Mountains In Japan: The Best Japanese Mountains You Need To Visit

Mountains In Japan: A Worthy Travel Itinerary Feature
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    Japan is well known for its bustling metropolises, ancient shrines and temples, cutting-edge technology, mouth-watering food (oh the food!), anime, manga, fashion and so much more.

    But did you know that Japan also has a breathtaking natural landscape that draws outdoor enthusiasts from around the world?

    From the iconic Mount Fuji to the rugged peaks of the Japanese Alps, Japan’s mountains offer a unique and unforgettable experience for travelers seeking adventure and/or relaxation beyond the “Golden Route” of Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka.

    Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Japan, or you’re planning a second-time (or 3rd or 4th) Japanese vacation, why not incorporate the beauty of Japan’s mountains into your upcoming Japanese travels?

    What Are The Best Japanese Mountains To Visit?

    What’s best for one person may not be the case for others. That said, rather than offering a “supreme” best, we’ll offer up a handful of great mountain regions in Japan that you can consider for your Japanese holiday adventures.

    Mount Fuji –  The Venerable Icon

    Mount Fuji –  The Venerable Icon

    Mount Fuji (3,776 m / 12,388 ft), a revered and instantly recognizable symbol of Japan, undoubtedly tops the list of must-visit mountains. 

    Located about 100km (just over 60mi) west of Tokyo, this is Japan's tallest and most iconic mountain. Fuji-san’s symmetrical stratovolcano is a sight to behold, whether admired from afar or hiked during the official climbing season. The trail to the summit is well-marked and challenging, rewarding hikers with stunning views and a profound sense of accomplishment. At the summit, check out the crater and tori gates plus stay in one of the basic mountain huts. 

    It’s worth noting that, at the time this article was published, local authorities were taking measures to combat the effects of overtourism. Here at Japanese Taste, we want to help promote Japan as the amazing destination that it is – but we also want to ensure that we’re doing so in a responsible and ethical way. The number of visitors to Mt. Fuji’s climbing trails is being limited to preserve the natural beauty and environment. We support these measures, and we encourage all of our readers and clientele to travel responsibly. “Take only memories and leave only footprints,” as the saying goes … and as small a footprint as possible, indeed. Stay tuned to local updates as the situation is likely to change going forward.

    For a less strenuous experience, explore the Five Lakes region at Fuji's base which offers hiking trails, camping and amazing views of the peak's perfect cone. Great lodging options in the Fuji Five Lakes area like Kawaguchiko with traditional ryokans and onsen hot springs.

    While planning your trip that includes Mt. Fuji, be aware that seasonality and weather can have a big impact on the visibility of this revered mountain. The winter months, for example, tend to offer the best views of Mount Fuji from further away, but of course it’s not the climbing season. During the summer, when the mountain is open for climbing, many days can be either rainy or hazy, and thus some visitors leave disappointed that they didn’t really get a good look at Mount Fuji (or sadly, none at all). Therefore it’s best to make plans that include Mt. Fuji, but also incorporate other sights and activities in the region, thus mitigating the potential disappointment factor.

    Japan’s Alps: Not Swiss, But Splendid Nonetheless

    Japan’s Alps: Not Swiss, But Splendid Nonetheless

    The Japanese Alps, a magnificent range of mountains spanning the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi ranges in central Japan, offer a rugged and scenic alternative to the iconic Mount Fuji. 

    While one wouldn’t often mistake themselves for being in Switzerland and not Japan, the Japanese Alps are, in and of themselves, a great destination.

    Japanese Alps – Hida, Kiso, Akaishi Ranges

    Japanese Alps – Hida, Kiso, Akaishi Ranges

    Together this interconnected series of ranges offers some of Japan's most epic, rugged mountain scenery.

    Hida Range highlights include the famous Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route with its soaring peaks, waterfalls and snow walls. Excellent multi-day hiking opportunities across the ranges staying in mountain huts.

    Kamikochi in the Hida Range is a gorgeous alpine valley and resort town that's a hiker's paradise. The traditional post-town of Tsumago in the Kiso Valley is a picturesque basecamp for exploration.

    Mount Tate (3,015 m / 9,892 ft)

    Mount Tate (3,015 m / 9,892 ft)

    The highest point in the Tateyama Range of the Hida Mountains, with demanding hiking and climbing routes, is particularly renowned for its dramatic landscapes, including the famous Kurobe Alpine Route, which takes visitors through a series of breathtaking vistas and unique geological formations.

    The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an amazing way to experience Mount Tate's beauty via cable cars, trolleys and hiking trails. Explore valleys, gorges, waterfalls like Shomyo Falls and unique geological features. The Murodo mountain hut has amazing views and comfortable accommodations right on the mountain.

    Mount Haku (2,702 m / 8,865 ft)

    Mount Haku (2,702 m / 8,865 ft)

    Located in Ishikawa Prefecture, this was one of the first places in Japan where mountain worship developed.

    The challenging hike to the summit takes you through an evocative ancient cedar forest

    At the top, find the remains of a Shinto shrine along with just incredible vistas. 

    Nearby hot spring towns like Awazu make a great basecamp filled with ryokans. And since Kanazawa is appearing on more itineraries these days, thanks to bullet train service from Tokyo, it’s even easier and more accessible to enjoy these mountains.

