Japan – Enjoying the sunrise over Mount Fuji from Japan’s second tallest mountain

Fuji

Japan, unlike the image of flat urban sprawl that most people have, is a very rugged country with 73% of the country covered by mostly uninhabited mountains. Most people know Japan’s most famous and tallest mountain, Mount Fuji, but a lot less can name the second tallest moutain in Japan: Kita dake – it’s 3,193 meters tall and we have hiked it!

Having hiked both Fuji and Kitadake, I have to say Kitadake is my favored hike but it’s not an easy one: 1,650 meters of very rapid elevation gain!

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As is standard in Japan for popular destinations the trip to the beginning of the hike involved a packed bus heading to Hirogawara from Kofu.On arriving at the hike’s bus stop we were almost straight onto the path, which is challenging right from the beginning. As we hiked the weather turned pretty quickly for the worse so it made our trip up even more of a battle.

In the end  we were very relieved to reach the Kata no Koya hut as our legs were drained and our vision impaired by the fog. Hoping that we would be able to relax a bit in the hut after the grueling trip up we were to be disappointed : life in a japanese hut is a bit like being in the army barrack: strict, very organized and packed. Dinner at 5pm, old japanese guys snoring all night, and all this in such a small space that we never mananged to totally lay down withouth touching the feet of our neighbour. And the toilets are outside, which made for an interesting night trip (in the middle of a storm) to go to the toilets… it wasn’t the most comfortable night thats for sure.

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But the next day it was all worth it…as it turned into a perfect day: the weather cleared and the view to Fuji was incredible. It had snowed overnight and the storm left ice everywhere: this made the final climb pretty perilous but so pretty!

On our way back down we experienced three seasons within a few hours: winter on the icy summit, autumn amongst the red leaves and then by the time we reached summer at the bottom it was time to get on a seat and come back to Tokyo as our legs couldn’t take anymore!

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Voyagista’s tips

  • This hike can be done over a weekend from Tokyo by taking the train to Kofu and transferring to a bus  (schedule here),  heading to Hirogawara. You have to take the bus  as the last part of the road is closed to public.

  • My recommended itinerary is to turn right at the first crossing after leaving Hirogawa and head towards Shiraneoike. You climb until you reach the ridge, then turn left towards Kata-no-koya hut. The next day attempt the final ascent to the summit and head back towards hirogawa on the other side of the mountain.

  • You need to make sure you have the proper gear – this is a difficult hike in a high mountain environment, which means the weather could turn (really) bad any time

  • I suggest you sleep in Kata-no-koya so you can enjoy the sunrise over Fuji. The hut provides meals.

  • The hike is described in the popular “hiking in Japan” guide  – photocopy the page for the walk to save weight

Have you been to Kita Dake? Did you like it? What’s your favourite hike in Japan?

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