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  The peaks of the northern Japan Alps.

A REVISED JAPAN ALPS HIKING TRIP will be offered in September 2015. Visit the new Hiking the Japan Alps page for more information.

Best time to travel:
Mid-July to early August
Best gateway city:
Osaka, Japan

Enjoy the alpine splendors of Japan. The Japan Alps (Nihon Arupusu) are composed of three roughly parallel ranges commonly referred to as the Northern (Hida), Central (Kiso) and Southern (Akaishi) Alps. On this hiking trip, you'll enjoy a hut-to-hut experience in the Northern Alps. Immerse yourself in an environment filled with rushing forest streams, deep woodlands, windswept mountain ridges and craggy, snow-flecked pinnacles! Your trip also includes visits to the renowned Kenrokuen Gardens in Kanazawa, a stay in a traditional thatched roof farmhouse at the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site of Shirakawago, and a visit to the impressive castle at Matsumoto.


Arrival Day
Overnight in Kyoto
Arrive in Osaka, Japan and transfer on your own to Kyoto, Japan's old imperial capital.

Scene from Kenroku-en, Kanazawa.

Day 1
Overnight in Kanazawa
Travel from Kyoto to Kanazawa and begin your immersion into Japan. Visit the renowned Kenrokuen, generally recognized as being one of the top three gardens in Japan. Overnight in Kanazawa sometimes called "little Kyoto" because of its rich history and strong craft traditions.

Trail ascending to the summit of Hakusan from Murodo.

Day 2
Overnight in Haku-san National Park
Travel to Haku-san (“White Mountain”), an old stratovolcano whose last recorded activity occurred in the mid-seventeenth century. Along with Mount Fuji and Tateyama, it is regarded as one of Japan's three sacred mountains (Sanreizan) and thus a site for religious pilgrimages. In 1962, Haku-san became the centerpiece of the Haku-san National Park and in 1980 was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. During the winter months, Haku-san is one of the snowiest places in Japan, and this abundance of moisture nurtures the mountain's unique flora and fauna. Asiatic black bears (tsuki-nowaguma), Japanese eagles (inuwashi) and a stunning array of alpine wildflowers including the black lily (Fritillaria camtschatcensis) make their home within this wilderness preserve. Hike up the slopes of Haku-san via the hiking trail known as the Sabo Shindo, and spend the night in a mountain lodge high on the slopes of the sacred mountain.

View from Hakusan.

Traditional-style farmhouse in Ogimachi village, Shirakawago.

Day 3
Overnight in Shirakawago
Descend from the mountain hut on Haku-san and travel by vehicle to Shirakawago, a remote, mountainous region in northern Gifu Prefecture. Shirakawago is famous for its old farmhouses built in a style called gassho-zukuri in reference to the shape of the steeply pitched roofs resembling two hands folded in prayer. An open fireplace, or irori, is a characteristic feature of these houses. Time permitting, enjoy a stroll to a viewpoint that provides you with a sweeping view over picturesque Ogimachi village. You'll stay overnight in one of the farmhouses for a rustic, but unforgettable experience. Shirakawago is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

View of the Japan Alps from the Kamikochi area.

Day 4
Overnight in the Japan Alps
From Shirakawago, travel by vehicle to Kamikochi in the northern Japan Alps. Begin your four-day hike through the Chubu Sangaku National Park which protects large portions of the northern Japan Alps. Follow the path along the Azusa River (Azusa-gawa) gradually ascending through forests of birch and pine. You may spot Japanese macaque monkeys along the way! Spend the evening in a riverside lodge.

Yarigatake (or Mount Yari), the Matterhorn of the Japanese Alps!

Day 5
Overnight in the Japan Alps
Continue hiking up-valley along the river to the Ichi-no-mata from where you'll enjoy your first views of Yarigatake, the sharp summit sometimes known as Japan's Matterhorn. Continue ascending the Yarisawa Valley past the tree-line to arrive at the Yarigatake mountain lodge located near the base of the spear-shaped summit pinnacle of Yarigatake. Here, you'll spend the evening.

The summit pinnacle of Yarigatake as seen from the Yarigatake lodge.

Day 6
Overnight in the Japan Alps
Descend the ridge from Yarigatake and hike along the Omote Ginza (ridge) enjoying the cool mountain breezes and unobstructed alpine views as you make your way to the Otensho Hut where you'll spend the evening.

The distinctive "spear" of Yarigatake as seen from Otenshodake.

The Omote Ginza ridge as seen from Otenshodake.

Day 7
Overnight in the Japan Alps
Continue your "skywalk" along an alpine ridge to the Tsubakuro mountain lodge and the peak of Tsubakurodake. Enjoy lunch at Tsubakuro lodge before descending to Hotaka Onsen (hot springs). Overnight at an inn at the onsen.

The peak of Tsubakuro.

Day 8
Overnight in Matsumoto
This morning, travel by vehicle to Matsumoto. Tour the principal sights of the city including the picturesque Matsumoto Castle for which the city is well-known. Overnight in Matsumoto.

  The castle at Matsumoto.

Departure Day
Depart Matsumoto by train for Nagoya, Osaka, or Tokyo airports and your flight home. Or extend your stay in Japan with a Mount Fuji climb.
PLEASE NOTE: The route as described on days 5 and 6 is quite challenging and suitable ONLY for very experienced mountain hikers. An alternate route through the Japan Alps along the Jonen-dake ridge can also be arranged and is recommended for hikers with moderate abilities.
Other Resources
Visit the Shirayama-no-ki website for a wealth of information about the natural and cultural history of the Haku-san region.
Howard French describes the pleasures of Matsumoto in his New York Times article, "A Japanese Castle Bares its Secrets."
Web cam view of Yarigatake from the Yarigatake mountain lodge in Chubu Sangaku National Park, Japan Alps.

  Hakusan, the "White Mountain," floats cloudlike on the horizon.

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