100 FAMOUS MOUNTAINS OF YAMAGATA

山伏

Sun rising over Mt. Chokai

ONE YAMABUSHI

ONE HUNDRED PEAKS

MOUNTAINS OF WISDOM

キウイ

MOUNTAINS OF WISDOM

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MOUNTAINS OF WISDOM

Kia ora koutou. Thanks for dropping in. I'm Tim Bunting, the Kiwi Yamabushi, and welcome to Mountains of Wisdom, my attempt to summit and document the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Prefecture in the northern Tohoku region of Japan.

Since ancient times, mountains in the land of the rising sun have been regarded as a mysterious location where life's deepest darkest secrets are held. Full of curiosity, those brave enough to enter the mountains did so, and they emerged with untold wisdom that has helped countless generations over the millennia.

Those brave souls have since been named Yamabushi, or those who promulgate in the mountains. By following in their footsteps, I wish to uncover mountains of wisdom so I can share what I learn with you, and I couldn't think of a better place to do that than my own backyard, Yamagata Prefecture, the prefecture shaped by mountains.

Now for the peaks.

TIM BUNTING

KIWI YAMABUSHI

Yamabushi name: 諒宣

Ryosen Spreader of Truth

THE 100 FAMOUS MOUNTAINS OF YAMAGATA

THE CHALLENGE

Mt. Yudono of the Dewa Sanzan in the middle of Yamagata Prefecture. This was the exact location of many Yamabushi trainings, including that of the monks who sacrificed their own lives to become Sokushinbutsu, Living Buddha or Buddha Mummies.

THE CHALLENGE

In 1964, mountaineer and author Kyuya Fukuda published Hyakumeizan, One Hundred Mountains of Japan, about his favourite peaks throughout the country. This book proved extremely popular following an endorsement by Crown Prince Naruhito, the current Emperor, and an English version was even published in 2014.

Then in 2016, in homage to the original Hyakumeizan, Yamagata Prefecture whittled down their 2,774 mountains into a list of their own 100 famous mountains. My challenge is to summit all 100, and document it on this blog and accompanying YouTube Channel.

DEDICATION

Historically, Yamabushi have used training in the mountains as a way to provide salvation to the ordinary people who are struggling in their daily lives. I am dedicating this project to all those who have lost their lives to nature, including my father, and during the COVID-19 Pandemic.


In the process, I am hoping to encourage more people to get out into nature, and to the Tohoku Region, a remote part of Japan that less than 2% of overseas travellers ventured to as recently as 2019.

Now, let's learn more about the mountains…

100 FAMOUS MOUNTAINS

The original Hyakumeizan were selected by Fukada according to three criteria: grace, history, and individuality. In contrast, Yamagata’s list was selected by locals from the 35 municipalities according to the following:


  • Number of visitors to the mountains, starting with locals
  • Mountains that have played a huge role in the lives of locals
  • Mountains with great views or other special appeal that makes you want to share the place with others
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAINS

Some mountains are going to be easy to climb. Some of them you don't even need to climb and can reach by car. However, the taller mountains especially may require staying on the mountain. Some are very far away from Sakata, which also requires a night away, and some of the mountains are also dormant volcanoes, so due care must be taken. Last, one mountain is on an island and requires a ferry ride.

THE HEIGHTS OF YAMAGATA

The list includes mountains lower than 1,500m, a key difference from Fukada’s original list. In fact, at 58m Mt. Kashiwagi the lowest mountain on the list is a bit of a stretch to call a mountain. However, the list does include 45 mountains above 1,000m, and four above 2,000m, the tallest of which, Mt. Chokai at 2236m, is the tallest mountain entirely in the Tohoku region.

TERMS FOR MOUNTAIN

In Japanese, there are a few names for mountains. Yama is probably the most common, which is also read as San (Hagurosan), and sometimes becomes voiced with Zan (Chokaizan). The terms Dake and Mine are also sometimes used. Both are mountains in English, but dake is generally characterised by a sheer or steep drop. Mine, also read as Po or Bo, is commonly referred to as 'peak' in English.

