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The Highest Mountains in Japan

Note: As one of the world's most seismically active countries, it may come as no big surprise that Japan has over 100 active volcanoes, the most of any country in the world. On Sat. Sept. 27, 2014, the Mt. Ontake-san volcano erupted without warning, killing 57 hikers. Before setting out for the high country, climbers would be well advised to check out the current volcano warnings from the Japan Meteorological Agency. On that page, to drill down to specific areas within the Japanese archipelago, click on the "Area" drop down box where it says "Japan". For example, here is the more detailed map for the Kanto (Greater Tokyo Metro) region.

Let's be frank....I'm obsessed with the highest mountains in Japan. During my long-term tenure in Japan, I've been blessed to have had many opportunities to pursue my favorite hobby....mountain climbing. 

Being from Houston, Texas, which is very flat (we don't even have hills), I've always been fascinated by mountains. I acquired hiking fever while I was still a Boy Scout, when our scoutmaster would take us on summer camping trips to experience the gorgeous mountains in Colorado & New Mexico. But I didn't start doing serious mountain hiking until I was in college.

And there is no question that I definitely succumbed to the John Denver "Rocky Mountain High" fever that was prevalent in the early 70's. That Rocky Mountain euphoria had a big influence on my choice of workplace locations through the years and, in turn, my career path as well.

So ever since arriving in Japan in 1991, I've been chipping away at the list below of the highest mountains in Japan. I guess you might say I just really enjoy getting high !!  smiley

Got a question or story about climbing the highest mountains in Japan?


Mountain Climbing 101


Kani-no-tatebaiI was once asked by a friend whether my recent trip to the Japanese Alps was real "climbing" or just "hiking." "Hiking" in the Japanese Alps is a real pleasure, even in the most vertical sections, as there are always plenty of ropes, chains, ladders, and even steel stairways to assist you. This is great, as it means there is no need to lug along any heavy technical gear like ropes, axes, or pitons. 

One of the beauties of living in Tokyo is that exercise is already built-in to our everyday lifestyle. You walk or bike to the train or subway station and, thru the course of a typical commute, have to negotiate FLIGHTS and FLIGHTS of stairs in the stations. And we don't "hike" stairs....we "climb" them. 

So even if we "hike" to the top of a peak, I would argue it's definitely a form of climbing, especially in the many cases where you gain well over a vertical mile (~1609m) in elevation. The awesome "hiking" section shown above is called "kani-no-tatebai" (Japanese for "crawling upwards like a crab"), near the summit of Mt. Tsurugi-dake, the 22nd highest mountain in Japan. Whether one wishes to call it climbing or hiking, you can be the judge.  smiley


"True" Mountaineering


I'm certainly no technical rock climber, and have used ropes, crampons, or ice axes only a handful of times in my entire lifetime.

Actually, the closest I ever came to true mountaineering was in Sept. 1979 when with friends I climbed Gannett Peak, the tallest peak in Wyoming in the spectacular Wind River Range, which contains the largest concentration of active glaciers in the American Rocky Mountains (this was my 3rd attempt at Gannett Peak).

Gannett Peak, Wyoming
Atop Gannett Peak, the tallest peak in Wyoming
Tom, Marion, and yours truly
(And our buddy Brian was the picture taker!) smiley

Nonetheless, Japan has some of the most spectacular peaks I've ever had the pleasure of climbing, and thru the years I've somehow managed to get atop all of the 29 highest mountains in Japan, and 38 of the tallest 50. 

With the exception of Mt. Fuji (富士山), the highest mountain in Japan, & Mt. Ontake-san (御嶽山) which are independent peaks, all of the nation's 25 highest peaks are in the Northern, Central, or Southern Japan Alps mountain ranges, with 12 in the north, 10 in the south, and only 1 in the Central Alps.


