Japan is not just the land of great food, culture, and all things weird and wonderful. It is also a land of mountains. Mount Fuji might be synonymous with Japan, but there are many mountains that are just as beautiful as the national symbol. Even though most people tend to gravitate to the cities, going outside of them and hiking some Japan mountains is one of the best ways to get to know the local culture. Here are five incredible hikes to do in Japan, whether you’re looking for a multi-day trek or a short day trip.
1. Mount Takao, Tokyo
Less than an hour away from central Tokyo, Mount Takao is one of the most convenient nature spots. It is also an easy hike – getting to the top only takes about 90 minutes. If you’re less physically inclined, there is even a cable car that will take you halfway up the mountain! The summit boasts of panoramic views of the surrounding areas and Mount Fuji on a clear day. Since it is so close to the city, Mount Takao is a popular spot for locals on the weekends. Try to come on weekdays if you want to avoid the crowd!
2. Mount Aso, Kumamoto
Mount Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan, and also among the largest in the world. Its caldera spans an impressive 25 kilometres across! In the center stand the mountain’s active volcanic peaks, including Mount Nakadake. A variety of hiking trails lead around the craters and peaks. A visit to Mount Aso can be moderate or challenging, depending on which trails you take. Do note that sometimes the crater area is partially or completely closed off to visitors due to poisonous volcanic gases, bad weather or the risk of volcanic activity. So make sure to check the volcano’s current state before traveling there!
3. Mount Kita, Yamanashi
If you’re up for a challenge, Mount Kita is the second tallest peak in Japan. It is also known as ‘the Leader of the Southern Alps’ and features in 100 Famous Japan Mountains. Hiking it is no easy feat – it can take two, three, four or more days, depending on where you stay and which trails you want to do. However, at 3193 meters, Mount Kita boasts of one of the most beautiful vantage points in Japan. Abundant alpine flora grows on the mountain, while animals like wild deer and black bears roam around in the summer.
4. Mount Haku, Gifu and Ishikawa Prefecture
As one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains, Mount Haku is an important spiritual symbol. It is covered in snow for more than half the year, but becomes a popular hiking spot from June to October. For hundreds of years, people have been coming here to pray. At the top of the mountain is the satellite shrine of Shirayamahime Shrine, whose main shrine is down at Hakusan City. The summit also offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area, all the way out to the Sea of Japan and the Northern Alps.
5. Mount Kurama, Kyoto
Mount Kurama is the birthplace of Reiki, a Japanese form of alternative medicine and energy healing. In 1922 the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, meditated for 21 days on this mountain and received enlightenment. Today, there are lots to explore on the mountain, including shrines, lush forests, an onsen, and an easy day hike. You can either take a cable car up the side of the mountain, or hike your the way up while exploring the smaller shrines. It takes about two to three hours and is suitable for beginners too! This is also where the Kurama Fire Festival takes place yearly on October 22.