Trek deep into one of japan‘s greatest wildernesses
The Yatsugatake Mountains, located on the border of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures, are one of Nagano’s most popular hiking and trekking destinations. With the fascinating Suwa region at its doorstep, these mountains provide a great opportunity to venture deep into nature in upland Japan.
Hiking the rolling Kirigamine Highland
One of the highlights of exploring the Yatsugatake Mountains is hiking the rolling Kirigamine Highland. This beautiful plateau offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and is a paradise for nature lovers. The Kirigamine Highland is known for its gentle slopes and vast grasslands, making it a perfect destination for hikers of all levels. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there are plenty of trails to choose from that cater to different fitness levels and interests.
Spotting Japanese wildlife in Yatsugatake’s forests
The Yatsugatake Mountains are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. As you explore the forests and mountains of Yatsugatake, you may come across some fascinating creatures, including flying squirrels, deer, Japanese serows, raccoon dogs, foxes, and even the occasional bear. The area is also known for its beautiful alpine flowers, which bloom in summertime and attract trekkers from across the nation and beyond.
Japan’s highest outdoor bath, Honzawa Onsen
If you’re into onsen, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to hike up to Honzawa Onsen. Located halfway up Mt. Io, Honzawa Onsen offers a relaxing soak in Japan’s highest outdoor bath. Imagine immersing yourself in hot spring water while surrounded by stunning mountain views—it’s an experience you won’t forget.
How to Get There
To reach the Yatsugatake Mountains, the most convenient starting point is Chino Station in the Suwa region. From Shinjuku, you can catch the JR Azusa Chuo Line-Limited Express for Matsumoto and get off at Chino Station. From there, buses run to various Yatsugatake trailheads, Lake Shirakaba, and the Kirigamine Highlands. While there are infrequent buses connecting certain sites in the foothills, renting a car will give you more flexibility and freedom to explore the area.
Mt. Fuji’s biggest rival
While Mt. Fuji may be more famous, the Yatsugatake Mountains are a worthy rival when it comes to stunning alpine landscapes and the sheer number of trekking options available. While Mt. Fuji may be taller, the Yatsugatake Mountains offer a unique and diverse range of hiking trails that cater to all levels of hikers. Whether you’re looking for an easy walk or a challenging multi-day trek, you’ll find it in Yatsugatake.
Scaling the peaks
The Yatsugatake Mountains can be roughly divided into two areas: the northern stretch of the range, which is not as high and offers easier hikes, and the southern section, which has dense forests, rugged peaks, and offers true alpine trekking. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll through the gentle slopes of the northern section or an adventurous climb to the rugged peaks of the southern section, the Yatsugatake Mountains have something to offer for every hiker.
Trekking the long and winding trails
One of the highlights of hiking in the Yatsugatake Mountains is the vast number of trails available. From short walks to multiday alpine excursions, there is a trail for every type of hiker. For a day hike, Mt. Tengu is a popular choice. Standing at 2,646 meters, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and is a relatively easy hike. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can embark on the two-day, overnight loop that traverses Yatsugatake’s main southern ridge, including Mt. Io, Mt. Yokodake, and Mt. Akadake.
It’s all part of the experience
When hiking in the Yatsugatake Mountains, staying overnight at a Japanese mountain lodge is a memorable experience. There are over 30 lodges located across the range, each with its own personality and range of facilities. At these lodges, everyone eats together in the dining room, creating a sense of camaraderie among hikers. The sleeping area is communal as well, with most lodges offering traditional Japanese-style accommodations on tatami flooring. Waking up early for breakfast and hitting the trail is a common practice among hikers in the area. However, if you prefer a more relaxed pace, you can take a nap after breakfast and start your hike later in the day.
Vacation wonderland in the foothills
In addition to the mountains themselves, the foothills of the Yatsugatake Mountains offer a range of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. The plateau between Kirigamine and Mt. Tateshina is particularly popular in the summertime. The artificial Lake Shirakaba and its nearby theme park are fantastic destinations for families and couples looking to escape the Tokyo summer heat. Whether you want to relax by the lake, go for a leisurely boat ride, or explore the theme park, there is something for everyone in the foothills of the Yatsugatake Mountains.
More to explore
If you’re looking to round out your day with some cultural experiences, there are several museums and galleries in the Yatsugatake area worth visiting. The Tateshina Teddy Bear Museum is a quirky museum that houses a monumental collection of stuffed bears. The Yatsugatake Museum of Art showcases the work of local artists and craftspeople, with exhibitions changing with the seasons. For those interested in history, the Togariishi Museum of Jomon Archaeology in Chino is a must-visit. The museum houses priceless artifacts dating back to the Suwa region’s earliest prehistoric inhabitants.
In conclusion, the Yatsugatake Mountains offer a unique and diverse range of hiking and trekking experiences. From the rolling Kirigamine Highland to the rugged peaks of the southern section, there is something for every hiker in this beautiful wilderness. Whether you’re a nature lover, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the Yatsugatake Mountains provide a great opportunity to venture deep into nature in upland Japan. So pack your hiking boots, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the Yatsugatake Mountains.
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