    Mount Takao (599 m / 1,965 ft)

    Mount Takao (599 m / 1,965 ft)

    Takao-san is an easily accessible day-hike destination just an hour from central Tokyo. Well-marked hiking trails take you through lush forest up to the summit. At the top are temples and shrines, a visitors center and amazing views over the Kanto plains.

    The cute mountain town at the base has casual eateries, craft shops and a chill vibe. Mt. Takao is a fun outdoor getaway from the city that still has a sacred, old-Japanese feel. 

    Hokkaido & Kyushu – Mountains in Japan’s North & South

    Hokkaido & Kyushu – Mountains in Japan’s North & South

    Beyond Japan’s main island of Honshu, there are mountains to be found all over the country, especially on the other primary islands of Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.

    Hokkaido is rugged beauty, pure and simple. Its mountainous landscape features four prominent seasons of scenery, adventure and relaxation. For more on the northern island, see our Hokkaido travel & food article.

    Down south, meanwhile, the island of Kyushu offers unique mountain regions that feature volcanoes, hot springs, black sand immersion and much more.

    Finally (last but not least) is Shikoku, the fourth of Japan’s four primary islands. Shikoku is remote, rugged, mountainous and receives the fewest visitors. But anyone who ventures this way will be rewarded with beautiful scenery, friendly people who are happy to meet and serve you, and a variety of activities and destinations to enjoy.

    Where Are Most Japanese Mountains Located?

    Where Are Most Japanese Mountains Located?

    The vast majority of Japan's most famous and tallest mountains are located along the spine of the Japanese Alps, a series of interconnected ranges that stretch through the main island of Honshu. This includes the Hida Mountains in the north, the Kiso Mountains in the south-central region and the Akaishi Mountains in between.

    These towering peaks and valleys were formed by the tectonic collision of the Pacific, Eurasian and Philippine Sea plates over millions of years. The northern portion around the Tateyama range features some of the most dramatic alpine scenery, with spearhead ridges and rugged waterfall-lined valleys.

    But there are also notable mountains elsewhere in Japan. The iconic Mount Fuji is located near Tokyo, while farther south near Osaka is Mount Rokko, a lower but still popular peak. Up in the northern island of Hokkaido you'll find the Daisetsuzan Volcanic Mountain Range, home to Hokkaido's highest summit Asahi-dake.

    When Is The Best Time To Visit Each Mountain?

    In general, the prime hiking and climbing season for most of Japan's big mountains is during late spring through early fall when the weather is mild and trails are free of deep snow cover. For example, Mount Fuji's official climbing season typically runs from early July to early-September. The higher peaks of the Japanese Alps are also most accessible in this timeframe.

    That said, many of Japan's mountains have attractions year-round. They can make for fantastic winter sports destinations, with resorts offering skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more. The scenery also takes on a magical feel, with snow-capped peaks and valleys. Just be prepared for serious cold and pack appropriately.

    Spring and fall are also wonderful times to visit, with moderate temperatures and in some regions, you can enjoy seasonal spectacles like the blooming cherry blossoms in April/May or the colorful fall foliage in October/November. The peaks will have some snow but usually trails are manageable.

    Some lower mountains like Mount Takao near Tokyo are relatively accessible year-round, though peak times tend to be most pleasant. So when planning, consider your priorities like strenuous hiking, cultural attractions, specific scenery and seasonal timing.

    Why Is It Worth Visiting A Mountain In Japan?

    Why Is It Worth Visiting A Mountain In Japan?

    There are so many reasons why Japan's mountains are worthy destinations for travelers!

    Of course, the obvious draw is the otherworldly natural scenery to be found here. From Mount Fuji's exquisite symmetry and snow-capped grandeur to the jagged ridgelines and plunging valleys of the Japanese Alps, Japan really delivers on mountain drama and beauty.

    But there's also a deep cultural draw to these peaks that you don't always get in other mountainous destinations. Japan has a long tradition of honoring and appreciating nature's majesty. So many mountains feature Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples tucked into the landscapes. Spending time in this environment lets you tap into a meditative, reflective mindset.

    Then there's the sheer fun and adventurous aspect. Japan is a mecca for hikers, mountaineers, skiers and all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. There are thousands of miles of sensationally well-maintained trails, mountain huts and shelters, not to mention world-class skiing and other winter sports infrastructure. You can really immerse yourself in the mountain experience.

    Finally, let's not forget the simple joys of soaking in an Onsen (outdoor hot spring) after a rewarding day on the trails. The Japanese philosophy of finding harmony in nature is best experienced from the welcoming waters of an onsen. It's the perfect way to refresh and reward the active spirit.

    Go Beyond The Golden Route To Experience A Japanese Mountain

    Japan's mountains offer far more than just superior hiking and sweeping vistas. While those attributes alone would make them worth visiting, this island nation's peaks carry an almost spiritual significance woven deeply into the culture.

    Be it standing in awe before Mount Fuji's flawless snow-capped cone, trekking through an ancient cedar forest towards sharing tucked into the mountains, or unwinding in a steamy outdoor onsen after conquering a grueling trail, you'll be immersed in the Japanese tradition of mountain worship.

    From the soaring heights of the Japanese Alps to the more accessible day-hike routes of Mount Takao near Tokyo, Japan's mountains deliver unique adventures for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. Yes, the scenery is jaw-dropping, but it might just be the sacred experiences found here that linger most powerfully in your memory. Want to experience even more nature in Japan? Check out our article on national parks in Japan!

    Have you experienced a mountain adventure in Japan? Tell us about it in the comments below. 

    Happy travels!


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