Archive for the ‘Nihyakumeizan (二百名山)’ category

Mt. Yufu (由布岳)

January 30, 2011

Mt. Yufu is a massive volcano towering over the idyllic hot spring town of Yufuin. The views from the summit are impressive on the rare day when the cloud isn’t in.

The hike: After exiting the bus, turn left and walk along the road a few meters, and you’ll see the entrance to the trail on your right. The first part is a vast meadow with views of Mt. Yufu towering above. There are several trails in this area. Take whichever you like, but make sure you head towards the forest under Mt. Yufu and not up the bald conical peak to your left. You should reach the edge of the forest in about 10 minutes or so. There’s a trail branching off to the right, but ignore this trail and head straight ahead. The woods are quite beautiful and surprisingly quiet, and the path meanders a bit before shooting off towards the left and up to the ridge line. At the junction, you’ll find a couple of places to sit down. This junction is marked on the maps as 合野越, but I don’t recall any signposts indicating this name. Take a breather because the real climb is about to begin. Take the trail to the right, where you’ll soon start the first of many switchbacks. How many, you ask? Well, I basically stopped counting after 40! The route is well-trodden and impossible to get lost as long as you follow the switchbacks. The views will gradually start to open up as you climb higher above the valley. In no time you’ll have a view directly down into the grassy crater of Mt. Iimorigajou, with the town of Yufuin beyond that. As you reach the saddle below the peak, the switchbacks become shorter and steeper, with the last few meters up a series of large steps built to keep erosion at bay. Once at the junction, you have two options. You can either turn right and climb to the summit of Higashi-mine (東峰) or turn left for the treacherous ascent of Nishi-mine (西峰), the higher of the two. If you have any fear or heights or no confidence using metal chains, then I recommend opting for the safety of Higashi-mine. Otherwise, turn left at the junction. Immediately after climbing, you’ll reach your first set of chains. If the cloud is in, then it could easily be mistaken for one of the trickier sections of the Japan Alps. There’s a fair amount of up-and-down between here and the summit, so follow the paint marks, chains, and crowds if there are any. After around 15 minutes you’ll reach the summit of Nishi-mine, where the views are supposedly spectacular. I spent the entire climb in the clouds, so hopefully you’ll be luckier that I was. If you’ve got time, then you can actually do an entire loop of the crater, taking in Higashi-mine before descending back down to the saddle. Just continue on the path you haven’t taken from the summit. The maps recommend one hour for the loop, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it if visibility is poor. If you’re short on time, then simply retrace your steps back through the danger zone of the chains and back down to the saddle. Descend down the same switchbacks you used to climb the mountain, and amuse yourself by trying to determine the precise number of switchbacks. Once you’re back at the junction of 合野越, instead of turning left to head back to the parking lot where you started, take the faint, overgrown straight ahead that leads towards Iimorigajou (飯盛ヶ城). Follow the path for about 50 meters before reaching a rather large clearing. This is actually an old forest road, and you’ll see an unmarked and incredibly steep trail directly in front of you that leads to the summit of Iimorigajou. It only takes about 5 minutes to reach the summit, and the views are totally worth it. With all of the lush greenery, it’s a splendid place to take a break and admire both the view of Yufuin and of the towering volcano you just finished climbing. After admiring the views, retrace your steps back to the forest road and turn left. After a few minutes of descending, you’ll see a white sign that says 湯布院町に至る、西登山道、岳本. The trail branches off towards the left and, honestly speaking, is a bit difficult to follow. Scattered throughout the grasslands are red signs reading 西登山道 and the grass is greatly overgrown. If you’re not up for the adventure, then never fear, because if you stay on the forest road then it’ll lead you to the junction. Whichever route you decide to take, once the trail intersects the forest road again, you’ll see a path heading into a cedar forest with a signpost marked for Takemoto (岳本). Follow the path through the forest and watch out for spider webs. Eventually, the path will end behind a series of greenhouses. Turn right when you hit the paved road and then a left at the first junction and you’ll descend to a larger road with a Lawson convenience store. Walk over to the Lawson and take the road next to it that descends towards the town of Yufuin. Take your first left and you’ll arrive at a small lake and the wonderful thatched-roof bath of 下ん湯. Drop 200 yen in the honesty box and enjoy the angelic hot-spring waters. After a soak, you can walk through the touristy town back to the station in about 25 minutes.