Japan's Highest Mountains

Rank Japanese Mountain Name Elevation
(meters)
Date Climbed
(mm/yy)
1 Climbing Mt. Fuji (富士山) FAQ
Climbing Fuji's Fujinomiya Trail
3776 8/91 &
8/12
2 Kita-dake (北岳)  3193 10/93
3 Oku-hotaka-dake (奥穂高岳)  3190 8/94
4 Ai-no-dake (間ノ岳)   3189 9/96
5 Yari-ga-take (槍ヶ岳)  3180 8/94
6 Warusawa-dake (悪沢岳)   3141 8/95
7 Akaishi-dake (赤石岳)   3120 8/95
8 Karasawa-dake (涸沢岳) 3110 8/94
9 Kita-hotaka-dake (北穂高岳) 3106 8/94
10 Obami-dake (大喰岳) 3101 8/94
11 Mae-hotaka-dake (前穂高岳) 3090 8/94
12 Naka-dake (中岳) 3084 8/94
13 Arakawa-naka-dake (荒川中岳) 3083 8/95
14 Ontake-san (御嶽山)   3067 8/01
15 Nishi-notori-dake (西農鳥岳)  3051 8/11
16 Shiomi-dake (塩見岳)   3047 9/96
17 Minami-dake (南岳) 3032.7 8/94
18 Senjo-ga-take (仙丈ヶ岳)  3032.6 8/97
19 Norikura-dake (乗鞍岳)  3026 6/93
20 Tateyama (立山)   3015 10/01
21 Hijiri-dake (聖岳)  3013 8/98
22 Tsurugi-dake (剱岳)   2999 10/01
23 Suisho-dake (水晶岳)   2986 8/03
24 Kai-koma-ga-dake (甲斐駒ヶ岳)  2967 8/97
25 Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳)  2956 8/02
26 Shirouma-dake (白馬岳)  2932 8/06
27 Yakushi-dake (薬師岳) 2926 8/08
28 Noguchi-goro-dake (野口五郎岳) 2924.3 8/03
29 Washiba-dake (鷲羽岳)   2924.2 8/03
32 Shirouma-yari-ga-take (白馬鑓ヶ岳) 2903 8/06
33 Yatsu-ga-take (八ヶ岳)
2899 8/00
34 Kasagatake (笠ヶ岳)  2898 10/09
36 Kashimayari-ga-dake (鹿島槍ヶ岳) 2889 8/07
37 Bessan (別山) 2880 10/01
42 Utsugi-dake (空木岳)  2864 8/02
43 Masago-dake (真砂岳) 2861 10/01
45 Jonen-dake (常念岳)  2857 8/10
47 Mitsu-dake (三ツ岳) 2845 8/03
(Note: one meter = 3.28 feet)
(Click on the hot-linked Japanese mountain names above to see
more details on those mountains, including photos, maps, and videos.)

(Note: "Dake" or "take" (岳), "san" (山), and "yama" (山) all mean "mountain" or "peak" in Japanese, and are added as a suffix
to Japanese mountain names.)




My Google Map of the
25 Highest Mountains in Japan


In Oct. 2009 I created the customized map below, as I thought it'd be cool to see all of the 25 highest mountains in Japan at a glance.


View 25 Highest Mountains in Japan in a larger map

 

Try, Try Again


My love affair with Japan's high country has been pretty much an annual summer obsession. During my 1st couple decades  in Japan, only in 1992, 1999, and 2004 was I unable to escape Tokyo's concrete jungle. And in 2005, due to severely inclement weather, a friend & I were unsuccessful in my first attempt at Mt. Kashimayari-ga-dake (鹿島槍ヶ岳). I also failed in my first attempt at Mt. Oku-hotaka-dake (奥穂高岳), Japan's 3rd highest mountain.

Since my teenage days as a Boy Scout, I've been passionate about the alpine country. Through the years I was fortunate to have had enough free time to ascend to the top of 13 of the U.S. state highpoints (including Mt. Whitney, California's highest mountain & the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states) and 12 of Colorado's 54 famous "Fourteeners" (peaks higher than 14,000 feet (~4267m)).

Mt. Whitney, elev. 4421 m (14,505 ft), climbed in August '89, was without question one of the most awesome peaks I've ever scaled. If you get a chance, pls. check out this amazing 360-degree panorama from the top of Mt. Whitney made by one of my climbing buddies, back before there were digital cameras.

And I've found hiking up the highest mountains in Japan to be very liberating to my spirit....the fresh air, flowers, wildlife, breathtaking sunrises & sunsets, the Milky Way & SO many stars in the sky, and 360-degree panoramas can be quite exhilarating. There's nothing more rewarding than the view from the top of the peak, seemingly with the world at your feet.


“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
--John Muir--

 

Mt. Yakushi-dake, elev. 2926 m.

