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
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 (my 1st job outta college was in Denver, Colorado!) 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!!
Got a question or story
the highest mountains in Japan?
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
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
FLIGHTS of stairs in the stations. And we don't "hike" stairs....we
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
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.
I'm certainly no technical rock climber, and have
used ropes, crampons, or ice axes only a handful of times in my entire
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).
Atop Gannett Peak, the tallest peak in Wyoming
Tom, Marion, and yours truly
(And our buddy Brian was the picture taker!)
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.
the highest mountain in Japan, & Mt.
independent peaks, all of
peaks are in the Northern, Central, or Southern Japan Alps mountain
12 in the north, 10 in the south, and only 1 in the Central Alps.
(Click on the hot-linked Japanese
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
"mountain" or "peak" in Japanese, and are added as a suffix
I was invited to speak about my Japanese mountain climbing adventures
to an English-speaking club of senior citizens in Tsudanuma, Chiba. As
part of my presentation, I decided to put together the 4-minute video
below, reflecting back on my
quarter-century of climbing Japan's gorgeous peaks.
I chose Enya's "Caribbean
Blue" as the BGM. I believe the final frame in the video sums it up
well: "Can you see
now why I love Japan so much?!"
Fond Memories of My
Favorite Japanese Peaks
(If player above is not visible, you can view video
@ YouTube here.)
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
My love affair with Japan's high country has been
pretty much an
annual summer obsession. During my 1st couple decades in Japan,
1992, 1999, and 2004 was I unable to escape Tokyo's
jungle. And in 2005, due to severely inclement weather, a
& 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
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
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
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.
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.”
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
regarded as the most visited mountain in the world.
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
building on the far east side of the Tokyo metroplex, around
(~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
4 short months of
moving to Japan over 25 years ago, I was standing atop its summit.
Atop Mt. Fuji
(The Wolffman shooting the Hook 'em Horns sign)
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
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
list of some of the more frequently
asked questions (FAQ) about climbing Mt.
Several years ago I had an opportunity to
participate in an innovative project conceived by a grad student in
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
some common theme.
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 original full-size 800x600 pic is here.
(another really cute entry in the 800x600 project is entitled "Blue
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.
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."
Stay tuned as I continue to populate this section
website with pics, videos, route maps, elevation
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
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!
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What Other Climbers Have Said
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