When to go: This hike can be done year round if you bring crampons and an ice axe in the winter. The final climb to Nishi-dake should not be attempted in icy conditions. November is the best time to see the autumn colors.

Access: From Yufuin bus center, there are regular buses to Beppu that stop at Yufuin Tozanguchi (由布岳登山口). The bus takes about 15 minutes and costs 360 yen. Yufuin bus center is about 20 meters east of JR Yufuin (由布院) station. Go out the main exit and walk down the main street running perpendicular to the station. The bus center is on your left. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: Click here

Live web cam: Click here and select ライブカメラ

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 813m).

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Mt. Akita-Komagatake (秋田駒ヶ岳)

December 20, 2010

Mt. Akita-komagatake is the highest mountain in Akita Prefecture and easily one of the most picturesque. The views down towards Lake Towada are incredible on a clear day, and the wildflowers are some of the best in the Tohoku region.

The hike: From the bus stop, head past the entrance of the souvenir shop to the fountain that doubles as a water source. Fill up your bottles here, as there are no other reliable water sources on the hike. The trail starts to the right of the water. After 5 meters of walking, you’ll see a trail on your left, but ignore this and head straight. The path will curve off to the right, climbing a gentle spur towards the summit plateau. The path looks a bit like a volcanic forest road, with colorful lava rocks and an immense collection of wildflowers. After about 15 minutes of climbing, the mound-shaped peak of Mt. Oname (男女岳) will come into your view. The trail wraps around the northern flank of the peak before flattening out at a splendid volcanic lake. The reflections of the peak in the water are phenomenal when the weather is clear. At the far side of the lake is a mountain hut, so follow the wooden planks and drop your gear out front. This hut was locked when I climbed in August 2010, so I’m not sure whether you’re allowed to stay here or not. It should have taken anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes to reach this hut, depending on your speed. Follow the steps (and the crowds) up to the summit of Mt. Oname, the highest peak in Akita prefecture. The peak overlooks Lake Tazawa, as well as the distant peaks of Mt. Iwate and Mt. Chokai. After a few obligatory snaps, retrace your steps back to the hut and walk back along the lake as if you were going to descend back down to the parking lot. On the left side of the lake you’ll find a trail branching off to the left with a signpost for Odake (男岳). In 5 minutes, you’ll reach the ridge line. Turn right and start the steep, rocky climb towards the twin peak of Akita-koma. This climb is a lot more strenuous than the ascent of Mt. Oname, but the views down towards the grassy crater of Ko-dake are well worth the extra effort. After reaching the top, retrace your steps back to the saddle. Instead of turning left back down to the lake, keep climbing straight ahead on a path labeled on the maps as the “horse’s back” (馬の背). The narrow path lives up to its name, with steep drops on both sides and a panoramic view of lush, verdant peaks all around. It should take about 10 minutes of sweaty climbing to reach Yoko-dake (横岳). Turn left here and follow the ridge up and over the scree fields of Yakemori (焼森). If you’re tired, then there’s a trail on your left that leads down to the parking lot of Hachigome in about 40 minutes. Otherwise, start the long descent and even longer climb towards Mt. Yumori (湯森山). At the bottom of the descent there’s a small stream marked as a water source on the map. I’d recommend bringing a water filter in you’re planning on relying on this water. It should take about 40 minutes from the water source to reach the summit, where the views back towards Mt. Oname are entrancing. Here you’ll have to make a decision. If you want to continue all the way to Nyuto-dake and down to Nyuto Onsen, then you’ve still got 4 to 5 hours of long hiking in front of you. I recommend turning left here for the 20 minute stroll to the peak of Sasamori (笹森山), which has one of the best alpine grasslands in the entire area, filled with a wide assortment of wildflowers. From here it’s a 30 minute descent back to Hachigome. The trail drops steeply to a mountain stream and then climbs up towards the bus stop. All in all, it should take between 4 to 6 hours to complete the entire loop.

