Years ago, I never had any idea what the mountains in Japan looked like. Of course, except for Mount Fuji! As I created our itinerary for our Japan trip, I discovered 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 I’m on top of the world. It empowers me. For if I can conquer this mountain, I can overcome my fears.
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In this blog post, I share the most beautiful mountains in Japan that I discovered. I included the city or town nearest 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 a list of the most beautiful mountains in Japan, which were selected based on the following criteria:
The book became famous when it was remarked by Emperor Naruhito when he was still a prince. Since then, it has inspired many people to reach all the summits 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, watched youtube videos, and scanned hundreds of photos on the internet to select what belongs to my 10 Best Mountains in Japan.
1. 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’s spectacle lies at its peak, which looks like the tip of a spear thrust up to the sky. It is 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.”
Mount Yari Interesting Facts
- The first-ever man recorded to reach the summit of Mount Yari was 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.
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 beginners can find very difficult.
According to reviews of Mount Yari from Brad Jaeger, the last 6 kilometers of the trail have 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 slightly much more of a hike.
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2. 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 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 a shape that can be clearly recognized from afar – the reason why I included it in this list.
The mountain’s curve graciously scrapes the sky, creating a charm similar to Mount Fuji. Actually, it is also called Nanbu Fuji because it resembles 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.
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.
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 a cherry tree is on a lush green field, with Mount Iwate in the background.
However, if we want to see Mount Iwate, which 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.
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3. Mount Tsurugi
“The most dangerous mountain climbable.” “premiere mountaineering peak in winter.” That’s what they call Mount Tsurugi. This mountain in Japan, which reaches 2,999 m (9,839 ft), is recognized to have world-class long routes that challenge the most experienced hikers worldwide.
Although Mount Tsurugi is one of the most dangerous mountains to climb, the number of fatalities from this mountain is “only a fraction” of the 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.
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 Japan’s “major” peaks to be summited.
The twist happened when the first climbers of Mount Tsurugi believed that they had 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.
Nearest Town to Mount Tsurugi
There are several places near the Northern Japan Alps to see the beautiful snowcapped mountains.
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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 provides a better view of the mountains and many skiing resorts.
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 and 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 and 1874 feet. It is recommended for those who have enough climbing experience.
4. Mount Goryu
Mount Goryu is a mountain in Japan in the Northern Japan Alps belonging to Chubusangaku National Park. Its summit reaches an elevation of 2814 meters or 9232 feet.
Hiking Mount Goryu reveals the crisp wrinkles of Earth that form a beautiful jagged line everywhere. It is stunning scenery only seen in “real” alpine surroundings.
Mount Goryu compels hikers to climb through 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 where 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.
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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 “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 ladders and chains, especially in 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.
5. Mount Hotaka
Having a height of 3,190 m (10466 ft), Mount Hotaka is the tallest of the mountains in the Northern Japan Alps and is 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 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.
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:
- Mt. Okuhotakadake (3,190m)
- Mt. Hotakadake (3,110m)
- Mt. Kitahotakadake (3,106m)
- Mt. Maehotakadake (3,090m)
- Mt. Nishihotakadake (2,909m)
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?
Different climbing trails 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 has an elevation gain of 1685 meters or 5528 feet.
Some trail features climbing steel ladder and scrambling on steep rocky ridges. All these are for the heavenly beauty reward that can be claimed at the summit.
6. 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.
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 extending north to south of the mountain.
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 resistant to shoveling. It is the stage in the middle of the snow being snow and glacial ice.
Aside from that, it is here that we can find Hakuba Daisekkei Gorge, Japan’s “largest” snowy gorge.
Nearest Town to Mount Shirouma
The village of Hakuba in the Kitaazumi district is the nearest place to 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 of 6.8 kilometers or 4.2 miles in length with an elevation gain of 1034 meters or 3392 feet. It is considered “hard,” yet other routes are available that first-time hikers could try.
However, some websites say the trail to Mount Shirouma starts in Surakawaso or 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 on alltrails.com.
7. Mount Yake
Mount Yake, the “Burning Mountain,” is a 2,455 m (8,054 ft) tall mountain 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 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 yearly.
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.
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 in the Northern Japan Alps.
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.
8. 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.
Tateyama has three peaks with an average height of more than 3000 m (9842.5 feet). They are:
- Onanjiyama 3,015 m (9891.7 ft)
- Oyama 3,003 m (9852.4 ft)
- Fuji-no-Oritateyama 2,999 m (9839.2 ft)
Mount Tate is located in the southeastern area of Toyama Prefecture, the starting point of the 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.
We can find cable cars, tunnels, hotels, dams, funiculars, tramways, and onsen baths here. There’s even a shrine at the summit!
Mount Tate Interesting Facts
Tateyama is one of the places in Japan with the highest 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 can 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-meter long trip to the fantastic icy white world, perfect to spend time during winter and spring.
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 scenery 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 a total horizontal distance of 13.3 kilometers (8.26 miles)
9. 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 among Japan’s tallest mountains but is regarded as one of Japan’s Ultra peaks.
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.
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 on 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.
Nearest Town to Mount Yotei
These are the 5 towns around Mount Yotei where we can spot Mount Yotei:
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. A hut at the summit can accommodate us for the night, allowing us to watch the sunset and sunrise if the weather permits.
10. Mount Fuji
Last and, of course, not least, but the best of all, Mount Fuji. It is the highest mountain in Japan, reaching 3776 meters (12388 ft). This mountain holds the most value than any mountain in Japan regarding grace, individuality, and history.
Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano with 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 known in every corner of the world.
There’s nothing much to explain because its image is enough to tell why it is here on the list.
Mount Fuji Interesting Facts
- It is the number 1 most climbed mountain in the world. There are around 300,000 climbers who hike and climb mount Fuji every year.
- Its last eruption lasted for 2 weeks in 1707. Thankfully it never erupted again.
- Mount Fuji is made up of 3 volcanoes. Komitake at the bottom, Kofuji in the middle, and Fuji at the top.
- Mount Fuji has 4 trails to the summit. The Yoshidaguchi Trail is the “easiest” and the most beginner-friendly trail.
- 5 lakes 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 scenery with this mountain as the backdrop, two of the places we should try are:
How hard is it to hike Mount Fuji?
There are 4 trails available to climb mount Fuji. They have different levels of difficulty.
- Yoshida Trail – “Zigzag path on the relatively flat ground surface up to the 7th station. Slightly rocky beyond the 7th station.”
- Subashiri Trail – “Relatively gently sloped and tree-covered near the 7th station.”
- Gotemba Trail – “Gentle slope of volcanic gravel near the 8th station.”
- Fujinomiya Trail – “Generally very rocky and steep.”
Read more about these trails from the official website of Mount Fuji Climbing.
At first, I could not believe that these mountains existed in Japan. I’ve always looked into Europe or Canada to see such a spectacle. I feel more excited to visit this beautiful country with these mountains in Japan.
I would be happy to see at least 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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