Climbing Mt. Fuji

One of the ultimate goals of a traveler in Japan is to climb the country’s most popular and revered mountain, Mt. Fuji. With its beautifully symmetrical cone, Mt. Fuji has been a Japanese icon for many years. It is located on Honshu Island, and is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 meters or 12,389 ft. It lies about 100 kilometers south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day.

The beautiful Mt. Fuji is Japan’s most famous icon and has become a goal for many people to climb.

 

Climbing the mountain is limited to July through August. Despite its steep slopes, Mt. Fuji can be climbed up quite easily even by beginners. Signboards and mountain huts provide direction and places to rest. But it is necessary to try to become acquainted with the features of Mt. Fuji well in advance, and make thorough plans before climbing up the mountain. One must take note that even in the summer, the temperature is at least 20 degrees colder than ground level and the air is thin. In the afternoon, the weather becomes quite unstable with quite a high possibility of thunder.

Mt. Fuji 5th Station and Toyokan Mountain hut.

Climbers can drive up to the 5th Lake Kawaguchi–Yoshida-guchi course is the most popular course and takes about 6 hours to reach the summit from the 5th mountain huts along the way. You depart from the 5th become rocky slopes. Mountain huts are found at the Seventh Station and Eighth Station (2,700 m to 3,000 m). After passing the torii gate at the 9th station, which has an altitude of 1,400 to 2,400 meters. The Station. This course is recommended for beginners because there are many Station and climb gentle slopes which later Station the climb will be basically up bare rocks. Going up further, you will be welcomed by a white torii gate, and after climbing up more stairs, you will find yourself at the summit. The Kuzushi-jinja Shrine is found at the top where one can have a stamp impressed as a token of having reached the summit. There will also be mountain huts or rest areas at the mountain top and a place where one can mail postcards. The descent will be through a different route and would normally take 3 hours and 15 minutes. The mountain huts are well equipped with supplies but in case of an emergency, it is necessary that you bring a supply of water, light snacks and a change of clothes. It is also advised to put on trekking shoes and a hat to prevent sunburn. A walking stick or a trekking pole would also prove useful. There is cellular signal in the mountain so communication is not cut off during the climb.

 

Photos taken from  Steve Tilford and Tokyo Travel Pal

Best Places to Hike in Japan

Japan is endowed with so many mountains, making hiking a popular activity for young and old alike. Through this activity, one can see and experience first hand the changes that happen to the scenery and activities through the seasons. Scenery is one of the major reasons why many people hike.

Hiking is an activity popular to both the young and old

From the beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring to the snow covered mountains in the winter, hiking brings people somehow closer to nature. A great part of Japan’s landmass is made up of mountains, Mt. Fuji being the most popular of all. Mt. Fuji has been the object of mountain worship, model for many paintings, and goal for many climbers. Many people climb Mt. Fuji to watch the sunrise called Goraiko from the top. The mountain is officially open for climbing during July and August via several routes. These being summer months, the mountain is usually free of snow, with the weather mild and public transportation many. For those who are beginner climbers, it is strongly suggested that you schedule your Mt. Fuji hike on these official climbing months.

Another mountain that boasts of a variety of hiking courses, historic temples and a breathtaking view from the summit is Mt. Takao. Just an hour trip travelling west from Tokyo, Mt. Takao offers a unique blend of Japanese culture and beautiful nature. At the mountain is a statue of a ‘tengu,’ a long-nosed mythical figure, associated with the ancient Japanese practice of mountain worship to acquire magical and spiritual powers. Six well-maintained hiking courses starting from the foot of Mt. Takao and leading up to the 600-meter-high mountaintop allow visitors to learn about the nature of the mountain.

One can ride halfway up the mountain by cable car or lift, so that the remaining climb to the top is not so difficult. This takes about one-and-a-half hours. In summer a beer garden with a magnificent view is open at the half-way point. The Mt. Takao Natural Zoo and Botanical Garden, where you will be greeted by monkeys that roam freely throughout the area is also found near the cable car terminal.

Hiking Trail No.1 Mt. Takao

For those who are interested in religious pilgrimage, there are 88 Buddhist temples that form part of a 40 day hike around Shikoku Island. There is also the spiritual Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, a set of World Heritage listed trails around Wakayama prefecture. The quiet beauty of these places will surely revive your spirit and clear your mind off the hassles of the mundane world.

Photos from Japan Guide and akio designs

Fruit Picking in Japan

Fruit picking is a very popular activity in Japan, both among visitors and locals. It may be because this activity is basically available all year round, even during winter months. Fruit picking farms charge two ways: one is by time, between 800 and 3000 yen, (between 30 – 60 minutes) depending on the fruit being picked and by weight of the fruit picked.