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MOUNTAINS ABOVE 2000m

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MOUNTAINS IN JAPAN'S TOP 100

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HEIGHT OF MT. CHOKAI

TALLEST MOUNTAIN ON THE LIST

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HEIGHT OF MT. KASHIWAGI

LOWEST MOUNTAIN ON THE LIST

YAMAGATA PREFECTURE

YAMAGATA PREFECTURE

Yamagata Prefecture, one of six prefectures in the Tohoku region of northern Japan

RUN TO THE HILLS

Yamagata Prefecture, one of the six prefectures in the northern Tohoku region of Honshu, is famous for its natural beauty exemplified by its mountains. The name Yamagata literally means ‘mountain shape’ or ‘shaped by mountains’, a rather apt name as 72% of the prefecture is mountainous. In olden times, however, the name used another Kanji character, kata 方 or ‘in the direction of’, owing to the thousands of people from all over Japan who travelled to Yamagata over the centuries.

MATSUO BASHO AND THE DEWA SANZAN

For many, the mountains sought after were the famed Dewa Sanzan, the Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa, nestled in middle of the prefecture. These three holy peaks were even the destination for Matsuo Basho during compilation of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Japan’s perennial Haiku collection. In addition, Yamagata prefecture is home to the tallest mountain in Tohoku, Mt. Chokai (although it shares a border with Akita Prefecture), otherwise known as Dewa Fuji.

UNESCO AND JAPAN HERITAGE ACCREDITATION

Yamagata Prefecture is home to Tsuruoka, the only UNESCO certified City of Gastronomy in Japan. A lot of this is due to the surrounding mountains providing abundant nutrients for food in the area to grow well.

In addition, Yamagata Prefecture boasts four Japan Heritage sites, the mountain temple Yamadera, The three mountains of Dewa, otherwise known as the Dewa Sanzan, the Kitamaebune North Sea Ships, and Samurai Silk.

WATER WORLD

With all these mountains, Yamagata is a source of some of the freshest water in the whole of Japan, a country known for its water. The prefecture is famous for having the highest number of waterfalls (over 5m in height). In addition, at 224km the Mogami river is the longest contiguous river in one prefecture, and played a huge role in the development of Edo, modern-day Tokyo. Plus, there are also 507 Onsen Hot Spring facilities in the prefecture, at least one in each municipality, so you’re bound to find somewhere to relax after you climb.

Mt. Haguro Stone Stairway
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WATERFALLS

THE MOST IN ONE PREFECTURE

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LENGTH OF MOGAMI RIVER

LONGEST RIVER IN ONE PREFECTURE

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ONSEN HOT SPRING FACILITIES

AT LEAST ONE IN EACH MUNICIPALITY

YOUTUBE VIDEOS

BY CATEGORY

  • All
  • 100 Mountains of Yamagata
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Forest Bathing
  • Hard to reach
  • Historical Hikes
  • Mountains below 1000m
  • Myths and Legends
  • Onsen
  • Shonai Alps
  • Shonai Region
  • Tsuruoka City
  • Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines
  • Day Hikes
  • Half-day hikes
  • Japan
  • Sakata City
  • Shugendo Mountains
  • Waterfalls
  • Winter Hikes
  • yamagata
  • 100 Famous Mountains of Japan
  • Marshlands
  • Mountain Flowers
  • Mountains above 1000m
  • Mogami
  • Mogami Region
  • Mogami River
  • Peaks below 500m
  • Sakegawa Town
  • Snowshoeing
  • Short hikes
  • Shonai Town
  • Murayama Region
  • Nishikawa Town
  • Shinjo City
  • Japanese
  • Hyakumeizan 100 Famous Mountains of Japan
  • Overnighter Mountains
Mt. Atsumi in Atsumi Onsen, a quaint Onsen Hot Spring town in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture
Reaching Peak Tranquility: Atsumi-dake (Mt. Atsumi)
Sign on the Nakanomata Trail up Mt. Nihonkoku
The Shogun and The Falcon: How I conquered “Japan”: Nihon-koku (Mt. Nihonkoku)
Yozo-san: White Snakes, White Monkeys and slimy salamanders
Abandoned Ski Field and Phantom Forest of Tsuchiyu-yama (Mt. Tsuchiyu)
The sun sets over the ninth station of Mt. Gassan
Gassan, the Dewa Sanzan’s “Mountain of Death” (Mt. Gassan)
Mt. Yamuki (Yamuki-yama) in Shinjo City
The Medieval Castle and Mighty River of Yamuki-yama (Mt. Yamuki)
Mother. Hunter. Mountain. Hokari-yama (Mt. Hokari)
Mt. Ubagatake in autumn
The Widow’s Peak: Ubaga-take (Mt. Ubagatake) of North Japan
Sanze village near Mt. Fujikura surrounded by green mountains and the blue Sea of Japan can be seen through the trees in the distance through the trees of Mt. Fujikura
Sanze’s Little Helper: Fantastic Fujikura-yama
Mt. Shogadake
Dancing in the Dawn Lilies: Shoga-dake and The Fuji of The North
Bananas and Cokes, Leaches and Pit Vipers: Kumanonaga-mine
Mt. Maya seen from the distance
Mythical Beasts, Buddha’s Mother, and buried Yamabushi treasure? Welcome to Maya-san (Mt. Maya).
Exploring The Yamabushi Trails of Kinbo-zan (Mt. Kinbo)
Mt. Yudono Shrine Gates during the autumn
The Dewa Sanzan’s Mountain of Rebirth: Yudono-san (Mt. Yudono)
A Jizo statue at the top of Mt. Kyogakura in Sakata
Womb Passes and Monkey Crossings: Kyogakura-san “The Shugendo Peak of Sutras”
Yura in Tsuruoka city seen from Mt. Arakura
Mountains of Sakura: Arakura-yama (Mt. Arakura)
Mt. Chokai seen from Mt. Yonetaihei in the winter
Homer Simpson’s Heaven in North Japan: The Donut-shaped Yonetaihei-san (Mt. Yonetaihei)
The Autumn Leaves of Mount Taizo
The Epitome of Autumn Leaves in North Japan: Taizo-san (Mt. Taizo)
Mt. Haguro's Five Story Pagoda
The Dewa Sanzan’s Haguro-san (Mt. Haguro)
Panoramas and picnics under the Sakura: Kita-yama (Mt. Kitayama)
Mt.-Takadate-and-Shimoike-lake-in-Tsuruoka
Whetting your appetite for Wetlands on Takadate-yama (Mt. Takadate)