When to go: This hike can be done from early June to late October, when the buses to Hachigome are running. Please note that private cars are not allowed at the trailhead, so you’ll have to park at Arupa-Komakusa and take the bus along with everyone else. A winter ascent is also possible with the right gear and experience. Click here and here to see 2 different Japanese blogs.

Access: From Tazawako (田沢湖) station on the Akita Shinkansen, take a bus bound for Komagatake-Hachigome (駒ヶ岳八合目) and get off at the last stop. The bus takes about an hour and runs from June 1st to October 31st. Click here for the bus schedule. You can also take a bus bound for Nyuutou-Onsen (乳頭温泉) and change to the Hachigome bus at Arupa-Komakusa (アルパこまくさ) bus stop. Click here for the Onsen bus schedule.

Live web cam: Click here

Map: Click here

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change 337m)

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Mt. Himekami (姫神山)

September 25, 2010

Mt. Himekami is a inverted wedge-shaped peak situated roughly 20km north of Morioka city in Iwate Prefecture. The views of Mt. Iwate and the alpine flora make this area a hit with locals throughout the year.

The hike: From the parking lot, head up the trail past the toilet block of the small campground. After around 5 minutes you’ll enter the forest and cross the dirt forest road. This is where the trailhead proper starts and where the taxi driver will drop you off unless you say otherwise. The path is well-trodden and easy to follow. Meander through the cedar forest for a few minutes or so and you’ll come to a large cedar tree and a water source on your right. Please note that as of August 2010 this water is unsafe to drink, and there are signs in Japanese warning hikers not to do so. This is the only water source on the mountain, so make sure you fill up at the parking lot before you start the hike! Anyway, from here the trail parallels the stream, traversing a steep area with lots of wooden steps built to help prevent erosion. Eventually you’ll reach the 5th stagepoint (五合目), a good place to take a break. The path continues its steep ascent with even more steps (reinforced with concrete, no less) to assist in your effort. After 10 minutes of sweaty climbing, the route abruptly turns right, traversing the side of the mountain until reaching the 8th stagepoint (八合目). Be careful of this traverse in the winter/spring if the snow is unstable. From the 8th stagepoint, the best part of the hike awaits, as the alpine flowers will now start appearing in the rock formations around the trail. Although steeper than before, this really is very pleasant hiking, especially due to the lack of boring wooden steps! You’ll still be in the treeline, so it’s difficult to gauge how far you need to go, but don’t give up. In around 20 minutes you’ll reach a junction. Either path will lead you to the summit, but I highly recommend taking the right fork, as there’s a fantastic section of boulder-hopping that awaits. The forest turns into brush pine as the views really start to open up. Mt. Iwate towers over everything else around, and if visibility is good you can even see Mt. Chokai way off in the distance. Mt. Hayachine will be due east as well. Keep hopping over the rocks for about 5 minutes, turning left to reach the summit. Take a break here and admire the spectacular scenery. If you’re hiking in the winter you might want to avoid the right fork and just stay left for the easy zig-zag route to the top. You can take this trail on your way back down if you like as well. All in all, it should take around 90 minutes to reach the summit from where the taxi dropped you off. From the summit, simply retrace your steps back to the parking lot. There’s also another trail called the kowazaka route (こわ坂コース) that’ll also take you back to where you started, but it involves a long walk on a forest road to get you back to the parking lot. There’s also another trail that heads southwest from the summit that leads to the Shironai (城内) trailhead, a longer, less popular approach. I personally haven’t used that route so I unfortunately can’t offer any advice on that approach.

