Mt. Oku-dainichi (奥大日岳)
Mt. Dainichi is a fantastic alternative for those who don’t have the experience or skills for climbing the ‘tough’ peaks of the Kita Alps. In fact, it could possibly be the perfect peak for absolute beginners, as there are no chains or ladders or vertigo-inducing cliff faces.
The hike: From the bus terminal at Murodo, follow the winding, paved path towards Mikuri Lake (みくりが池) and Raicho-daira (雷鳥平). It should take about a half an hour to descend down to the campsite and huts. Fill up on water here, as there’s no water source for the rest of the hike. From Raicho-daira, cross the river and turn left at the junction, following the paint marks and wooden planks towards Mt. Oku-dainichi (奥大日岳). In fine weather it’s pretty easy to see where you’re going, but it can be a little tricky if there’s a snow field or if it’s foggy. The climb is pretty gentle and you should be on the main ridge line in about 40 minutes or so. Turn left at the junction for the start of the climb up to Mt. Dainichi. There are a number of different peaks that you’ll climb up and over before reaching the summit, but the trail is well marked and easy to follow. Keep your eyes peeled for ptarmigan, as there are quite a few on this mountain. In good weather you’ll have outstanding views of both Mt. Tateyama and Mt. Tsurugi, the sea of Japan and Toyama city, as well as Hakusan off in the distance. It should take about 2 hours to reach the summit of Oku-dainichi, the highest peak in the Dainichi range. If you’re only doing a day hike, then you can rest here and retrace your steps back to Raicho-daira. However, a more interesting alternative is to keep traversing on the ridge, over to Mt. Dainichi. It should take another 2 hours of gentle up and down hiking to reach the peak, where you’ll find Dainichi hut (大日小屋). This hut is known as the “lamp and guitar” hut, and it’s open from July 1st to the middle of October. It’ll cost 8400 yen with 2 meals, or 5500 yen for a room only. Click here for the web site. The next day, you can simply continue along the ridge line and drop 1600 vertical meters down to Shoumyou Waterfall (称名滝), a huge waterfall that rivals any found in Yosemite National Park. There’s a bus back to Tateyama station (立山駅) from the waterfall, which means you’ll completely avoid the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route on your way back. Click here for the bus schedule.
When to go: This hike can be done from mid July to late November, when most of the snow will be gone. It’s possible to go earlier if you’ve got crampons, but for beginners it’s better to wait until August when the most of the snow fields will be melted.
Access: From Dentetsu Toyama station (電鉄富山駅) take a local train bound for Tateyama (立山) and get off at the last stop. From there, change to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, taking a cable car and then bus to Murodo (室堂). Click here for English information, including a detailed timetable.
Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~400m).