MOUNTAIN PREVIEWS

  • All
  • 100 Mountains of Yamagata
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Birds of prey
  • Day Hikes
  • Forest Bathing
  • Hard to reach
  • Historical Hikes
  • Mountain Previews
  • Mountains below 1000m
  • Shonai Region
  • Shugendo Mountains
  • Tsuruoka City
  • yamabushi
  • Akita Prefecture
  • Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines
  • Kamuro Mountain Range (Kamuro Alps)
  • Kaneyama Town
  • Mogami
  • Mogami Region
  • Mogami Town
  • Mountain Flowers
  • Mountains above 1000m
  • Myths and Legends
  • Nihyakumeizan 200 Famous Mountains of Japan
  • Mountains above 2000m
  • Shinjo City
  • Waterfalls
  • Half-day hikes
  • Onsen
  • Murayama Region
  • Obanazawa City
  • Peaks below 500m
  • Short hikes
  • Sakata City
  • Asahi Alps
  • Asahi Town
  • Okitama Region
  • Shirataka Town
  • 100 Famous Mountains of Japan
  • Hyakumeizan 100 Famous Mountains of Japan
  • yamagata
100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Todono-san (Mt. Todono)

Mountain on the borders of Shirataka and Asahi Towns. Part of an ancient path to Yudono-san and Oasahi-dake.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Hachimori-yama (Mt. Hachimori)

Peak along the Kamuro Alps home to legendary Tengu.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Hiuchi-dake

Peak along the Kamuro Renpo (Kamuro Alps) offering great views

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Kamuro-san

Kamuro-san in the Mogami Region of Yamagata Prefecture

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Kashiwagi-yama

Lowest mountain on the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata List on Tobishima Island in Sakata City.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Yakushi-san

Tallest of the pyramid mountains in Kaneyama Town along the border of Akita Prefecture.

Chokai-zan
Chokai-zan (Mt. Chokai)

Chokai-zan is a tall peak that towers over the Shonai region and the Dewa Sanzan to the south

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Kagikake-mori (Mt. Kagikakemori)

Mountain straddling the borders of Mogami Town of Yamagata Prefecture, and Yuzawa of Akita.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Kamewari-yama (Mt. Kamewari)

Peak on the borders of Shinjo City and Mogami Town said to be where one of historical character Yoshitsune’s child was born.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Komata-yama (Mt. Komata, Mt. Omata)

Tallest peak on the Kamuro Renpo (Kamuro Alps) by a whisker with striking peaks and valleys.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Mokuzo-yama (Mt. Mokuzo)

Mountain at the southern edge of the Kamuro Alps with mountain hut adored by locals

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Yunosawa-dake (Mt. Yunosawa)

Second highest peak along the Maya-san mountain range south of Tsuruoka City. Along with Kinbo-zan, Yoroga-mine, Hokari-yama, and Maya-san, one of the mountains of Kinbo Shugen.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Futatsu-mori

Distinctive twin-peaked mountain in Obanazawa City near the border with Miyagi Prefecture.

