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Do we have to book mountain huts in advance or can we simply turn up?

by Nina
(U.K.)

Dear Gary,

I am planning to climb with my husband Mt. Fuji this summer and walk the 5-day traverse from Kita-dake to Hijiri-dake. I have two questions: Do we have to book mountain huts in advance or can we simply turn up? If we have to book it in advance, do you know how we can do this? (we are UK-residents and don't speak any Japanese).

The second question is: the night before starting the 5-day walk, we want to stay at Hirogawara-sanso which is referred to in our Lonely Planet guide. Again, we cannot work out whether we need to book this in advance. You started a walk there and I therefore wonder whether you know anything about this lodge.

Many, many thanks in advance for your advice.

Best regards,
Nina

Comments for Do we have to book mountain huts in advance or can we simply turn up?

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Oct 04, 2013
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We had a fantastic time in Japan.
by: Nina

Dear Gary,

The message above seems a long time ago now, but I just wanted to let you know that we had a fantastic time in Japan. We did manage our five-day walk through the Minami Alps, and covered quite a few peaks: Kita-dake, Aino-dake, Shimo-dake, Arakawa-dake, Akaishi-dake and Hijiri-dake. The hut experience was excellent. Being the only Westerners in the area during this first week in August, we even got slightly preferential treatment in the huts; the quiet corners for our sleeping places and extra hot water for our coffee.

Your link to the bus timetable to get to Hirogawara was most welcome, in fact, without it, I am not sure whether we would have ever found out how to get there. This is our biggest problem with not speaking and reading any Japanese: finding the right websites to inform us about transport into the mountains.

I have since seen on Amazon that you have published a book on your experience in the Japanese mountains. I have promptly ordered one and I hope it will arrive soon so that we can plan our next holiday.

Many thanks again for your advice which helped us very much with planning our walk,

Best regards,

Nina


Jun 05, 2013
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We now know we have to catch a morning bus from Kofu to Hirogawa
by: Nina

Dear Gary,

A very big thank you for the information you have provided. It is really useful; we would never have found these websites on our own. The bus time table is also useful, as we now know that we have to ensure that we catch a bus in the morning from Kofu to Hirogawa.

We are really looking forward to the Japanese mountain hut experience. Having had a look at the website, it doesn't look all that different from the European hut system, which makes us feel quite a bit more comfortable.

Thanks again for the time you have taken to give us this useful advice.

Best regards,

Nina

Jun 02, 2013
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I've never heard of anyone being turned away from mountain huts
by: Gary Wolff

Greetings, Nina. Wow, that sounds like a very ambitious trip. You guys must be in excellent shape. Interestingly, after 2 decades of climbing Japanese peaks, I don't recall ever being up in the alpine country longer than 3 days. :-)

To my knowledge, I've never heard of anyone being turned away from mountain huts. But during peak climbing periods (especially during Obon (Aug. 10-17), people get crammed in like sardines where you even have to sleep 2 to a space (about the size of a normal sized sleeping bag). And that's no fun....trust me. :-)

So the hut owners do appreciate advance reservations, if possible. That helps them plan for meals, know how many people to expect, etc. Since most huts hire college students, usually there is at least one person there that speaks English.

So if I were you, I would simply Skype them (speak slowly and use easy English), and if there's no one who speaks the Queen's English, :-) then you could call them back after you go to Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/#en/ja/) and learn the Japanese for just a few words or expressions like how to say "reservations," the dates you are staying, number of people, and whether you want to eat dinner and/or breakfast there.

Alternatively, you could e-mail them in English if they have an e-mail address listed on their website (Japanese people can read and write English much better than they can speak it).

As for Hirogawara-sanso, I'm not familiar with that lodge, other than stopping there a few times to wet my whistle, but here is their website: http://www.japanesealps.net/south/hut/hirogawara_sanso.html
And the following page shows pics and links for some of the other mountain huts you'll be passing along your route: http://www.japanesealps.net/south/hut/
(Although I didn't see any in the vicinity of Hijiri-dake.)

One more thing: It's considered bad form if you show up at huts after around 4 pm. The reason is that dinner is generally served in most cases before 6 pm and lights out is around 8 pm. So you might wish to keep that in mind when scheduling where you will park for the night.

Best wishes!

p.s. The bus schedule to Hirogawara for this year's climbing season was just published a couple weeks ago:
http://yamanashikotsu.co.jp/noriai/2013hirogawara.htm (You can also use Google Translate to read this page in English.)


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