When to go: This hike can be done from April to November without too much trouble or effort. Bring a pair of crampons/snowshoes and watch out for the boulders on the summit if attempting this hike in the winter. Click here to see the beautiful winter scenery.

Access: Please note that there is no public transportation to the trailhead, but you can affordably take a taxi. From Morioka station, take a train on the exotic-sounding Iwate Galaxy Railway (Iwate Ginga Tetsudo in Japanese) bound for Metoki (目時) and get off at Koma (好摩) station. The train takes around 25 minutes. From there, tell the taxi driver to let you off at Ipponsugi Tozan Guchi (Ipponsugi trailhead). The driver will probably try to take you up the forest road to the actual start of the hike, but ask him/her to let you off at the shuushajou (parking lot) because there’s a toilet and water source there. The taxi should cost around 3000 yen. If there’s no taxi waiting at the station, then call 019-683-2311 in Japanese and tell them you are at Koma station and want to go to Himekami san.

Map: Click here

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~600m)

Mt. Buna-ga-take (武奈ヶ岳)

May 23, 2010

photo and text by James McCrostie

The hike described here is an alternative, longer way to climb the Buna-ga-take hike listed in the Lonely Planet hiking guide. This hike begins from Shiga station (志賀駅) near the shores of Lake Biwa and requires one night’s camp in the mountains.

The hike:

DAY ONE: (5-6 hours) Exit Shiga station by turning right to walk back along the tracks in the direction the train came into the station. When you come to the third road that crosses the tracks turn right, cross the tracks, and head up the hill towards Kinoshita Shrine (樹下神社). Turn right when you reach the shrine’s torii gate and follow the hiking course signs. After crossing highway 161 via a pedestrian tunnel you’ll come to a sign-posted path called Kitadaka-michi (キタダカ道) which heads up into the mountains. It takes about 40 minutes from the station to this start of the hiking trail proper. After crossing a small concrete bridge, the trail makes a slow and steady climb up, going around a pair of dams. There are plenty of switchbacks and after about two and a half hours you’ll reach a junction leading to Kido-touge (木戸峠) or to Biwako Alps lodge (びわ湖アルプス山荘) and Biwako valley ski area (びわ湖バレイ). Head towards Kido-touge and after about 20 minutes the trail reaches another junction. This time head towards the 1,051 meter Hira-dake (比良岳) and after about 20-30 minutes there is a stream marked on maps and with a small wooden sign as a water source but it should probably be filtered, boiled or treated before drinking. The rubbish pits around this stream raise the philosophical question when do discarded cans and bottles stop being garbage and start being historical artefacts? Depending on your answer, you might consider bringing an extra garbage bag with you on this hike to pack out some of the rubbish. After reaching Hira-dake continue on the trail to Karatoyama (烏谷山) then Arakawa-touge (荒川峠). Twenty minutes after Arakawa-touge the trail reaches Minami-hira-touge (南比良峠) where you should take the trail down to Kanakuso-touge (金糞峠). From Kanakuso-touge, ignore the trail leading to Kitahira-touge (北比良峠) and follow the trail down towards Yakumo-ga-hara (八雲ヶ原) and Naka-touge (中峠). From Kanakuso-touge you can hear the sound of rushing water and the trail soon begins to follow a stream. Beside this stream, where the trail splits towards Yakumo-ga-hara or Naka-touge, there is an unofficial campsite with several flat areas to pitch a tent. This is also the last good place to get water so make sure you fill all your canteens. There’s no reliable source of good water on day two so you’ll need two days worth. The lack of proper toilet facilities around this unofficial campsite also means you should filter, boil or otherwise treat the water.

