Mt Kitayoko (2480m) & Mt Tateshina (2531m), Chino City, Nagano Prefecture, Sunday, November 11, 2014 [Map Available]

This was the main purpose of my overnight trip to the northern section of the Yatsugatake mountain range. Taking advantage of the ropeway, I could avoid a huge climb and also stay at the quieter Shimagare lodge, although I would end up with a longer but more scenic hike. On the first day, I did a loop via Mt Shimagare and Mt Chausu on the south side. On the second day, I would head head north, passing five huts, 3 peaks and three ponds. After the last summit, I would head straight down the southwest side to a road and parking lot, from where I could walk back to the base of the ropeway and the bus stop for the train station. The clear weather was supposed to hold for both days, so I was looking forward to some more amazing views, and also finding out more about the earthquake that struck the area the previous night.

Hiking on Yatsugatake 八ヶ岳

Download a map of the Mt Tateshina hike

This map was developed for Japanwilds with the Hokkaido Cartographer

Find more Japan hiking maps on Avenza

Mt Tateshina from near Mt Futago

Looking back at the route hiked so far

I awoke before dawn, relieved not to feel my muscles aching, which was lucky since I had a long day ahead. I walked as fast as I dared on the icy walkway, lit up by my headlight, and shortly after passing the Kitayoko-dake hut, reached the top of Mt Kitayoko (北横岳 きたよこだけ kitayoko-dake). It was 6h30 and the sun was rising above the Oku-Chichibu mountains. As it grew lighter, I had a superb view of the peaks of Southern Yatsugatake and the South Alps; turning around, I could see the rounded top of today’s mountain, looking deceptively close. It also looked like it would be another beautiful day, so I would definitely be getting my views.

Early morning Yatsugatake

The rounded top of the Tateshina volcano from Mt Kitayoko

I was now back within phone range so I checked for news about the earthquake and saw that the epicenter was in Hakuba, less than a 100 kilometers away; fortunately damage seemed relatively minimal. At 7am, I headed down into the valley separating the two peaks, along a snowy trail through a pine forest. Progress was slow since the snow here was deeper and more slippery than the previous day. One hour later, I arrived at Kiko pond (亀甲池), surrounded by trees and completely covered in ice. After a short flat section, I reached Futago pond (双子池), meaning twin pond, and actually formed by two ponds, with the Futago-ike hut between them.

One of the twin lakes of Futago-ike

The wide open summit of Mt Futago

The twin ponds were also frozen, but the sun was now shining above, so I stopped for a short break. At 9am, I started going up the other side of the valley, and half an hour later arrived at a flat open space, the top of Mt Futago (双子山 ふたごやま futago-yama), with a view of the highest point of today’s hike directly ahead. After passing the Ogawara hut, the trail became rocky and snowy again as it reentered the forest for the final climb towards the summit. I was stunned by the contrast of the white trunks of the green pine trees against the light blue sky. At noon, after passing the Tateshina lodge and the Tateshina Summit hut, I was finally standing on top of Mt Tateshina (蓼科山 たてしなやま tateshina-yama), a volcano and a hundred famous mountain of Japan.

Walking among the pine trees

Mt Kitayoko from where I saw the sunrise

The summit was relatively wide, which was good, since for the first time on my trip, I had the company of other hikers; I guessed they had climbed via “nanagome” (七合目), the shortest route. I could see a red shinto gate a short distance from the summit, part of the Tateshina shrine complex. The summit area was covered by grey volcanic rocks, so I found a reasonably flat one and sat down for lunch. Some clouds had rolled in but couldn’t spoil the panoramic view: directly below I could see Shirakaba lake, as well as Mt Kuruma, another 100 famous mountain.

The wide, rocky summit of Mt Tateshina

A stunning scenery of white tree trunks against a blue sky on the way down

At 1h30, I tore myself away from the view and started to head down a steep, rocky path, with a bird’s eye view of the Tateshina highland before re-entering the forest of pine trees with their stunning white trunks. One hour later, the trail became level and easier to walk on. After arriving at the Tateshina mountain trail entrance, a kind couple offered to drop me off at the ropeway bus stop, meaning I was able to catch an earlier bus for Chino, where I boarded the limited express for the two-hour ride back to Tokyo, after a successful two-day hike on Yatsugatake.

Mt Shimagare (2403m) & Mt Chausu (2384m), Chino city, Nagano Prefecture, Saturday, November 22, 2014 [Map Available]

My plan was to climb Mt Tateshina but since it was tricky to do from Tokyo in one day, I decided to spend one night at a lodge and turn my trip into two separate hikes. The weather was supposed to be good both days so this seemed like the best choice. Looking at my map, I saw I could head south, passing my two minor summits with viewpoints, and circle back clockwise to my starting point. I was going at the end of the season and expected a little snow on the trails, although nothing technical. I could get to the lodge and start of the first hike by limited express train, local bus and ropeway. I was looking forward to hiking through the alpine landscape of the northern Yatsugatake mountain range, getting some good views of the surrounding peaks and, hopefully, seeing the sunset and the sunrise.