Mt. Yakushi-dake (薬師岳), elev. 2926 m,
the 27th highest mountain in Japan


Climbing Mt. Fuji



Mt. Fuji (富士山), referred to by the Japanese as Fuji-san, is climbed by at least 400,000 people every year and, including the hundreds of thousands of tourists who travel up to the 5th Stations for sightseeing & don't even climb the peak, it comes as no surprise that Mt. Fuji is generally regarded as the most visited mountain in the world.

Because it is the tallest mountain in Japan, rises up magnificently out of nowhere, and is unobscured by any surrounding foothills, on a clear day Mt. Fuji can be easily viewed from over 150 kilometers away. I can often see Mt. Fuji from my apartment building on the far east side of the Tokyo metroplex, around 120 km (~75 mi.) away.

With a near-perfect volcanic cone and snow-capped most of the year, the tallest mountain in Japan is also considered one of the world's most beautiful peaks. The attraction for me was immediate, and within only 4 short months of moving to Japan over 25 years ago, I was standing atop its summit.

Atop Mt. Fuji
Atop Mt. Fuji
(The Wolffman shooting the Hook 'em Horns sign)


Thru the years I've always gotten a good chuckle at the version of the old Japanese proverb specially modified for the benefit of foreigners: "If you come to Japan and don't climb Mt. Fuji, you're a fool; but if you climb it more than once, you're an even BIGGER fool." Cracks me up....every time.

But I guess only those who've actually climbed Mt. Fuji can truly appreciate the significance and wisdom of the old Japanese saying. To assist those who wish to avoid being a fool, I've compiled a growing list of some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQ) about climbing Mt. Fuji.


The View from the Top of Japan©


Several years ago I had an opportunity to participate in an innovative project conceived by a grad student in South Dakota that he called the 800x600 project. He solicited many interesting 8x8 photo collages from all over the world, with the requirement that each photo be sized 100x75 pixels and pertain to some common theme. 

When I first heard about this project from my sister, I immediately knew my contribution would be about the highest mountains in Japan. The collage below, entitled "The View from the Top of Japan," is a scaled-down version of the one I submitted as part of the project.


View from the Top of Japan
The original full-size 800x600 pic is here.
(another really cute entry in the 800x600 project is entitled "Blue Popsicle")


Oh yeah, one of the best reference sources I've found for climbing the highest mountains in Japan is Hiking in Japan by the Lonely Planet, which was updated in Aug. 2009.


Mom always worries herself to death whenever I trek up into the high country, and yet she often reminds me to never stop mountain climbing, as "that's what keeps you young, Gary."  smiley

Stay tuned as I continue to populate this section of my website with pics, videos, route maps, elevation profiles, and more details on the highest mountains in Japan, based upon my climbing experience here over the past quarter-century. In the meantime, feel free to check out my links to other noteworthy mountain climbing sites in Japan

And believe it or not, in Sept. 2012 I finally got around to publishing my mountain climbing book entitled "The View from the Top of Japan" (first in eBook form, then a couple months later in paperback), sharing my adventures in the Japanese alpine country. I hope you'll have time to check it out.

If you have any questions, comments, or stories to share, by all means please do so by using the form below. I'd be delighted to hear from you, as I'm sure so will future visitors to this page. Thanks so much for stopping by!


Have a Question or Story about Climbing the Highest Mountains in Japan?

Do you have a question or story about climbing the highest mountains in Japan? Be among the first to pay it forward and share your climbing experience (along with up to 4 pics) with other visitors to this page still planning their climb!

Unlike social media sites like Facebook & Twitter where your post quickly gets pushed down off the page, your story will be given a dedicated webpage and its own URL, giving others a chance to comment. And feel free to link your story back to your webpage, blog, or any other page of your choosing.

What Other Climbers Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other climbers of the highest mountains in Japan...

We'd love a suggestion for a moderate to difficult 2-3 day hike in Japan. 
Hello, You seem like the best English language source on the mountains of Japan, so I was hoping you had some recommendations for my upcoming trip. …

Is it possible to get ​​mountain rescue insurance around Murodo or Tateyama? 
Hello Gary! Thank you for putting such a fantastic website! I don't live in Japan and it really helped me last year, and it's definitely helping me …

Is mid-October too late for Kamikochi to Nakabusa? 
Hi Gary, Thanks for sharing such wonderful information on this site! I'd like to do a 3-4 day hike in the Japan Alps in October. I was hoping for …

Is a traverse from Hiriji-dake to Kita-dake possible in 3-4 days? 
Hi Gary - Really amazing website. Inspiring, to be honest! A friend and I are gearing up to get out to Japan this week (leaving the 21st), for 9 …

