Mt. Yakushi (薬師岳)
Mt. Yakushi is situated roughly halfway between Kamikochi and Tateyama on the main trekking route. Its remote location and access makes it nearly impossible to do as a day trip, but the splendid scenery is well worth the effort it takes to get there.
The hike: From the bus stop, take the trail that leads to Tarobei-goya (太郎平小屋). You’ve got a 1000m elevation gain before reaching the hut, so take your time and bring plenty of water, because there’s no place to fill up between here and the hut! The first 2 hours are pretty steep, but the trail is well-marked and easy to follow. The views will start to open up once you hit the spine of the mountain, and you’ll be staring down at lake Arimine (有峰湖) in no time. The map says to allow 5 hours to reach the hut, but if you’re in good shape and carrying a light pack then you can do it in about 3 or so. Once you finally reach the ridge line, you’ve got 2 options. Turn right for about 100m to check into Tarobei hut, or turn left and descend toward the mountain pass, where you’ll find Yakushitoge (薬師峠) campground. There’s a water source at both the campground and hut, so take your pick depending on your budget (500 yen to camp vs. 8500 yen to stay in the hut!). During the climbing season of July and August, there’s also a medical facility in the hut, which is good for those on the long Kamikochi-Tateyama trek. The next day, wake up early and try to catch the sunrise somewhere along the trail. It’ll take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to reach the summit of Mt. Yakushi, where you’ll have outstanding views toward both Tateyama and Mt. Yari. Unfortunately it was completely foggy and I had no view when I went, but I’ve vowed to get revenge on this monster of a peak. From the summit, you can either retrace your steps all the way back to Oritate, or continue on towards Tateyama, which should take another 2 to 3 days to reach. You could also consider trekking south to Mt. Yari, which will also take another 2 to 3 days.
When to go: This hike can be done from mid-July to early October if you’re relying on the bus, or from Golden Week to early November if you’ve got your own transport. Be prepared for a ton of snow if you’re going before the rainy season. Click here to see the scenery in mid-June!
Access: From Toyama (富山) station, take a bus bound for Oritate (折立) and get off at the last stop. The bus runs every day from July 13th to the end of August, and then on weekends only during September and early October. Click here for the bus schedule.
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1576m).