the crisp wrinkles of Earth that form a beautiful jagged line everywhere. It is stunning scenery that is only seen in “real” alpine surroundings.

Mount Goryu, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Goryu during winter view from Ogawa Village

Mount Goryu compels hikers to climb by its spectacular V shape-cut range from itself to another peak called Mount Kashimayari. Hikers also enjoy the scenic views of its wildflowers, rocky peaks, and alpine lakes seen throughout the climb.

Nearest Town to Mount Goryu

There are two towns in Nagano Prefecture which we can spot Mount Goryu. We can have a closer view of the mountain from the ski resorts in Habuka or a more scenic but farther view from Ogawa Village. You can check the images above to get an idea of what the mountain looks like during winter.

How hard is it to hike Mount Goryu?

Going to Mount Goryu’s summit starts in Jizonokashira, west of Kamishiro station in Kitaazumi District, Nagano prefecture. The climb is categorized as “hard,” with a 1428-meter or 4685-feet elevation gain along the 14.3-km or 8.9-mile track to the summit.

Hiking Mount Goryu requires the use of ladders and chains, especially to the rocky ridgeline area. There will be a steep 300-m variance in elevation along several ascending and descending portions of the trail. Wearing a helmet is often needed.

Mount Hotaka

For having a height of 3,190 m (10466 ft), Mount Hotaka is recognized as the tallest of the mountains in the Northern Japan Alps and referred to as the “Leader of the Northern Alps.” This mountain in Japan is also one of the Japanese Ultra Peaks, with a prominence of 2,307 m (7569 ft).

Mount Hotaka, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Azusa River and Mount Hotaka

Mount Hotaka blesses the climbers with spectacle by its pyramidal peak at the summit. While hikers feel awe from the distant view of the mountain with the rivers flowing from it. The rocky body of Mount Hotaka makes it comparable to the Canadian Rockies on the other side of the globe.

Pyramidal peak of Mount Hotaka, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Pyramidal peak of Mount Hotaka

Mount Hotaka is one of the rocky portions of Japan located in Gifu and Nagano Prefectures, alongside Mount Tanigawa and Mount Tsurugi.

Mount Hotaka Interesting Facts

Mount Hotaka is where we can see cirques, an amphitheater-like valley formed by glacial erosion similar to the European Alps. The cirque found in Mount Hotaka is called Karasawa Cirque, one of the major attractions in the mountains.

Mount Hotaka is a mountain classified as another mountain range belonging to a “bigger” mountain range, the Northern Japan Alps. Here are some of its peaks:

  1. Mt. Okuhotakadake (3,190m)
  2. Mt. Hotakadake (3,110m)
  3. Mt. Kitahotakadake (3,106m)
  4. Mt. Maehotakadake (3,090m)
  5. Mt. Nishihotakadake (2,909m)

Source: hotakadekasanso.com

Nearest Town to Mount Hotaka

Checking the summit of Mount Hotaka from the lower grounds may be difficult or even impossible. But we can always go to Matsumoto in Nagano prefecture to get a spectacular view of the Northern Japan Alps, where Mount Hotaka can be found.

The city of Matsumoto can also be our preferred gateway to go to Kamikochi, where we can start our climb to the summit of Mount Hotaka. 

How hard is it to hike Mount Hotaka?

There are different climbing trails that can lead us to the summit of Mount Hotaka. Each has different levels of climbing skills required. The routes can be just basic ones, like Kamikochi to Karasawa Trail.

However, hikers looking for a challenge can take the adventurous and strenuous Kamikochi-Yari-Hotaka Circuit. It is a loop trail that starts and ends in Kamikochi, and it has an elevation gain of 1685 meters or 5528 feet.

Some trail features climbing steel ladder and scrambling on steep rocky ridges. All these for the heavenly beauty reward that can be claimed at the summit.

Sources: thejapanalps.comjapan-guide.com

Mount Shirouma

Mount Shirouma, or the “White Horse Mountain,” is the 26th tallest mountain in Japan, standing in the Northern Japan Alps, reaching 2,932 meters (9,619 ft) above sea level elevation.

Mount Shirouma, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Shirouma

The beauty of Mount Shirouma can be clearly observed at its peak, where we can see polished edges of Earth that look like the curves of a Kris sword. Mount Shirouma is one of the targetted peaks by Japanese mountain climbers seeking to try the spectacular asymmetrical ridges that extend from north to south of the mountain.

Summit of Mount Shirouma, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Summit of Mount Shirouma

Mount Shirouma Interesting Facts

Mount Shirouma is one of the few remaining peaks in Japan where we can see year-round snowfields called Firn. Firns are the leftover snow from the past winter season that has been crystallized into a denser substance.

Firn looks like wet sugar, but it is hard and very much resistant to shoveling. It is the stage in the middle of the snow being snow and being glacial ice.

Aside from that, it is here that we can find Hakuba Daisekkei Gorge, Japan’s “largest” snowy gorge.