Fruit picking in Nakagomi Orchard is a fun activity with family and friends

There are a number of fruits gardens across the country. One of the most visited gardens is the Yamanashi prefecture, which is easily accessible from Tokyo. The Wakayama Prefecture in Kansai is also well known for its fruit picking farms.

All year round, fruits are available for picking but the most popular time is during the summer and fall. Grapes are harvested from June until October. There are about 40 varieties of Grapes in Japan, and the best of its variety is “Kyoho”, the blackish-purple variety with large seeds. The flesh is very sweet and juicy. These grapes are exported to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore and other countries.

Japanese pears can be picked from September to October. Japanese pears are rounder in shape and similar to apples in size. These are usually left to ripen in their trees. “Nijusseiki” pears are are the most popular kind, and are exported overseas. This is the kind with yellow-green skin.

September to January is apple picking season. The very popular“Fuji”variety, is very juicy and sweet, and has a bright red skin. The flesh has a crispy texture and the flesh tastes like it has sugar syrup.

The“Sun-Fuji”variety is grown in areas with plenty of sunshine and is sweeter than the regular Fuji but with less beautiful skin. The most popular apple producers of Japan are found in Aomori, Nagano and Iwate Prefecture.

 

Sweet apples are ready to be picked

The very sweet and juicy mikan or Japanese mandarin is picked from September to February. These are seedless and easily peeled with your fingers. The “Unshu-mikan” is the most popular variety of mandarin orange in Japan because of its juicy and soft flesh. The most of the mandarin orchards are located in Wakayama, Ehime and Shizuoka Prefecture.

Peach picking season is from August to September. Since peaches are very delicate fruits and require special care compared to other fruits, entrance fees to these farms are more expensive. The “Hakuto”and “Hakuho” are considered the best varieties of peaches.

This activity is fairly easy to participate in. Organized tours that usually last a day can be booked through tour operator. For those who prefer to explore by themselves, most farms allow walk-in visitors but it is always wise to call in advance.

Photos from Nakagomi Orchard and Japan Guide

Hiking in Japan

Japan, despite being well-known for its traditional and modern structures located in places like Osaka and Tokyo, is also an underrated hiking centre. Japan, being a mountainous country, holds various peaks that are waiting to be conquered by hikers. The beautiful peaks and lush forests of Japan are virtually opposite of what can be seen in their ultra-modern cities. Looking for a nature filled adventure, there are a couple of peaks that comes, recommended below.

The Daisetsuzan National Park located in Hokkaido literally means big snow mountain. So those looking for a climb in freezing cold weather, this is perfect. It is Japan’s largest national park and holds vast areas of wilderness to explore. At the foot of the mountains, there are various onsens where one can stay, which is perfect after a long day of hiking. Exploring the natural wonders of the area by day and relaxing at the onsen by night. This is a lifestyle that anyone who loves nature should experience.

Mt. Fuji the country’s highest peak and also an active volcano should definitely be on the list for enthusiasts. Mt. Fuji does not only boastsa symmetrical cone shape but a great hiking trail. The allure of this mountain is the view of the sacred volcano around Fuji’s five lakes. This is definitely a trip worth making and is great bragging rights for anyone who climbs to the peak.

The Famous Mt. Fuji

Mt. Takao is a perfect hiking trip for beginners due to its relatively easy climb. It is also located near Tokyo, so you can still be near the city while enjoying the wild nature of Japan. This mountain also boasts a lot of Japanese history; this is where the hermits, called yamabushi in Japanese, used to practice their traditional ways. It is also popular for the Tengu sculpture which is a mythical figure in Japan. The mountain during modern times also has local eateries nearby, so there is always a place to stop and relax while having a good meal.

Hiking in Japan is not limited to these mountains but these could be good ways to start exploring the rich history and nature of Japan. It is important to remember that Japan is a lot more than ultra-modern cities and hiking is just one of the ways to enjoy the nature side of Japan. There are always guides available to majority of these mountains, so it is important to hire a local before you begin your journey into the countryside.

Image by Wikimedia

Going to the Beach, Japanese Style

A beach trip is something that can be enjoyed by almost anyone, and though Japan is not well known for them, they still boast a lot of beautiful beaches. Going to the beach is something done worldwide but different places have their own beach culture, same holds true for Japan. In Japan they are crazy about beach houses, they have small houses that can be rented so they can enjoy a bite of food and assure the safety of the stuff that they bring. One of their popular beach dishes is yakisoba or basically stir fried noodles. As a cool treat the Japanese love to eat watermelons in the beach, they even have their own game with these watermelons. Suika-wari as it is called in Japan is basically the piñata game but with a refreshing watermelon. Another interesting thing about Japanese beach goers is that they enjoy playing with fireworks in the beach. It must be the allure of seeing all these flashy lights in the dark canopy of night. The effect is beautiful especially without city lights to disrupt the colourful fireworks up in the air. These are just some of the quirks that makes Japanese beach culture different from the rest of the world. We should always remember that Japan is more than just modern and traditional cities but a great destination for nature lovers.