DAY TWO:(9+ hours) Following the trail towards Yakumo-ga-hara you’ll crisscross the same stream several times, reaching Yakumo-ga-hara and the now abandoned Hira ski hill after about 40 minutes. Take some time to explore the Yakumo marsh; depending on the time of year you may spot flora such as white egret orchids or fauna including fire-bellied newts or forest green tree frogs. During rainy season these frogs lay large egg sacks in tree branches above ponds. After hatching, the tadpoles fall into the water below. Keep to the boardwalk to avoid damaging the delicate ecosystem and ponder how anyone got permission to build a ski resort essentially on top of it. From Yakumo-ga-hara, it’s nearly an hour and a half to the peak of Buna-ga-take. Initially, it’s a steep climb up to the top of an abandoned ski run, then the trail heads back into the forest. After 30-40 minutes in the forest you’ll pass through a section of the trail littered with old bottles and cans and, not long after, reach the 1,214 meter peak of Buna-ga-take. From the peak, take the Kita-ryou route (北稜) towards Hosokawagoe (細川越) and Tsurube-dake (釣瓶岳) and continue on to Ikuwata-touge-kita-mine (イクワタ峠北峰) which should take about an hour and a half. However, after descending from the top of Buna-ga-take and shortly after passing a rock cairn, avoid taking an unofficial trail that leads off to the left. There is no sign-post marking the start of this unofficial trail and it isn’t marked on the maps but it leads straight down the mountain, reaching highway 367 after 2-3 hours. Itユs poorly marked with red and silver or red-faded-to-pink tape tied to branches and isn’t nearly as well maintained as the main trail. From Ikuwata-touge, avoid the trail going down to Hotorayama (ホトラ山) and take the trail to Sugawa-touge (須川峠), which you should reach after about two hours. A little more than an hour walking will then bring you to the top of the 901-meter Jyatani-ga-mine (蛇谷ヶ峰). If the clouds cooperate you can enjoy views of Lake Biwa and Mount Ibuki. Keep to the trail leading down to Kutsuki-onsen-tenku (くつき温泉てんくう), which takes about an hour and forty minutes from the top of Jyatani-ga-mine. From Kutsuki-onsen-tenku there’s a shuttle bus leading to the Kutsuki-gakko-mae bus stop (朽木学校前) where buses run twice a day to Demachiyanagi bus stop in Kyoto (leaving at 9:30 and 17:00 and taking about 90 min.) and nine times a day to Adogawa station (安曇川) on the JR Kosei line (about 30 min.). Click here for the latest bus schedules and more information about the hot spring

When to go: The most picturesque, though busiest, time is during the autumn when the leaves have changed colour, usually from late October to early November. Only hikers with winter hiking experience and gear should even think about climbing Buna-ga-take in the winter.

Access: From Kyoto (京都) station, take a local (普通) JR Kosei line (湖西線) train bound for Ohmi-Imazu (近江今津) or Tsuruga (敦賀). Get off at Shiga Station, 36 minutes from Kyoto Station.

Map: Hira-Yama-Kei (比良山系) No. 45 in the Yama to Kogen Chizu (山と高原地図) series should definitely be carried by those attempting this hike. It has several alternative approaches and ways off the mountain in case of emergency.

Level of difficulty: 3.5 out of 5 (elevation change ~1000m). Being gradual, the climb to the top itself isn’t too strenuous. However, the second day is fairly long and made more difficult by the lack of water sources. While mountain huts are labelled on maps, most (if not all) are locked and/or abandoned so a tent and cooking gear are required for this hike.

