Mount Yōtei in Hokkaido: One of the 100 famous mountains in Japan

16 Sep
Mt. Yotei (羊蹄山) Photo by Alpsdake

Mt. Yotei (羊蹄山)
Photo by Alpsdake

Mount Yōtei is located in south west of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. It’s often called “Ezo Fuji (Ezo is an old name for Hokkaido)” because it resembles the Japan’s most beloved mountain, Mt. Fuji.  Mt. Yōtei (1898m) is not nearly as tall as Mt. Fuji (3776m), but it’s shape and size stand out among other mountains in the area.  Like Mt. Fuji, Mt. Yōtei is an active volcano, and the last eruption was 2500 years ago (there are about 200 volcanoes in Japan, and 60 of them are active).   This picturesque volcano is listed as one of the 100 famous mountains in Japan.

Earlier this month I visited Hokkaido for the first time.  Seeing Mt. Yōtei was one of the highlights of the trip.  On the first day I arrived at Goshiki Onsen (五色温泉) ryokan (ryokan is a Japanese style inn) at the foot of the mountain range near Niseko, I asked the ryokan master what it was like to climb Mt.Yōtei.  He gave me a discouraging news: It’d take 4-6 hours to climb Mt. Yōtei from the bottom-up, because I couldn’t drive to the half point.  I didn’t come prepared for such a hike, and it seemed that the ryokan master knew that.  He pointed the mountain behind us, called Niseko Annupuri, and said that it’d be a nice day hike. “It’ll take you less than 2 hours to reach the top.  It won’t be hard,” said the ryokan master.  His prediction would turn out to be wrong.

The next day I climbed Niseko Annupuri, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mt. Yōtei from its peak.  The trail began across the street from the ryokan.

Climbing Niseko Annupuri (二セコアンヌプリ登山)

Climbing Niseko Annupuri (二セコアンヌプリ登山)

Niseko Annupuri means “a mountain that looks like a house” in  Ainu language (Ainu are indigenous people of Hokkaido).   It is the second tallest mountain (1308m) in the area.  At the halfway point I began to see the clouds below me.  Everything looked so fresh and alive because of the rains that hadn’t stopped for days.  I was struck by the different shades of green and the varieties of plants.

Annupuri ranges (二セコの山)

Annupuri ranges (二セコの山)

View from the summit of Niseko Annupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ山頂から見た景色)

View from the summit of Niseko Annupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ山頂から見た景色)

Mt. Yotei 2 (640x360)

After hiking a strenuous trail for over 2 hours, I finally arrived at the peak. Mt. Yōtei was half covered by clouds, but it was still beautiful and majestic.  The clouds kept moving, changing the view of Mt Yōtei.  But the mountain sat quietly with its long base extending out to the earth.  It was one of the most difficult hikes I had ever been on, and it took much longer than what the ryokan master had suggested. But it was worth it.

If you aren’t inclined to climb Niseko Annupuri, there is another option – take a gondola ride.  That’s exactly what I did the next day.  I rode the gondola from Niseko city, a well-known ski resort town.  The weather was nicer than the day before, so I could see Mt. Yōtei more clearly.

View of Mt. Yotei from gondola (ゴンドラから見た羊蹄山)

View of Mt. Yotei from gondola (ゴンドラから見た羊蹄山)

Hangetsuko (半月湖)

Hangetsuko (半月湖)

On the way back to the ryokan, I stopped by Hangetsuko (hangetsu means a half moon), a volcano lake.   After about 15 minutes hike I arrived at the lake surrounded by the forests.  It was so quiet that I could hear small birds swimming in the lake.  Looking at the lake and Mt.  Yōtei behind the forests, I thought this was a place I’d like to come back again – south western Hokkaido where the wildness still existed in Japan- and how nice it’d be to climb Mt. Yōtei one day.

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7 Responses to “Mount Yōtei in Hokkaido: One of the 100 famous mountains in Japan”

  1. Month Hacker September 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Are you experienced with mountain climbing and all. Is it like a difficult walk or you have to do those movie like climbs (like tom cruise does in MI)? Can a normal person just walk and reach the top? I really want to go. Considering that it has a wide base I’m guessing it should be like a walk only.
    How tough was it?

    • Yumi September 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Are you interested in climbing Niseko Annupuri or Mt. Yotei? The one I climbed was Niseko Annupuri. The trail was very steep, and it was a long hike. But there were people in their 60’s & 70’s hiking along with me, so I think most anyone can do this hike. I’m learning that trails in Japan can be very steep and slippery. So I recommend bringing good hiking shoes and hiking poles if you have them.

      • Month Hacker September 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

        I’d like to climb Mt. Yotei some time in my future. I hope I get a chance. It is beautiful. And maybe Mt. Fuji also if it is allowed.
        Going atop Kilimanjaro is also my dream.


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