If you could only climb one mountain, which would it be? 
Hi Gary, ​​If you could only climb one mountain, which would it be? I am trying to choose for myself and I am torn between the following: *Mt …

Which Japanese mountain range should I go to in August? 
Hi Gary, I plan on taking a nice month in August this year to climb the mountains in Japan. I really loved your detailed plan for Mount Tateyama, and …

What's the best way to climb Japan's Top Ten highest mountains? 
Hi Gary, As a 33 year resident of Japan, I will be leaving in a year or two. I would like to put the top ten highest mountains on my "bucket list" …

Are there any physical stores to rent climbing gear in Tokyo?  
Hello! I'd like to know if there are any physical stores to rent gear like climbing shoes, rain jacket and trousers, and headlamps in Tokyo. I've only …

Mt. Aka-dake as a day trip 
Aka is actually quite convenient to get to from Tokyo. A day trip is feasible at a reasonably fast pace. There is no need to carry a lot of water, as there …

Are there any log books at the summits of Japanese mountains? 
Hi Mr. Wolff, I would like to know if there are any log books (or summit registers) at the top of the Japanese mountains, or at least in the huts or …

Which 3 or 4 Japanese mountains are essential that you recommend me to climb? 
Hi Gary, First, thanks for your website which is very interesting and useful information. I would appreciate it if you can tell me which 3 or 4 Japanese …

​I am just looking for a hill or small mountain....A couple of hours walking 
Hi Gary, I am moderate hiker having hiked in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Scotland. I understand April still has snow on most peaks. ​ ​I am just looking …

A question about camping at Japanese mountain huts 
Hi Gary, Thank you for this fantastic site, your information is invaluable. I have​​ a question about camping at mountain huts. Do you know how they …

Are there any small mountains in Japan to climb? 
I will be in japan for 2 weeks at the end of April/ beginning of May and I am looking for a small mountain to climb. As I am with someone who is less …

Which peaks in Nagano area would be suitable for a novice? 
Hi Gary, Very interesting articles. I hope you can offer me some advice which peaks would be suitable for a novice. I will be staying in Nagano 8th-13th …

Is bus from Meakan Onsen to Akan Kohan still running? 
Hi Gary, Saw your site. Any idea if bus from Akan Kohan and Meakan Onsen still runs? Planning hike from Lake Akan and take bus back from the Meakan …

Tips on where to rent/buy gears (like sleeping bags, tent, headlamps) around Tokyo? 
Hello! My name is Jane and I am an Indonesian student who just came to Japan to study Japanese in a particular university in Tokyo. So, I have hiked …

Where to go on my 9-day non-looping hike? 
Hi Gary, Great site you've got running here! I'm doing an internship in Tokyo over the summer, and I am currently planning a hiking trip. I think …

Which is the easiest to climb? Mount Kita-dake or Mount Yari-ga-take? 
Dear sir, I'm planning a trip to Japan in September and I want to do hiking in Japanese Alps. I presently live in France and only have experience on …

Are Hiuchi, Kitadake, Aka, Ontake, Komaga, Haku, & Oku-shirane day hikes? 
Hi Gary, I intend to climb several mountains in Japan in September: Hiuchi, Kita-dake, Aka, Ontake, Komaga, Haku, & Oku-shirane. All are central, Japan …

Your site is by far the best on the internet 
Hi Gary, I've just moved back to Japan after living here in '96-'98. Went back to South Carolina, USA for about the last 15 years, making return trips …

Can you recommend a September day hike in or around Kamikochi? 
hi Gary! after researching Japanese hiking, I landed on your blog--and finally have gotten a bit of clarity! My husband and I will be travelling …

Is it possible to hike in Japan in early May? 
Hi Gary, is it possible to hike in Japan in early May? January 28, 2012 *** Sure, Karpova. As long as you don't hike up too high, unless you like hiking …

Can you recommend any tour groups or outfitters?  
Hi! I am traveling to Tokyo in 3 weeks and would like to do some mountain climbing while in Japan. Can you recommend any tour groups or outfitters? …

Click here to write your own.

I always use your stories, photos, and videos for hiking in Japan 
Hi. I am so glad to find you on Facebook. I always use your stories, photos, and videos for hiking in Japan. It's very important for me coz I started climbing …

Click here to write your own.





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