A view of Mt. Fuji from a Mitsutouge hiking trail in Yamanashi prefecture.
Editor’s Note: For those who may be planning an excursion to Yamanashi after reading the Wide Island’s story on Japan’s wine country, why not plan to spend some time exploring the hiking trails in the area as well? Yamanashi has many hiking trails offering fantastic views of Mt. Fuji. Here a long-time resident of Yamanashi gives us an overview of three of his favorite hiking trails.
By Trevor Hilsendeger
When most people think of Japan, the most common things that come to mind are high-tech gadgets and skyscrapers. Many people don’t realize that Japan is over two-thirds uninhabitable mountainous terrain and offers amazing hiking. For the past eight years I have called Yamanashi my home and have spent an uncountable number of days exploring these trails. Where is Yamanashi? All one has to do is find any map of Japan and locate Mt. Fuji to answer that question. It is almost a guarantee that any picture you have seen of the majestic peak was taken from Yamanashi. Although she can be seen from other prefectures as well, no other place offers the perfectly symmetrical view like Yamanashi. Here are three hikes that most anyone can do, most anytime of the year, that offer outstanding views of Fuji-san. Remember to hike safe, respect the environment and bring your camera.
Mitsutoge 三ッ峠 1,793 meters
Access: The main trail can be reached from the Mitsutoge train station on the Fujikyu train line just a few stops from Fujiyoshida city. All you have to do is follow the signs for the hiking trail. Keep following the road and it eventually turns into the hiking trail.
The hike time: About 3 hours
Elevation gain: Approximately 1,000 meters
This hike offers a lot of diversity in terms of hiking terrain. The start is well forested beside a river with a few waterfalls, the end is a scramble up a steep and often muddy incline and bit of everything in between. It is a little long for some, and there are a few places that you don’t want to slip, but the rewards are well worth the risks. The view from the top is amazing. There is even a mountain hut near the summit where you can buy a hot cup of coffee or a cold beer, if you prefer.
View of the mountains from the Kurodake hiking trail.
Kurodake 黒岳 1,793 meters
Access: The main hiking trail starts just before the Kawaguchiko side of the Misaka tunnel. To get there, head north out of Kawaguchiko on the 137 towards Kofu until you are just about to enter the tunnel. Turn right on the Old Misaka road and there will soon be a parking area on the left where the hike begins.
The hike time: About 2 hours
Elevation gain: Approximately 800 meters
The first part of the hike is heavily treed, but after an hour or so, you will hit the ridge line and be able to see the sky. From here, head to the left and after another hour or so you will reach the summit. There is no view from the summit, but if you head south 200 meters to the lookout point, you won’t be sorry.
Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms on the Ryugadake hiking trail.
Ryugadake 竜ヶ岳 1.485 meters
Access: Head out of Kawaguchiko and west on 138. You will drive past Lake Sai and through the infamous Aokigaharajukai (The Suicide Forest). Don’t be scared. About half an hour out of Kawaguchiko you will see a sign for Lake Motosu. Drive down to the lake and follow the road in a counterclockwise direction. There will soon be a large campground on the left with lots of parking. Plenty of signs will help you find the trail.
The hike time: About 1.5 to 2 hours
Elevation gain: Approximately 700 meters
The first half of the hike offers very little for views as trees of all varieties block the way. But the trail steepens and before you know it you are under an open sky surrounded but 8-foot-tall kumazasa (a kind of bamboo). The trail snakes up the mountain and you will catch glimpses of Fuji-san. There is a large clearing on the top and you will be able to appreciate the scale of Mt. Fuji as well as the Suicide Forest with a perfectly unobstructed view.