A majestic mountain range, the Tateyama and Tsurugi peaks in the Tateyama Mountain Range stand tall in the east of Toyama Prefecture. With their jagged saw blade-like appearance, these peaks offer a challenging climb for adventurous travelers.
The Tateyama Mountain Range is best accessed through the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, with the starting points at Tateyama Station in Toyama or Ogizawa Station in Nagano Prefecture. From Toyama, travelers can take the Toyama Densetsu train to reach Tateyama Station, while from Omachi Station, they can proceed to Ogizawa Station before embarking on the Alpine Route towards Murodo.
Geographically, the Tateyama Mountain Range is part of the Hida Mountain Range, also known as the “Northern japan Alps.” The Kurobe Dam is located in the valley between the northernmost section of the Hida Mountain Range, with the Ushiro Tateyama Mountain Range bordering Nagano Prefecture to the east. The Tateyama Mountain Range, on the other hand, is located entirely in Toyama and is central to the prefecture’s identity. Tsurugi, the more visually distinctive peak, sits regally in the center, while Tateyama, although gentler in appearance, is actually taller. Both peaks are major highlights of the Chubu Sangaku National Park.
Tateyama, often referred to as a single mountain, actually consists of three peaks. The best-known peak, Oyama, is the second-highest. Along with Mount Fuji and Mount Hakusan, Tateyama is considered one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. Legend has it that in the eighth century, a hunter chased a wounded bear all the way to Murodo, where the bear transformed into a golden Buddha. The hunter then became a priest and began tending to this sacred place. Today, the mountaintop shrine of Oyama is one of the main attractions of Tateyama.
Tateyama is a popular destination during the warmer months, and its convenient location and relatively easy ascent make it accessible to many. However, the crowds can sometimes pose a greater challenge than the actual climb. To make the journey more manageable, it is recommended to stay at a mountain lodge or hotel along the way. While it is possible to complete the climb as a day trip, it may be more enjoyable and less rushed to break it up into multiple days.
On the other hand, Mount Tsurugi is a more challenging climb compared to Tateyama. It was the last major peak in Japan to be summited, with the first successful ascent achieved in 1906 by officials from Japan’s Land Survey Department. The mountain gained an aura of danger due to the numerous failed attempts before the successful one. During their ascent, the officials discovered a sword and staff dating back to before the 12th century at the summit, adding to the mystery surrounding the mountain. While Tsurugi does not require technical climbing skills, it does involve negotiating exposed ridges with sheer drops. The climb usually starts at Murodo, where hikers can set off on foot for the Kenzanso Mountain Lodge. This facility operates from July to mid-October and serves as an ideal stopover for a 10 to 12-hour hike. To catch the last bus back to civilization, it is advisable to start the hike early in the morning.
For those seeking a more extended trekking experience, the hike from Tateyama to Kamikochi is highly recommended. This six to seven-day hike is considered one of Japan’s premier treks. Starting from Murodo, hikers can head east towards Mount Tateyama and beyond. The hike can be broken down into several stages, with each stage offering its own unique attractions. Goshikigahara, Yakushidake Sanso, Kurobegoro Goya, and Mount Yarigatake are some of the notable stops along the way. The final leg of the hike from Mount Yarigatake to Hotakadake Sanso and Kamikochi is particularly challenging and requires experienced hikers. The hike offers breathtaking views of multiple peaks and is a true test of endurance and skill.
The best time to embark on these hikes is from July to early October. During this period, the weather is generally favorable, and the trails are well-maintained. However, experienced hikers equipped with crampons and appropriate cold weather gear may opt to climb Tateyama as early as late April, after the Alpine Route has opened. It is important to note that early spring hiking is more dangerous on Tsurugi due to its higher difficulty level. For the Tateyama to Kamikochi hike, mid-July to early October is recommended. Earlier in the season, residual snow may pose challenges for less-equipped hikers, and some huts may not be open.
In conclusion, the Tateyama and Tsurugi peaks in the Tateyama Mountain Range offer a majestic and challenging mountaineering experience. Whether climbing Tateyama for its convenient location and accessibility or taking on the more difficult Tsurugi, these peaks provide stunning views and a sense of adventure. For those seeking a longer trek, the hike from Tateyama to Kamikochi is a must-do, showcasing the beauty of Japan’s mountainous landscape. Plan your visit accordingly, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the Tateyama Mountain Range.
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