Highlights & Hiking Trails
The North Alps boast some of the Japan’s highest mountains, several of which can be reached from the three trailheads – Nakakbusa / Ichinosawa / Mitsumata – at Azumino. For anyone seeking to enjoy alpine pursuits in Japan, this is an ideal place to begin with hikes suitable to anyone from absolute beginners to advanced mountaineers. Just make sure to do your research, pick a hike that’s right for you, know what to expect, go prepared and register your intention to hike at the trailhead. These are some of the most popular mountains in the region:
MOUNT TSUBAKURO / 2763 metres
Often referred to as the ‘Queen of the North Alps’, Mt, Tsubakuro stands 2763 metres above sea level and is an enjoyable overnight hike for beginners and anyone of reasonable fitness (or a single day hike if you are fit and have some experience). Its affectionate naming as the Queen of the North Alps reflects its beauty, elegance and picturesque fields of alpine flowers that bloom above white granite sand. While some parts of the ascent are steep, trails are well-maintained making it a popular climb for beginner and intermediate hikers. The 100-year old Enzansou Mountain Hut is one of the country’s most historic and best mountain accommodations, making this hike particularly enjoyable for anyone looking to dip their toes into alpine exploration in Japan – see below for details.
MOUNT JONEN / 2857 metres
The distinctive pyramid shape of Mt Jonen make is an impressive sight from the valley below with the name said to come from the shape of the mountain, which reminds some people of a monk in prayer. The climb to the summit is harder than that to the top of Mt Tsubakuro and can be attempted from either the Ichinosawa or Mitsumata trailhead, with the hike from Ichinosawa being the easier to attempt.
MOUNT CHOGATAKE / 2677 metres
The lowest of the three peaks listed, Mt Chogatake offers outstanding views of the notably higher Mt Hotaka and Mt Yari – both standing over 3000 metres in height and Japan’s second and third highest mountains respectively. Mt Chogatake can be reached via the Mitsumata trailhead and is yet another very popular hike suitable to anyone of reasonable fitness including beginner.
RECOMMENDED HIKING TRAILS
From Azumino, three trailheads give access to some of the region’s best walks. They can be reached using taxis from nearby train stations and accommodation, with hikes suitable for anyone ranging from beginners to advanced mountaineers. We recommend the following:
MOUNT TSUBAKURO: 2 day / 1 night hike inc. stay at Enzansou Mountain Hut
Starting at the Nakabusa Trailhead (1462m), the walk takes you along the Kassen Ridge – a trail ascending 1250 metres and considered one of the steepest climbs in the Alps. The trail is well-maintained, clearly-marked, and suitable for beginner and intermediate hikers.
The early hours of the hike, which are also the steepest, are through forest saving hikers from the sun on bright days. Regular rest areas are dotted along the path with a cabin serving food and refreshments a couple of hours into the walk. From there, the trail emerges from the forest into a more open landscape offering fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. On clear days you’ll even be able to make-out Mount Fuji looming on the horizon.
Leading to the Enzansou Mountain Hut (pictured above) you can check-in before the final push to the summit at 2763 metres, returning to the hut for the night. In total, day one requires around 5 hours of walking before the descent on day two takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes from Enzansou Mountain Hut back to Nakabusa Trailhead. Once you get back down to the trailhead, make sure to head to one of a couple of ‘onsen’ (natural hot springs) located around the carparks for a well-earned and totally satisfying long soak.