After over 19 years of chipping away at my list of the highest mountains in Japan, with the ascent of Mt. Jonen-dake on August 22, 2010, I thought I had finally climbed all of Japan's 25 highest peaks. Problem is.....my list was outdated and a litte inaccurate.
Mt. Jonen-dake, elev. 2857 m, is not Japan's 25th highest mountain (according to my old list), but in fact its 45th highest. How embarrassing ! But it turned out to be an awesome climbing trip nonetheless.
By far the highlight of this mountain climbing trip was the absolutely breathtaking view of Mt. Yari-ga-take (槍ヶ岳), Japan's 5th highest mountain, and the Hotaka mountain range, including Mt. Mae-hotaka-dake (前穂高岳), Mt. Oku-hotaka-dake (奥穂高岳), Japan's 3rd highest mountain, Mt. Karasawa-dake (涸沢岳), and Mt. Kita-hotaka-dake (北穂高岳).
Hotaka mountain range, including Mt. Oku-hotaka-dake (奥穂高岳)
& Mt. Yari-ga-take (槍ヶ岳), the Matterhorn of Japan
To be honest, in my 19 years of hiking in Japan's mountains, I don't recall ever seeing such a stunningly beautiful view of Japanese peaks anywhere, anytime. Thank God for such gorgeous weather !
Friendly Japanese mountain climbers
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this hike were the many very friendly and talkative Japanese hikers of all ages who were happy to see the only foreigner on the trail (you may be amused by our lively exchange of greetings in my video below, starting at about the 2:48 min. mark). Sorry for my poor Japanese.
Ichinosawa (一ノ沢) Valley
Another thing I enjoyed about this hike was the stunning beauty of the Ichinosawa mountain stream (一ノ沢), which gave me a very pleasant cool feeling and a welcome respite from the scorched earth 35° C (95° F) days of Tokyo and the hottest August ever in that concrete jungle.
Tokyo's monthly mean temperature in August 2010 was 29.6°C (85.3° F), surpassing the 29.4° C (84.9° F) previous record set in August 1995 and becoming the hottest month ever in Tokyo.
Ichinosawa mountain stream (一ノ沢)
The beauty of hiking up the Ichinosawa (一ノ沢) Valley was that the tree line is just below the Jonen-goya mountain hut (常念小屋), so you are in the forest and virtually protected from the elements (sun, wind, etc.) for most of the hike.
My Mt. Jonen-dake (常念岳) Pics & Video
I hope you enjoy my pics & video below, hosted at Flickr and YouTube, respectively ! The video, in particular, will give you a real feel for what it's like to hike on a Japanese mountain trail. After all these years of trekking in the Japanese Alps, I still can't get over the amazing cordiality of Japanese mountain climbers.
My Video of Mt. Jonen-dake (常念岳), elev. 2857m,
Japan's 45th highest peak,
Aug. 22, 2010
(My exchange of greetings with some very lively
Japanese hikers starts around the 2:45 min. mark.)
My Google Map of Mt. Jonen-dake (常念岳)
In Oct. 2009 I created the customized map below, as I thought it'd be cool to see all of Japan's 25 highest mountains at a glance. Google Maps recently added the Google Earth feature to their maps, which offers a very impressive 3D view if you have Google Earth installed on your PC.
Using GE's tilt & rotate features, you can actually fly around Mt. Jonen-dake as if you were in an airplane:
(zoom out to see all 25 highest mountains)
View 25 Highest Mountains in Japan in a larger map
Mt. Jonen-dake (常念岳) Route Description
From the Ichinosawa trailhead (一ノ沢登山口), where you'll find the mountain climbing registration office, toilets, and water, the trail follows the beautiful Ichinosawa mountain stream (一ノ沢) which you will cross a few times on your way up.
The route gradually gets more narrow, and from "Last Water," your last chance to fill up your water bottles, the switchbacking trail gets quite steep up to the ridge where you'll see the Jonen-goya mountain hut (常念小屋).
Behind the hut, the very striking view of Mt. Yari-ga-take and the entire Hotaka mountain range creates an adrenalin rush that all mountain climbers live (and die) for. This amazing sight was one of the most exhilirating mountain climbing sensations I think I've ever experienced.
If you're blessed with nice weather as I was, you should allow yourself enough time at the summit, as this is without question one of the most spectacular, breathtaking views you'll ever see in the Japanese mountains anywhere in the country. It took me about 3.5 hours to the Jonen-goya mountain hut (常念小屋), and another hour & 15 min. up a rather steep climb to the Mt. Jonen-dake summit.
The total elevation gain for this hike is around 1600 m, so it's not exactly a Sunday stroll in the park. But for a person in reasonable physical condition, it can be easily done as a day hike. I left the Ichinosawa trailhead (一ノ沢登山口) at 5:00 a.m., arrived at the Mt. Jonen-dake summit at 10:15, and finished my hike back at the Ichinosawa trailhead at 4:15 pm.
I rested for 25 min. at the Jonen-goya mountain hut (常念小屋) for a cold drink on the way up, spent 20 min. at the summit of Mt. Jonen-dake, and stopped for 45 min. at Jonen-goya again on the way down to enjoy a mabo-meshi (麻婆飯, spicy Chinese chili sauce on rice) lunch.
Jonen-goya mountain hut (常念小屋)
The Jonen-goya mountain hut (常念小屋) was clean, well-run, and as is always the case in Japan, staffed by very friendly people, many of them college students. This hut is part of a network of 44 mountain huts in this area run by the Northern Japan Alps Mountain Hut Friendship Association. An English map of these Northern Japan Alps mountain huts can be found here, and a listing of these huts along with phone numbers & URLs can be found here.
If you'd like more details of my hiking trip, you might be interested in my Mt. Jonen-dake hiking schedule and elevation profile, including % grade calculations for the various trail sections, which I've compiled on a separate page.
I would have to say that Mt. Jonen-dake was one of the easiest and most accessible of all the highpoints in the Northern Japan Alps. From Tokyo it only takes about four hours by train or car to reach Hotaka Station (穂高駅) on the JR Oito Line (JR大糸線), the nearest station to Mt. Jonen-dake. And from Hotaka Station (or Toyoshina Station (豊科駅), which is 2 train stops closer to Tokyo), it only takes about 45 minutes by car or taxi to reach the Ichinosawa trailhead (一ノ沢登山口).
Y'all come back now, ya hear?
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Please stop by again soon, as I intend to add more details later on this Mt. Jonen-dake climbing trip, including a section on Japanese alpine flowers & a couple more route maps.
If you have any questions, comments, or would care to share your climbing story, feel free to use the section below. Or if you prefer sending me a private message, just click on "Contact Me."
And as I recommended at the end of the above YouTube video, "Stay fit and keep hiking!"
Additional links:Mt. Jonen-dake summit 6-day weather forecast
Mt. Jonen-dake topo map
(from Geospatial Information Authority of Japan)
Jonen-Yari area mountain hut map: http://kita-alps.yamagoya.gr.jp/welcome/09.pdf
List of Jonen-Yari area mountain huts w/ ph. #'s and URLs: http://kita-alps.yamagoya.gr.jp/welcome/08.pdf
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What Other Mt. Jonen-dake Climbers Have Said
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I'm planning to spend 2-3 days hiking in Japan
I'm thinking of starting with Jonen-dake and then heading toward Yari-ga-take
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Gary J. Wolff