Sources: env.go.jpWikipedia

Nearest Town to Mount Shirouma

The village of Hakuba in the Kitaazumi district is the nearest place where we can observe in awe the scenic alpine views of Mount Shirouma. It is also the place where we can ski and start hiking the mountain.

How hard is it to hike Mount Shirouma?

Climbing Mount Shirouma follows an out and back route that is 6.8 kilometers or 4.2 miles in length with an elevation gain of 1034 meters or 3392 feet. It is considered “hard,” yet there are other routes available which first-time hikers could try. 

However, some websites tell that the trail to Mount Shirouma starts in Surakawaso or in Hakubajiri. If we’re going to compute, it’s an additional 4 (approximate) kilometers or 2.49 miles to be added to the 6.8 kilometers stated in alltrails.com.

Source: alltrails.com

Mount Yake

Mount Yake, the “Burning mountain,” is a 2,455 m (8,054 ft) tall mountain located in between Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. It is a mountain in Japan in the Northern Japan Alps with two peaks and a crater lake in between. It is also an active volcano that produces onsen in nearby areas.

Mount Yake seen from Lake Taisho, Mount Yake, Mountains In Japan, Japan
Mount Yake seen from Lake Taisho

Mount Yake might not be as majestic as the other mountains in the Northern Japan Alps. But it had volcanic power that gave itself a stunning sight that now attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Way back in 1915, Mount Yake erupted, unleashing a massive amount of lava into the Asuza River. It dammed the river creating Lake Taisho. Now lake Tashio reflects the image of its creator, giving wonder to anyone who comes to see it.

Mount Yake seen from Azusa River, Mount Yake, Mountains In Japan, Japan
Mount Yake seen from Azusa River

Another reason why Mount Yake is beautiful is because of the three-color of nature we can see on the mountain, especially during the autumn season. The foot of the mountains is green, turning yellow and red as we climb further.

Mount Yake Interesting Facts

At the summit of Mount Yake, we can find an opening of the planet’s crust, also called a fumarole. It is a wonder to behold, yet we must be cautious as it blows volcanic gasses dangerous to our health. Mount Yake is the last active volcano that remains in the Northern Japan Alps.

Sources: data.jma.go.jpthejapanalps.com

Nearest Town to Mount Yake

Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture is the nearest town to Mount Yake. It is where we can sightsee the mountain or start climbing it. The best viewing spot, however, is in the Taisho pond. We can reach the pond just before Kamikochi if we are from the town of Matsumoto. 

How hard is it to hike Mount Yake?

Climbing Mount Yake is rated “hard,” with the 8.9-kilometer or 5.5 miles climbing trail with an elevation gain of 1119 meters or 3671.3 feet.

The hiking trail going up the summit of Mount Yake is called Shin Nakanoyu Route, and it starts in Nakanoyu, near Matsumoto town in Nagano prefecture. It is a suitable trail for new climbers, yet it is recommended to plan and prepare accordingly.

Source: alltrails.com

Mount Tate

Mount Tate, or simply Tateyama, is one of the tallest mountains in Japan and  in the Northern Japanese Alps, reaching 3,015 m (9,892 ft) above sea level. It is considered one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains,” along with Mount Fuji and Mount Haku.

Mount Tate view from Tateyama Alpine Route, Mount Tate, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Tate view from Tateyama Alpine Route

Tateyama has three peaks that have an average height of more than 3000 m (9842.5 feet). They are:

  1. Onanjiyama 3,015 m (9891.7 ft)
  2. Oyama 3,003 m (9852.4 ft)
  3. Fuji-no-Oritateyama 2,999 m (9839.2 ft)

Mount Tate is located in the southeastern area of Toyama Prefecture, which is the start point of Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. The creation of the Alpine Route made Tateyama one of the most developed mountain tourist destinations in Japan, next to Mount Fuji.

Mount Tate, Mountains In Japan, Japan
Mount Tate

Here, we can find cable cars, tunnels, hotels, dams, funicular, tramways, and onsen baths. There’s even a shrine at the summit!

Mount Tate Interesting Facts

Tateyama is one of the places in Japan that receives the highest amount of snowfall. There, the snow accumulates up to 20 meters every year. At the start of the spring, the snow is removed from the roads creating a spectacular snow wall that everyone could explore on foot.

The snow wall starts from the highest-altitude bus station in Japan, the Murodo Bus Terminal. It is also the start of the 500 meters long trip to the fantastic icy white world, perfect to spend time during winter and spring.

Source: go-centraljapan.jp

Tateyama is also the only place in Japan where glaciers exist, according to japantimes.co.jp.

Nearest Town to Mount Tate

At the base of Mount Tate is Tateyama, the town gateway to the great adventures and jaw-dropping sceneries along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

However, public transportation from Tateyama Town can bring us directly to Murodo Plateau in a snap. It is where we can start hiking and sightseeing many stunning views of the Northern Japanese Alps in Tateyama.

How hard is it to hike Mount Tate?