Mt. Tarumae (樽前山)

October 28, 2009

Mt. Tarumae is an active volcano located on the shores of Lake Shikotsu in Western Hokkaido. In addition to the outstanding views of the lake below, the mountain offers a rare chance to view an unstable lava dome.

tarumae1

The hike: There’s a toilet and a small hut at the trailhead, but no water to speak of, so make sure you fill up before leaving Lake Shikotsu. The trail immediately starts gaining altitude, but the going is made easier with an endless array of wooden steps. You’ll reach a small clearing after 10 minutes or so, where the views will start to open up. You’ll see Lake Shikotsu directly behind you and Mt. Fuppushi rising steeply on your right. Directly in front of you lies the conical peak of Mt. Tarumae. The trail cuts a beeline directly across the eastern flank of the volcano, similar to what occurs on the trail up Mt. Asama in Nagano Prefecture. The trail is well-maintained and is suffering a bit from overuse, so it’s almost impossible to get lost. You’ll reach the crater rim in about a half an hour or so, where you’ll find a junction. Turn right for Higashi-dake (東岳), the high point of the crater. The views towards the lake below are spectacular, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Yotei rising gracefully in the distance. If you’ve got time, then you can circumnavigate the entire crater rim in about 2 hours or so. Just follow the trail around towards Nishi-dake (西岳). Whatever you do, don’t enter the caldera to get a look at the gigantic smoldering lava dome, as the gases will likely kill you. The lava dome has been growing steadily since 1909 and is now taller than the crater itself. This is an extremely active volcano with a long history of powerful eruptions and is currently under 24 hour surveillance by the Japan Meteorological Agency. When you’ve seen enough then you can simply retrace your steps back to the parking lot. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike away from the crowds, then you can consider climbing neighboring Mt. Fuppushi. There’s a trail to the summit on the other side of the parking lot. It should take about 3 to 4 hours to reach the top, where the views are outstanding. Make sure you bring a bear bell and/or bear repellent as the col between Tarumae and Fuppushi is a popular hangout for brown bears.

When to go: This hike can be done from mid April to late November, when most of the snow is gone. A mid-winter ascent is also possible for those with winter mountaineering experience and equipment, but you’ve got a much longer approach since the road to the trailhead will be closed.

Access: The start of the hike is only accessible by private transport. You can get as far as Shikotsu-kohan by bus, from where you can hire a taxi for the 3000 yen journey to the trailhead. Click here for the bus schedule from Sapporo to Lake Shikotsu. The number for the taxi company is 0123-25-2111. Just tell them you want to go to Tarumae-tozanguchi. You can also try your luck hitching by walking out to the main road just above the parking lot at Shikotsu-kohan.

Map: Click here

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 1 out of 5 (elevation change 363m).

Mt. Oku-dainichi (奥大日岳)

July 16, 2008

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

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).

Hyonosen (氷ノ山)

April 5, 2008

Last updated: Oct. 15, 2017

Hyonosen is the highest mountain in Hyogo Prefecture, and the only peak in the Kansai area where you can see the Juhyou (樹氷) phenomenon in the winter. It’s also one of the toughest day hikes in the region.

 

This post is currently undergoing editing to reflect current trail conditions. Please bear with us.

