TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

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Mountain Sakura Mountain: Arakurayama

Yura in Tsuruoka city seen from Mt. Arakura

I climbed Mt. Arakurayama today, a mountain to the west of central Tsuruoka that straddles the Shonai coast and overlooks one of the coolest places along the Sea of Japan, Yura.

The weather was just too good. I woke up, looked outside, saw how clear of a day it was and felt the urge to be on the mountains. So, I decided to take half a day off. I had been thinking about climbing Arakurayama for a while now, and since the mountain Sakura were in bloom, I felt it would be a good idea to go today.

I intend to make up for it by working tomorrow, but I’m really glad that I can just do that. It’s supposed to be cloudy tomorrow, and the weather today was crisp, so I thought I should make the most of it.

Once I got to the purported start of the trail according to yamagatayama.com, I had no idea where it was. Luckily I know the town a little bit, and I headed further up the road and saw these two women who looked like they had just gotten off the mountain. I asked them and they kindly let me know where to go.

Firstly, this was completely different to what the yamagatayama map says. In fact, it’s a whole hill away. You have to go through a tunnel to get to the right spot. And secondly, there were zero signposts. The only signpost I could find was one saying to watch out for bears. So I ended up walking into an area that I assume was formerly rice fields before I realized that the path ended and I had to turn around.

Luckily, I could see a very small trail going off into the mountains, and this was the right one. I have no idea how people who don’t know the place are expected to find it. It’s at the end of a narrow gravel road off the main street. Thankfully there is a massive hotel to use as a landmark.

So I followed the trail, and before long there were some spectacular views to take in. The trail goes up a ridge that then overlooks Yura and other parts of that coast. With the mountain Sakura, it’s really quite pretty at this time of year.

Keep following the path and you come across a lookout at the top of one hill, then head down a bit until you get to a road area. This road leads to Arakura shrine, and splits off to the summit. Before you get to the summit, there’s one clearing that has great views of Mt. Chokai, and you can see Mt. Takadate quite easily from there too. The summit isn’t exactly exciting. Just a clearing amongst a forest. But it’s the journey that counts right?

Arakura shrine is sure a sight to behold. There were at least five buildings in the whole complex, and some of them looked brand new. There is also this awesome staircase and red bridge over a pond that I posted on my Instagram stories. From here, there’s a clearing and you get a good view of Mt. Gassan. From there I took the same path back to my car.

All up it took me about 3 and a half hours return. I was walking fastish, and of course I stopped to pay my respects at the shrine, where I also took my time to get a few photos.

I would recommend this for anyone who wants a bit of a challenge, although it wasn’t that hard in retrospect. That’s probably why it’s an A grade mountain, meaning casual hikers can climb it too. I’d definitely recommend coming when the mountain Sakura are in bloom. I think I was a little too late. This would mean maybe a week or two after the Sakura are blooming in central Tsuruoka.

I also enjoyed the cover of the trees the whole way, so the sunlight wasn’t very intense. It should be a good place to climb in summer before jumping into the ocean in Yura, or among the autumn leaves. 4/5.

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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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