6 of the Best Mountain Hiking Trails in Japan

Whether you’re looking for a casual day hike or a mountain-climbing adventure, local insider Bjorn tells us about his favorite hiking trails in Japan.


Hikers in Japan Photo © iStock

Climbing Mt. Fuji

As the proverb goes: “A wise man will climb Mt Fuji once, a fool will climb it twice”. During climbing season, which runs from early July to mid-September, this iconic 12,389ft (3,776m) volcano attracts up to 7,500 people per day, and about 300,000 climb to the top each year.

Hiking to the summit of Mt. Fuji takes the average person seven hours to reach the top, and about half that time to come back down. Although you should bring everything you need with you in a small backpack, there are mountain huts with additional supplies and toilets along the trail.

If you want to escape the busy hiking trails and just enjoy the sights of Mt. Fuji, you could also opt to hike Mt. Ashitaka, Mt. Kuro or Mt. Ryuu-ga-take to see Fuji-san in all its beauty from afar.

Sunrise at Mount Fuji, Japan.
Sunrise at Mount Fuji, Japan. Photo credit: iStock

Trekking Mt. Oku-Hotaka

Mt. Oku-hotaka is the third-highest peak in Japan and one of the most breathtaking climbs. Located on the border between Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture and Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, the mountain features multiple routes, including an advanced hike that traverses the Kita mountain chains. 

Most hiking routes take about two to three days, and are open from early May to November. If you’re going in the early season, there will be snow covering the routes, so you’ll need to bring good-quality hiking equipment.

Hiking Mt. Tsurugi

Mt. Tsurugi (also known as Sword Mountain) is the second-tallest mountain on Shikoku Island at 6,414ft (1,955m), and regarded as the premiere peak to climb in Japan. Despite being regarded as a dangerous hike, travelers can also take a relaxing chairlift most of the way up the mountain, where you then take a 40-minute walk to the actual peak.

If you choose to walk the whole way, the climb takes about 12 hours from most trailheads. The trailheads are equipped with bathrooms, campgrounds and in some cases, lodges too. The effort it takes to reach the top is well worth it. From the peak there are spectacular views over the Kita Alps, as well as Mt. Haku and Tate.

Hiking Mt. Asahi

Located in Hokkaido's Daisetsuzan National Park, Mt. Asahi is a beautiful mountain to discover in Japan. Visitors have the option to catch the Asahidake Ropeway from Asahidake Onsen to a point within a two-hour hike of Mount Asahidake's summit. If there's snow, it's best to catch the ropeway, as the trail becomes tricky when snowfall covers the path.

The return hike from its base to the 7,516ft (2,291m) peak can be done in one day, but it is a challenge and important that you start early, leaving yourself six hours minimum to get up and back.

Hiking Mount Asahi in Japan.
Hiking Mount Asahi. Photo credit: iStock

Climbing Mt. Kaimon

At the southern tip of Kagoshima Prefecture on Kyushu sits a perfectly formed conical dormant volcano, Mt. Kaimon. The path to the summit is really easy to follow, and the trailhead is just a 30-minute walk from Kaimon station.

Surrounded by flower fields and crystal clear lakes, the views as you hike to the top of Mt. Kaimon are stunning. Depending on how long you spend up top admiring the views, expect the return hike to take four to five hours. You must bring your own supplies (including water) before starting this trek, as there are no huts to buy food or water from along the way.

Hiking Mt. Chokai

Mt. Chokai is an active volcano with a phenomenal 7,336ft (2,236m) peak. Bordering Akita and Yamagata Prefectures on Honshu, the eight- to ten-hour return hike to the summit takes you across fields of blooming alpine flowers, lakes and spots of snow throughout the year.

The best time of year to hike Mt Chokai is from May to August. Some climbing is required near the top, so be sure to pack sturdy hiking boots, warm hiking gear for higher altitudes, and check if climbing equipment is required at the top. This hike is not for beginners – but if you're really keen to tackle it, perhaps try searching for a local guide or tour company that will safely guide you to the top.

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