Hiking on Yatsugatake 八ヶ岳

Download a map of the Mt Shimagare & Mt Chausu hike

This map was developed for Japanwilds with the Hokkaido Cartographer

Find more Japan hiking maps on Avenza

View from between the two summits

It was a beautiful autumn day as I rode the Chuo line limited express from Shinjuku to Chino station, where I switched to an Alpico group bus for the one hour ride to the Kita-Yatsugatake ropeway (北八ヶ岳ロープウェイ). I was happy to see few people waiting to go up, which meant I could quickly get to the top station, 2230 meters high. I walked for twenty minutes along a level walkway covered in a thin layer of snow, reaching the Shimagare hut (縞枯山荘) around noon. After checking in, I quickly set off again; wisps of clouds had appeared in the northern sky, making me worry that the good weather might not hold.

Hiking from the ropeway to the lodge

Dusk view near the end of the loop hike

I continued along the walkway, now in the sun and free of snow, and soon reached a junction where I turned right up a rocky path through a pine forest. The trail had snow, but not ice, so crampons weren’t needed. Half an hour later, I reached the top of Mt Shimagare (縞枯山 しまがれやま shimagare-yama). Next, I passed through several clearings with views in different directions: the entire range of Yatsugatake was visible, extending north to Tateshina, and south to Mt Aka; further away, I could see Mt Asama (north), the North and Central Alps (west), the South Alps (south) and the Oku-Chichibu mountains (east). At 2pm, I reached the top of Mt Chausu (茶臼山 ちゃうすやま chausu-yama).

Some snow on the trail but nothing technical

I had the best view of the day from a rocky area near the summit marker (called the Mt Chausu viewpoint 茶臼山展望台). By now, most clouds, and snow, had vanished; it was quite windy but no one else was around, so I felt I had been lucky with the timing of my trip. I was now at the furthest point from the hut and had to get back before the sun set in less than 2 hours. I walked down and around the south side of the rounded peak and was soon walking in the forest again. As the path led northwards, I encountered snow again; luckily the walkway also reappeared making the trail easy to follow.

Sun setting behind the Chuo Alps

Mt Ontake, still smoking one month after the eruption

At 4h30, I reached the top of the ropeway just as the sun was dipping beyond the Chuo Alps; to the right, I could see the impressive outline of Mt Ontake, smoke rising from its summit crater, a vivid reminder of its deadly eruption less than a month earlier. By 5pm, I was back inside the warm and comfy Shimagare hut. One more event marked this first day: unable to sleep, I went down to the main room around 10pm, to read, and shortly after, I felt some strong shaking. Fortunately, the hut was solidly build and all was OK. I was outside phone coverage, and so, as I drifted into sleep, I wondered whether this was a local quake or a more distant and powerful one.

Experience the hike on Mt Shimagare and Mt Chausu

Mt Omine (1915m) & Mt Odaigahara (1695m), Nara & Mie Prefectures, October 2014 [Map Available]

Hiking the hundred famous mountains of Japan 日本百名山

Hiking in the Yoshino Kumano National Park 吉野熊野国立公園

大峰山(おおみねさん omine-san)八経ヶ岳 (はっきょうがたけ hakkyou-dake)

大台ヶ原山(おおだいがはらやま odaigahara-yama

Download a map of the Mt Odaigahara hike

This map was developed for Japanwilds with the Hokkaido Cartographer

Find more Japan hiking maps on Avenza

Dusk on Mt Omine

Walking down from Mt Hide, the highest point of Odaigahara

See the views from the observation platform on top of Mt Hide

Hiking Mt Odaigahara (slideshow)

Sunset from near the summit of Mt Kyo, on Omine-san

Mt Kuju (1791m) & Mt Aso (1592m), Oita & Kumamoto Prefectures, April 2014

Hiking the hundred famous mountains of Japan 日本百名山

Hiking in the Aso-Kuju National Park


九重山 (くじゅうさん kujuusan)

阿蘇山 (あそさん asosan)

Japanwilds Maps on Avenza coming soon…

Hiking trail between the summit and the West Crater Observatory

View from Mt Naka, the highest point of the Kuju mountains

Watch the smoke emerge from Mt Aso’s active crater

Mt Asama (2568m), Komoro City, Nagano Prefecture, Saturday, October 12, 2013 [Map Available]

Hiking the hundred famous mountains of Japan 日本百名山

Hiking in the Joshin-Etsu-Kogen National Park

浅間山 (あさまやま asamayama)

Download a map of the Mt Asama hike

This map was developed for Japanwilds with the Hokkaido Cartographer

Find more Japan hiking maps on Avenza

View of the summit of Mt Asama from near Mt Kurofu