ALL MOUNTAINS OF WISDOM PEAKS

KINBO-ZAN

金峯山

きんぼうざん

Exploring The Yamabushi Trails of Kinbo-zan (Mt. Kinbo)

Kinbo-zan is a dynamic little peak with a deep history of Shugendo.

Yura in Tsuruoka city seen from Mt. Arakura

ARAKURA-YAMA

荒倉山

あらくらやま

Mountains of Sakura: Arakura-yama (Mt. Arakura)

Mountains of Sakura Cherry Blossoms and the amazing Arakura Shrine await.

Mt.-Takadate-and-Shimoike-lake-in-Tsuruoka

TAKADATE-YAMA

高館山

たかだてやま

Whetting your appetite for Wetlands on Takadate-yama (Mt. Takadate)

Takadate-yama is short in stature, but packs a lot of punch as home to one of the only RAMSAR wetlands in Japan

The sun sets over the ninth station of Mt. Gassan

GASSAN

月山

がっさん

Gassan, the Dewa Sanzan’s “Mountain of Death” (Mt. Gassan)

The tallest Dewa Sanzan peak with a thriving Haguro Shugendo Yamabushi culture.

Mt. Haguro's Five Story Pagoda

HAGURO-SAN

羽黒山

はぐろさん

The Dewa Sanzan’s Haguro-san (Mt. Haguro)

Home to Haguro Shugendo and the Dewa Sanzan Yamabushi mountain monks

Sign on the Nakanomata Trail up Mt. Nihonkoku

NIHON-KOKU

日本国

にほんこく

The Shogun and The Falcon: How I conquered “Japan”: Nihon-koku (Mt. Nihonkoku)

How to conquer Japan in 60 short minutes

KUMANONAGA-MINE

熊野長峰

くまのながみね

Bananas and Cokes, Leaches and Pit Vipers: Kumanonaga-mine

How a group of elderly Japanese men saved our arses

Mt. Shogadake

SHOGA-DAKE

笙ガ岳

しょうがだけ

Dancing in the Dawn Lilies: Shoga-dake and The Fuji of The North

Shoga-dake is a former Shugendo peak on Chokai-zan famous for its floral brilliance.

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

ATSUMI-DAKE

温海岳

あつみだけ

Reaching Peak Tranquility: Atsumi-dake (Mt. Atsumi)

The hidden Onsen (Hot Spring) town of Atsumi’s own hidden gem

A Jizo statue at the top of Mt. Kyogakura in Sakata

MT. KYOGAKURA

経ヶ蔵山

きょうがくらさん

Womb Passes and Monkey Crossings: Kyogakura-san “The Shugendo Peak of Sutras”

And how the Japanese language got three alphabets

Sanze village near Mt. Fujikura surrounded by green mountains and the blue Sea of Japan can be seen through the trees in the distance through the trees of Mt. Fujikura

FUJIKURA-YAMA

藤倉山

ふじくらやま

Sanze’s Little Helper: Fantastic Fujikura-yama

Fun little peak in the tiny fishing village of Sanze, Tsuruoka City

Mt. Maya seen from the distance

MT. MAYA

摩耶山

まやさん

Mythical Beasts, Buddha’s Mother, and buried Yamabushi treasure? Welcome to Maya-san (Mt. Maya).

More than one of the best hikes in Shonai

Mt. Ubagatake in autumn

MT. UBAGATAKE

姥ヶ岳

うばがたけ

The Widow’s Peak: Ubaga-take (Mt. Ubagatake) of North Japan

Must-see autumn alpine dreamland between the two tallest Dewa Sanzan peaks with a twisted backstory

The Autumn Leaves of Mount Taizo

MT. TAIZO

胎蔵山

たいぞうさん

The Epitome of Autumn Leaves in North Japan: Taizo-san (Mt. Taizo)

Mount Taizo all but single-handedly confirms why autumn is by far the best season for hiking in Japan.