The hike: From the bus stop, walk a short way up the road and turn left on a small paved forest road marked for 氷ノ山登山口. Don’t descend to the parking lot or cross over to the ski lifts. I made that mistake and got a little lost on my first trip there. The forest road is pretty gentle, and after about 20 minutes you’ll reach the trailhead and campground. This place is called Fukusada-shisui-koen (福定親水公園). The trail starts behind the toilets (which are locked in the winter). The path passes through a park and campground before dropping down to a river bed. Follow the tape marks and cross the river to the base of the climb. After passing by a triangular distance marker (山頂まで4.5km) you will soon reach a junction for Nunotaki (布滝). Drop your pack here and head right to the wooden bridge overlooking the 65-meter high falls. Retreat back to the main trail and head up the steep slope towards the ridge. There is soon a white sign that reads 28曲り- this is the beginning of a series of 28 switchbacks that gain around 200 vertical meters of altitude. Along the route, you’ll pass by a buddhist statue overlooking Fudotaki (不動滝) which is difficult to see through the thick foliage. You’ll also climb higher above Nunotaki (布滝) and can get a glimpse back down to where you came. The other interesting sight on the route is the ‘connected tree’ (蓮樹), a series of 7 different trees all growing out of the stump of a larger tree. It’s on your right and the different trees are labeled with numbers 1 through 7. After about 20 minutes of climbing, the trail will start to ease and you’ll see a white sign pointing towards Jizōdō (地蔵堂) and a green sign that tells you the 28 turns have finished (曲がり坂終わり). It’s a short, flat walk to the blue corrugated-metal shack of Jizōdō, which houses a very old jizō statue inside. Take a break here if needed to prepare for the big climb ahead. The trail continues through a cedar forest before dropping down to a small stream. Fixed ladder have been installed to help with the steep drop and ascent. In winter and spring this river crossing can be dangerous, so bring ropes to help cross the snow-filled crevice in the snow season. Climb the ladder and continue traversing through the forest. On your left you’ll pass by the ruins of an old temple (木地屋跡) but there isn’t much to see here apart from the signpost. The path steepens and veers towards the right through a beautiful hardwood forest, past a sign indicating a 3.0km distance to the summit (山頂まで3.0km). From here, it’s a steep climb through an expansive forest of healthy beech trees as the views start to open up across the valley. After about 10 minutes you’ll reach a water source called Hienomizu (ひえの水), a fresh water stream providing drinking water. Fill up if necessary and continue climbing towards the ridge. Soon you’ll reach a viewpoint across the valley towards Tōrōiwa (とうろう岩). The rock formation in across the valley on your left, but it’s nearly impossible to see through the thick foliage. The next landmark is another water source named Guhōnomizu (弘法の水) and shortly after that you’ll see the green 2.5km signpost. Continue straight, past a white signpost pointing towards the ridge (氷ノ山越え). Just before reaching the ridge you’ll pass by one final water source (一口水) and a series of wooden log steps for the final climb to the junction. At the ridge you’ll find trilingual signposts (In Japanese, English, and Korean) marked for the summit. With so many signposts and large crowds of hikers, it’s pretty much impossible to get lost in the green season. Winter, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Anyway, there’s an emergency hut and 4-way junction at the ridge along with a couple of benches which make for good places to rest. You can see the summit further along the ridge towards the west, marked by the triangular roof of the emergency hut. Turn left once you’ve reached the junction and follow the broad ridge lined with bamboo grass and large beech trees. You’ll soon see a brown signpost for the Hyonogoe Course with a number (5/10) marked below. These signposts are situated along the ridge, with 10/10 on the summit of the peak itself. They’re good to use to mark your progress. The hiking map says it’ll take 1 hour and 10 minutes to reach the summit, but you can do it in about 45 minutes if you’re fit. Along the route you’ll occasionally see brown posts wrapped with yellow tape reading 119 on them. These are markers for helicopter rescue. If you do find yourself in trouble, walk to the nearest marker and supply the numbered code on the signpost when you call emergency services. The mountain does have its fair share of accidents, mostly due to elderly people who underestimate their abilities and stamina. If you’re fit and can avoid twisting an ankle on the exposed tree roots, then you should be ok. Carry a headlamp and emergency bivouac gear just in case you’re caught out after dark, however. It’s a long hike and the daylight hours in the autumn are shorter. Anyway, continue along the ridge, ignoring the junction on your left for a long steep climb to a false summit. Here, you’ll see the summit