Five Peaks on the Shonai Coast: A Guide

Mt. Atsumi in Atsumi Onsen, a quaint Onsen Hot Spring town in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture

Along the Shonai coast of the Sea of Japan there are five peaks on the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata list, in order from north to south, and also coincidentally lowest to highest; Mt. Takadate, Mt. Arakura, Mt. Kumanonagamine, Mt. Fujikura, and Mt. Atsumi. These five peaks are characterised by sea views and views of Mt. Chokai, and extensive beech forests to boot.

Mt. Takadate is the lowest, but probably the one the offers the most in terms of places to check out. Mt. Takadate is covered in paths that lead around the Shimoike and Kami’ike lakes, designated RAMSAR wetlands popular with rare varieties of birds, and has a pretty good lookout at the summit, although the height means it’s not that much of a challenge to climb.

Mt. Arakura from the Yura Trailhead is a steady climb up a peak covered in mountain Sakura. Then there is the Arakura Shrine, one of the coolest shrines I’ve discovered here in the Shonai region.

Mt. Kumanonagamine, I will probably need to climb again because of the fiasco that happened the first time around, but this was an interesting spot famous for its wetlands as well that are home to Japan’s smallest species of dragonfly. The view over the Shonai coast and to Mt. Chokai was quite spectacular indeed.

Mt. Fujikura that I climbed yesterday was a great challenge rewarded with ocean views over Sanze, and occasional views out over the Shonai plains to Mt. Chokai. This mountain is definitely best climbed when the foliage isn’t as thick, think early spring or late autumn.

Lastly, Mt. Atsumi is a dynamic mountain that offers a challenging climb and huge variety of things to explore. Its history as a Shugendo mountain means it is covered with artifacts including a Shukubo that is unfortunately out of action. Plus it is located in Atsumi, one of the coolest Onsen town in Yamagata prefecture.

For each of these mountains, I’d recommend climbing in either spring or mid to late autumn. Summer is just unbearably hot, which could be good if you’re in it for a workout (in which case Fujikura from the Shishihata Trailhead might be a good option).

If you’re wondering which mountain to climb out of these five, pick Mt. Atsumi. It gives the best balance of places to check out with a challenging climb. Mt. Arakura is a very close second. Mt. Kumanonagamine and Mt. Takadate are good options for a short hike. Mt. Fujikura is a good middle ground.

Although similarly high with similar eco-systems, these five peaks offer great variety in terms of things to check out, and aren’t so high so can be a good option for beginner or intermediate hikers alike.

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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

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