HOKARI-YAMA

母狩山

ほかりやま

Mother. Hunter. Mountain. Hokari-yama (Mt. Hokari)

Kinbo Shugen Mountain with a strange name and amazing trails amongst the autumn leaves

Mt. Chokai seen from Mt. Yonetaihei in the winter

YONETAIHEI-ZAN

米太平山

よねたいへいざん

Homer Simpson’s Heaven in North Japan: The Donut-shaped Yonetaihei-san (Mt. Yonetaihei)

Tiny donut-shaped peak in Sakegawa Village of the Mogami region worthy of a snowshoe hike.

Mt. Yudono Shrine Gates during the autumn

YUDONO-SAN

湯殿山

ゆどのさん

The Dewa Sanzan’s Mountain of Rebirth: Yudono-san (Mt. Yudono)

Yudono-san is the final Dewa Sanzan peak in the middle of Yamagata Prefecture that has been a central destination for millions over the centuries

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KAMURO-SAN

神室山

かむろさん

Kamuro-san

Kamuro-san in the Mogami Region of Yamagata Prefecture

TSUCHIYU-YAMA

土湯山

つちゆやま

Abandoned Ski Field and Phantom Forest of Tsuchiyu-yama (Mt. Tsuchiyu)

Short and quick hike with views of Chokai-zan and near the Mogami River, Shiraito Falls, and Genso no mori, the Forest of Illusions.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

YUNOSAWA-DAKE

湯ノ沢岳

ゆのさわだけ

Yunosawa-dake (Mt. Yunosawa)

Kinbo Shugen mountain with great views of Gassan, Chokai-zan, and the Asahi Alps.

Mt. Yamuki (Yamuki-yama) in Shinjo City

YAMUKI-YAMA

八向山

やむきやま

The Medieval Castle and Mighty River of Yamuki-yama (Mt. Yamuki)

Tiny peak that was home to a medieval castle along the banks of the mighty Mogami River.

KITA-YAMA

北山

きたやま

Panoramas and picnics under the Sakura: Kita-yama (Mt. Kitayama)

Former ski field turned into a Sakura-lover’s paradise on the outskirts of Murayama City

Chokai-zan

CHOKAI-ZAN

鳥海山

ちょうかいざん

Chokai-zan (Mt. Chokai)

Tallest peak entirely in Tohoku often said to resemble Mt. Fuji, leading to the name Dewa Fuji (after the former province of Dewa).

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

TODONO-SAN

頭殿山

とうどのさん

Todono-san (Mt. Todono)

Mountain on the borders of Shirataka and Asahi Towns. Part of an ancient path to Yudono-san.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KAMEWARI-YAMA

亀割山

かめわりやま

Kamewari-yama (Mt. Kamewari)

Peak on the borders of Shinjo City and Mogami Town with grand views and a huge history.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KAGIKAKE-MORI

鉤掛森

かぎかけもり

Kagikake-mori (Mt. Kagikakemori)

Named after a hook hung over a tree at the summit for good luck, Kagikake-mori is a great spot for a hike amongst the beech forest.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

MOKUZO-YAMA

杢蔵山

もくぞうやま

Mokuzo-yama (Mt. Mokuzo)

Mountain that marks the entrance to the Kamuro Alps

YOZO-SAN

与蔵山

よぞうさん

Yozo-san: White Snakes, White Monkeys and slimy salamanders

Ancient trail of primeval beech forests, legendary swamp monsters, waterfalls, snow bridges, and more.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

HACHIMORI-YAMA

八森山

はちもりやま

Hachimori-yama (Mt. Hachimori)

Peak along the Kamuro Alps home to legendary Tengu

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

HIUCHI-DAKE

火打岳

ひうちだけ

Hiuchi-dake

Peak along the Kamuro Renpo (Kamuro Alps) offering great views

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

YAKUSHI-SAN

薬師山

やくしさん

Yakushi-san

Short hike up a pyramid-shaped peak.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

FUTATSU-MORI

二ツ森

ふたつもり

Futatsu-mori

Twin-peaked mountain in Obanazawa City with a cool waterfall and great views.

DISCOVER THE MOUNTAINS OF YAMAGATA WITH ME

Thanks for stopping by. If you like what you see, consider signing up for the Mountains of Wisdom Mailer, or drop me a line.

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The eighth station of Mt. Gassan during the middle of summer.

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The eighth station of Mt. Gassan during the middle of summer.

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