plateau directly in front of you, with a large rock formation between you and the summit. Drop down and along the narrow ridge to this rock outcrop named Koshiki-iwa (こしき岩). The trail skirts the rock formation on your left and that is the recommended path of travel. There is an unmarked route up and over the rock, but it is not used very much. It is terribly exposed and absolutely treacherous in wet weather. You can, however, climb about halfway up to a ledge which offers great views of the forest below. If you climb over the rock, you can follow a faint path that leads to the main trail again. My advice would be to just ignore the rock and stick to the main trail, which climbs via a series of long switchbacks and wooden stairs, to the summit of Hyonosen, the highest mountain in Hyogo Prefecture and only 200 meters lower than Daisen. The panoramic views are spectacular in clear weather, and if you climb the ladder on the side of the emergency hut, you can get even better views above the bamboo grass. After a well-deserved break, head down the trail to the right of the hut which leads to Higashi-one (東尾根) and Shindai Hyutte (神大ヒュッテ). The trail drops steeply off the eastern face of the mountain through an area of tall bamboo grass. Watch your footing if the trail is muddy, as it can get quite slippery. You’ll soon reach a junction on your right for Koseinuma (古生沼). It’s a short spur trail to a marsh hemmed on all sides by a tall deer-proof fence. It really isn’t worth the detour unless you like looking at grass. A little further down, there’s another junction on your left for Mitarashi-no-ike (みたらしの池). This trail dead ends after just a few meters and I couldn’t figure out where the pond lies. Better to ignore this one and just continue down the well-worn trail. Wooden planks line the trail through an area of giant cedar trees marked as Kosenbonsugi (古千本杉), the 100 old cedar trees. There are a few dozen giant cedar trees lining the trail and it’s a pleasant change from the bamboo grass that lies further ahead. After about 10 minutes of steep descending, you’ll reach a red-roofed hut and junction. This is the mountain hut for Kobe University and it’s closed to regular hikers. The porch out front makes for a great place to take a break. There’s a 3-way junction here. Turn left and follow the trail marked Higashi-one (東尾根). The route follows the ridge before detouring past a couple of water sources and a large rock formation (人面岩) until dropping along a beautiful ridge of large beech trees. The scenery reminds me of parts of Hokkaido, as you would expect a large bear to jump out at any minute and surprise. But don’t fear – you probably won’t encounter one, so just relax and enjoy the scenery. It’s a long traverse of about 40 minutes before the ridge narrows through an area of Dōdan-tsutsuji (ドウダンツツジ) trees and their beautiful white bell-shaped flowers. The path traverses the contours of the ridge with a cedar forest on your left. You’ll soon reach an unmarked junction with trails to the left and straight ahead along the ridge. You can take either but most people head to the left to avoid the short climb up and over the hump in front of you. A few minutes past this section you’ll reach the small shelter called the Higashione emergency hut (東尾根避難小屋). There is no water source at this hut, and you’re close to the ski lifts anyway, so there’s no reason to stay here (unless it’s an emergency of course!). Turn left at the junction just behind the hut, taking the trail marked for 親水公園. The path drops steeply through a cedar forest and ends up at a paved forest road. Turn left and follow this road all the way back to the bus stop. There is a shortcut trail down to the bus stop once you reach the main buildings of the ski resort. There is a path that cuts down through the ski lifts, but it may be overgrown depending on the season. At any rate, it’s a tough loop of about 6 to 7 hours to complete this beautiful hike. Since access by public transport is inconvenient, you may want to drive or to break up the hike by staying overnight in one of the emergency huts or in an inn near the trailhead.

When to go: This hike can be done all year if you’ve got the right experience and equipment for a winter ascent. The Juhyou (樹氷) in the winter are popular for experienced trekkers, but the hike is not easy. Expect snow all the way until Golden Week. I did this hike in early April and the entire trail was buried under 1.5m of snow. The fall colors reach their peak in mid-October, making it one of the best times to visit.

Access: From Osaka station, take the JR Limited Express KitaKinki train and get off at Yoka station (八鹿駅). From there, take a bus bound for Hachibuse (鉢伏) and get off at Hyonosen-Hachibuseguchi (氷ノ山鉢伏口). The first train departs Osaka station at 8:13am, arriving at Yoka at 10:27am. The bus conveniently departs at 10:40am, arriving at the trailhead at 11:23am. If you’re a slow hiker then consider breaking this hike up and staying at one of the many emergency huts on the mountain. Click here for the bus schedule.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 930m)