The complete experience of hiking Mount Tate follows the Three Peak Circuit Hike from Tateyama Murodo. This course is moderately easy, but it could take up to three days to finish. The hiking trail has a 755 m (2477 ft) elevation gain and has a total horizontal distance of 13.3 kilometers (8.26 miles)

Source: hikesinjapan.yamakei-online.com

Mount Yotei

“Yezo Fuji,” “Makkari Napuri,” “Mount Shiribeshi.” That’s what they sometimes call the “Mount Fuji” of Hokkaido, Mount Yotei. It is mountain Japan also a volcano that’s 1,898 m (6,227 ft) in height and 1,878 m (6,161 ft) in prominence. It is not included in Japan’s tallest mountains, but it is regarded as Japan’s Ultra peaks.

Mount Yotei from afar, Mount Yotei, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Yotei from afar

Mount Yotei is a stratovolcano that we can visit inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. The name “Yezo Fuji” came from the combination of “Ezo,” the old name of the island of Hokkaido, and “Fuji” because it resembles Mount Fuji.

Mount Yotei and its reflection on lake, Mount Yotei, Mountains in Japan, Japan
Mount Yotei and its reflection on lake

Its name alone is a solid and justified reason it belongs to this list of the most beautiful mountains in Japan.

Mount Yotei Interesting Facts

Unlike most of the mountains in the world, where people can ski at the slopes of the mountainside, Mount Yotei allows skiers to ski in its crater. It might sound weird but people do! The snow in the crater of Mount Yotei is thick and powder-snow. That’s why even if it requires them to hike for hours, they still go in it and play with the snow.

Source: skiasia.com

Nearest Town to Mount Yotei

These are the 5 towns around Mount Yotei where we can spot Mount Yotei:

  1. Niseko
  2. Makkari
  3. Kimobetsu
  4. Kyogoku
  5. Kutchan

What’s “cool” about these towns is that their borders meet at the center of the crater. So technically, by hiking around the “mouth” of the mountain, we can visit all these 5 towns in just a day, on foot.

However, the mountain has a nature park that can be accessed from the town of Makkari. It is also the place where we can start the hike to the summit of Mount Yotei.

How hard is it to hike Mount Yotei?

Hiking Mount Yotei is rated “hard.” The course is a loop that circles the crater, with a total length of 16.4 kilometers (10.2 miles) and an elevation gain of 1565 meters (5134.5 feet). It starts and ends at Yotei Nature Park in the town of Makkari.

Hiking can be finished in a day, but we can also stay overnight at the top. There is a hut at the summit that can accommodate us for the night, allowing us to watch the sunset and sunrise if the weather permits.

source: alltrails.com

Mount Fuji

Last and of course, not least, but the best of all, Mount Fuji. It is the highest mountain in Japan, with a height that reaches an altitude of 3776 meters (12388 ft). This mountain holds the most value than any mountain in Japan regarding grace, individuality, and history.

Mount Fuji, Mountains In Japan, Japan
Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano that has a spectacular symmetric cone shape body. With that, any place or thing with Mount Fuji in the background becomes instantly photogenic. It is the icon of Japan that’s known in every corner of the world.

Mount Fuji, Mountains In Japan, Japan
Mount Fuji

There’s nothing much to explain because its image is enough to tell why it is here on the list.

Mount Fuji Interesting Facts

  1. It is the number most climbed mountain in the world. There are around 300,000 climbers who hike and climb mount Fuji every year.
  2. Its last eruption lasted for 2 weeks in 1707. Thankfully it never erupted again.
  3. Mount Fuji is made up of 3 volcanoes. Komitake at the bottom, Kofuji in the middle, and Fuji at the top.
  4. Mount Fuji has 4 trails to the summit. The Yoshidaguchi Trail being the “easiest” and the most beginner-friendly trail of all.
  5. There lakes that surround Mount Fuji – these Japanese lakes are the best spot to photograph mount Fuji more than anywhere else.

Source: the Japanese shop

Nearest Town to Mount Fuji

There are many towns and cities that surround Mount Fuji. Each has “special” spots where we can visit to view mount Fuji. But if we are looking for the best sceneries with this mountain at the backdrop, two of the places we should try are:

  • Fujikawaguchiko
  • Yamanakako

How hard is it to hike Mount Fuji?

There are 4 trails available to climb mount Fuji. They have different levels of difficulty.

  1. Yoshida Trail – “Zigzag path on relatively flat ground surface up to the 7th station. Slightly rocky beyond the 7th station.”
  2. Subashiri Trail – “Relatively gently sloped and tree-covered up to near the 7th station.”
  3. Gotemba Trail – “Gentle slope of volcanic gravel up to near the 8th station.”
  4. Fujinomiya Trail – “Generally very rocky and steep.”

Read more about these trails from the official website of Mount Fuji Climbing.

Final Thoughts

At first, I really could not believe that these mountains exist in Japan. I’ve always been looking into Europe or Canada to see such a spectacle. With these mountains in Japan, I feel more excited to visit this beautiful country.

I would be happy to see at least even one of these mountains on a sunny day. That’s gonna complete my whole Japan trip once we finally come to Japan after the pandemic. I will always love the mountains.

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mountains in Japan

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