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Japanese Beach

Some of Japan’s most popular beaches are places that must be visited by anyone who wants some sun. One should just note that Japan has four seasons and it is important to plan your day on the beach to make sure that weather won’t disrupt the fun. The Shirahama beach in the Izu Peninsula is a beautiful white stretch of beach 800 meters long. Official swimming season though is a bit short which usually ranges from July to August, and with weather permitting it will last till September. The good news is that this beautiful destination is just three hours from Tokyo by train, so travel time isn’t as long as one would expect to get to a great beach. In Okinawa there is the Emerald Beach, just from the name it can be surmised it is a great place to soak in the sun. The Emerald Beach is a great place to start to explore the clear waters of Okinawa, it is arguably one of the best places to swim in Japan.

Image by Japan Experience

Scuba Diving in Japan

Japan is an archipelago, it is basically a collection of islands surrounded by the sea. It is no wonder then why Japan has plenty of Scuba diving spots located all over the country. Japan isn’t as popular as other countries as a diving spot but the diving locations in the country can rival some of the best in the world. The most famous diving spots in Japan are located at the very southern area of Japan at an area called Okinawa. This island boasts of clear waters and a refreshing atmosphere. The coral colonies located nearby are one of the biggest in the world and contains a variety of marine life that is sure to leave you breathless.

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Amazing Marine Life

Japan has diving spots that rival the Great Barrier Reef such as the Yonaguni island and the underwater lost city Iseki. These are some of the most interesting dive spots today. It is not as famous as other dive spots but is guaranteed to give any diving enthusiast goose bumps. The lost city has giant corridors which is said to be even older than the Egyptian pyramids. It is arguably one of the best diving spots in the world. The diving spots in Japan also feature majestic marine life. Sightings of the elusive Manta are common in Ishigaki. The great Hammerhead shark can be spotted in the Izu Peninsula and Yonaguni Island. In the Kerama islands corals, nudibranch and shrimp are wonderful sights in these area. Nature lovers will love what the country has to offer.

To top it all off, diving in Japan will also bring you closer to the famous Japanese culture. The Japanese are known to be hospitable to tourists and the bath houses located around Japan are amazing. Couple your dive with a relaxing night with the best sushi in the world and you have a winner. Diving in Japan is an experience that is both on and off the shore which will surely leave you wanting more. As a diver just be responsible in checking weather forecasts as tropical storms are constant in Japan, also take note of the weather seasons in Japan as they can affect diving conditions. If good weather is assured, diving in the land of rising sun will surely leave a memorable experience. Lastly, don’t forget your underwater cameras, leaving them tends to be a source of regret. Trust me when I say that you will want this trip to have photo documentation.

Image by Outdoor Japan

Skiing and Snowboarding in Japan

The winter sports in Japan has recently been gaining popularity in recent times, it has long been underrated as a winter sports destination. The geography of the country is mountainous, so when winter hits, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of skiing and snowboarding destinations available. The snowfall in Japan is heavy and the powder conditions of the snow is usually ideal which makes it such a great spot for Skiing and snowboarding. This can be attributed to the Siberian air mass which is the coldest in the world, because of this Japan has colder temperatures than even European countries.

The Skiing and Snowboarding season of Japan usually starts December and ends around April. It is recommended for enthusiasts to go during January to February since temperature isn’t as cold, not only the temperature but snow conditions are also just right at that time of the year. Skiing is the more popular option among the Japanese these days but snowboarding is catching on, and with a trip to Japanese skiing resort you’ll sure to be able to try both. There are over 500 resorts available in Japan and a lot of them come with a hot spring. Just the thought of skiing or snowboarding during the day while enjoying a hot spring bath after is the greatest allure of these Japanese resorts. Other than enjoying the hot springs after a hard day of skiing, there are plenty of other activities that can be done. One can enjoy the famous ice sculpting activities or the traditional tea ceremonies. If these don’t appeal to your taste then simply a good meal of traditional Japanese food and drinks such as sushi and sake will surely give you an experience you will not forget.

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 Skiing and snowboarding first-timers have no problem trying out the sport since rentals are common-place at resorts which makes trying so much easier. There also other rental options such as snow bikes and snow scooters. One also has the option to use the skiing facilities for half-day if schedule or budget does not permit a lengthy stay. Japan is definitely becoming one of the premier winter sports centre in the world, it is a trip that should not be missed. Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa aren’t the only places that offer a great experience of Japanese culture. Skiing destinations such as Nisesko and Rusutsu are also to be enjoyed in a trip to Japan.

Image by Business Week