Japan is known for its cultural heritage and the harmonious intermingling of the classic and the contemporary. Japan’s topography is also blessed with rivers, lakes, mountains among others that are epitome of unspoiled natural beauty. The mountains in Japan are a heaven for hikers and offer marvelous and majestic sights and experiences for all travelers.
Among Japan’s Three Holy Mountains, at 3776m, Mt Fuji is also Japan’s highest mountain. It lies to the west of Tokyo, within the expansive grounds of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The visibly symmetrical cone of this usually snow capped mountain is a very prominent symbol of Japan. Mt Fuji is an active volcano, with its last eruption dating back to 1707. At the center of the mountain is a long dormant crater, whose circumference is around 4km.
The Mountain and its hiking trails are replete with scenic beauty. There are many routes that can be taken for the climb up Mt Fuji, but one should be well prepared, with all the necessary hiking amenities, proper shoes, as it is not an easy journey. But all the effort is worth it, as the view from the top, especially of the sunrise and sunset is majestic. You can undertake an overnight climb to catch the sunrise, or reach early and sleep in mountain huts easily available for tourists.
The official climbing season is July to August. Paragliding facilities are also made available near the many neighboring mountains. Other sites for tourist that lie nearby include Fuji-Q Highland amusement park in the city of Fujiyoshida. Another popular place is the Fuji Five Lakes. Views of Mt Fuji from here are spectacular. Narusawa Ice Caves and Fugaku Wind Caves are also located here. These caves were formed lava flow in prehistoric times. Today these caves stand as nature’s wonderful creations and are worth exploring. UNESCO recognizes Mount Fuji as a cultural site. Mt Fuji has abundant stunning beauty and magnificent vistas. But it is included in World Heritage List as a cultural site because of its importance as a pilgrim place and also because it has been inspirational for painters and other artists since time immemorial.
This mountain which literally translates as Mount Fear is one mountainous area that provides tourists and hikers with a totally different experience. It has a height of 2884 feet and is a volcanic peak with the last eruption recorded in 1787. Though there are plenty of beautiful and scenic locales around this Mount, it is more popular because of the rich mythological stories associated with it. According to Japanese Buddhist mythology this mountain denotes the doorway to Hell. Lake Usori which is situated nearby is equated to the mythological Sanzu River. This river is called the River of Three Crossings in myths and legends. It serves as the boundary between the worlds of living and dead. All souls have to cross this river to reach the other side, which is a very popular concept among myths of many religions worldwide. As the mountain is an active volcano site, the landscape here is not one of lush greenery or flowers etc. The landscape is rocky and charred. That is perhaps why the mountain is called Yake-Yama by the locals, which means the Burning Mountain.
Mt Osore is for those who are fascinated by the folklore and mysticism that have become attached to this Mountain over the centuries. The sites that are located on Mount Osore and provide sightseeing opportunities of an unusual kind include, Lake of Blood, Mountain of Swords, and Dry Bed of the River of Souls to name a few. In July the Bodai Temple organizes an Itako Taisai festival every two years. In this popular festival Itako or blind mediums gather and are said to summon the departed souls and deliver their messages. The mountain’s rich mythical and mystical qualities make it a unique site for hikers and visitors.
This mountain is located in the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park near Tokyo. 3048 feet tall Mt Mitake has the famous Shinto Shrine, which makes it a place of historic as well as religious significance. The history of this shrine is traced back to Emperor Sujin, 97-30 BC. The mountain is also a popular hiker’s destination. The rock garden, intermittent streams and waters cascading down the waterfalls makes climbing this mountain a visual delight.
The forests and profusion of colors on Mt Mitake make it a pleasing place. The ginkgos, maple and different flora of the area give vivid colors to autumn like flamboyant yellow and reds. Lush greenery, sparkling snow, and the shades of blue of the vast skies produce captivating sights. This mountain is said to ‘change expression with seasons.’
This name is given to a group of mountains in Hyogo Prefecture and includes Mt Maya, Mt Iwahara, Mt Iwakura, and Mt Kabutoyama. Cherry blossoms bloom here till mid April providing picturesque sights. Other sites worth visiting nearby include Nunobiki Falls. It is located near Kobe. It comprises four different falls and has cultural significance in Japan. It is considered as to be among greatest “divine falls”. It frequently features in Japanese literature and art. The observation platform at the top as well as Lookout Tower on Rokko Garden Terrace all provide magnificent views of towns located nearby. The sea of twinkling city light from atop is popular as a million dollar view.
These by no means are the only splendid and scenic mountains in Japan. Mount Tanigawa has exceptionally panoramic views. But climbing here is tough as well as dangerous, and not meant for the untrained hikers. The Mountain is commonly called mountain of death. But for those who are trained, the views around its trail and from this mountain are a memorable sight. Mountains in Wakayama Prefecture are named Mount Koya. The eight peaks of this mountain look like a lotus. It is also the headquarters of Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. They include several sacred sites and pilgrim routes which are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mount Zao is known for the snow monsters- fir trees coated with snow and ice giving them monstrous shapes. Mount Haku and Mt Tate are among Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. Oyama Shrine is located atop Mt Tate. It has breath taking scenery which provide travelers with a memorable experience.
Be it the magnificent views, or the mystical and mythical attributes, a hike through the mountains in Japan leave all with a magical and memorable experience.