The Heavenly Hideaway of Daizumori-yama

だいずもりやま 

大頭森山

DAIZUMORI-YAMA

The best effort / reward ratio in Yamagata. Bar none.

Can I let you in on a secret?

What if I told you there was a mountain amongst many mountains that had spectacular views of these many mountains for minimal effort?

Well, there is. 

Daizumori-yama is the kind of mountain that if you know about, you know about. Located pretty much smack bang in the middle of Yamagata Prefecture, Daizumori-yama offers unbeatable 360° panoramic views for only a 20 or so minute hike. In short, this mountain’s effort / reward ratio is about as lopsided as it can get.

What sort of views you say?

Spectacular ones. Like this:

A tower sticks out of the deep green forests at the summit of Daizumori-yama with inland Yamagata Prefecture far off in the distance.
The tower of Daizumori-yama with inland Yamagata Prefecture way off in the distance. 

There’s got to be a catch, right? There always is.

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi stares up at a giant birch tree on Daizumori-yama surrounded in greenery.
Staring up at a huge birch tree. 

Yes, unfortunately.

Perhaps the hardest part about “hiking” Daizumori-yama is the getting there part. In short, the trailhead carpark can be a bit of a mission to get to, and would be impossible without your own transport. Even then, the steep and narrow mountain roads to navigate make it difficult to reach. Needless to say, this is not a road for the faint of heart.

Looked at another way though, if you love driving, and you love the Japanese countryside, I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than hiking Daizumori-yama. To get there, you’re going to need to drive through countless mountain valley hamlets, among dense native forest, through an eerie tunnel, and up a steep narrow road.

Once you’re there though, getting to the summit is a breeze.

Plus, this mountain is more than just a view.

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi hiking amongst the deep forests of Daizumori-yama.
Along the trail there are beech and Erman’s birch trees, as well as Moriaogaeru frogs, hawk eagles, and serows.

In spring there is fresh greenery, bamboo shoots, Zenmai (ostrich fern), and other mountain vegetables. In autumn, many families and friends go out to take in all the leaves. Also, there is the Jintsukyo gorge, the Okuoe Yanagawa Onsen, and Kodera Kosen hot springs nearby.

Hiking Daizumori-yama

A sign covered in thick bush marks the trailhead to Daizumori-yama and the lookout at the summit.
The trailhead to Daizumori-yama’s summit.

From the carpark, head back the way you came, and you’ll see a sign half buried in bush. This sign marks the trailhead. Then it’s just a matter of following the trail on a slight incline with a few stairs in between. 800m or so later, you’ll come out at a clearing with the behemoth that is Daizumori-Yama’s 10m-tall (30 ft.) lookout tower. The tower is apparently made of Nishiyama cedar, and there is a carillon bell with a nice sound, so be sure to play it when you go.

Being in the middle of a dense forest on top of a mountain, the views up there are simply unbeatable. Plus, since you’re essentially in the centre of the prefecture, you can see tons of famous Yamagata peaks, and beyond too. For starters, Daizumori-yama offers views of Yudono-san, Ubaga-take, Gassan, and Murayama Ha-yama to the north. To the east you’ll the mountains of the Ou Renpo such as Gosho-zan, Omoshiro-yama, and Zao-san. Then, to the south and south west, the mountains of the Asahi Alps such as Oasahi-yama, Ito-dake, Tengusumotori-yama, and Shojiga-take.

More photos for your viewing pleasure 

(L) The carrillon bell of Daizumori-yama. (R) The tower from above. The ring shaped thing to the left shows names of all the surrounding mountains.

Nearby Locations Worth Checking Out

The Asahi Renpo (Asahi Alps)

Mountains Galore. Looking south towards the Asahi Renpo from Daizumori-yama.
Looking south towards the Asahi Renpo from Daizumori-yama.

The mountains on the Asahi Renpo also on the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata are (from north to south) Shojiga-take, Ito-dake, Tengusumotori-yama, Torihara-yama, Koasahi-dake, Osasahi-dake, and Okitama Ha-yama.

Dewaya Ryokan in Nishikawa

A zen garden in the middle of Dewaya Ryokan in Nishikawa complete with goldfish pond and wooden slat bridge.
The gardens of Dewaya, a Ryokan in Nishikawa Town.

Famous for its unique take on Dewa Sanzan mountain vegetable cuisine, Dewaya Ryokan in Nishikawa is a must-stay Ryokan in Nishikawa Town.

Tsutaya Ryokan in Shizu Onsen

A building under literal mountains of snow where the Onsen (hot spring) of Tsutaya Ryokan is in Nishikawa, Yamagata Prefecture.
This is the best photo of Tsutaya I could find. The hot spring is there somewhere buried in snow.

Run by a fellow yamabushi, the affable Shida-san, Tsutaya is a Ryokan in Shizu Onsen right at the entrance to the Gassan Ski Lift. Tsutaya is my go-to Ryokan. The meals are second to none, combining locally sourced mountain vegetables with some of Shida-san’s unique recipes, and the drink selection is also up there. Then of course is the hot springs. Tsutaya has both private and semi-public (for paying guests) hot springs with unbeatable views out onto Yudono-san and Ubaga-take. (They are also buidling a sauna!). Needless to say, you should probably just go stay there.

Yukihira Coffee in Nakayama Town

Yukihira Coffee in Nakayama Town
Yukihira Coffee in Nakayama Town

Just south of central Sagae City, Yukihira Coffee is a tiny coffee stand in Nakayama Town. Offering both blends and single origin coffee, Yukihira Coffee is one of the best cafes in the prefecture. They also have a selection of sweets (try the Canelé!). Plus, a broad range of coffee-making paraphernalia that is sure to please any coffee-lover.

Murayama Ha-yama

Hakuban Jinja (shrine) stands atop a distant mountain, with the summit of Murayama Ha-yama to the left, and red and yellow leaves in the foreground
The summit of Murayama Ha-yama in Sagae City.

Murayama Ha-yama is a former Dewa Sanzan peak in inland Yamagata Prefecture with an extensive Shugendo and Mountain Worship history. Access to Murayama Ha-yama is possible from nearby Sagae City.

Tengu-yama in Nishikawa

Tengu-yama seen from the north, Kumano Jinja with its distinct red roof in the foreground.
Tengu-yama seen from above. Kumano Jinja is the red roof in the foreground.

Tengu-yama is a 403-m high peak in Nishikawa town that is home to a Tengu, a yokai or supernatural being.

Dewa Sanzan: Haguro-san, Gassan, and Yudono-san

The sign at the summit of Mt. Ubagatake is wooden and worn, but it tells many a tall tale, the deep blue sky and dark green of Mt. Gassan in the background.
The summit of Ubaga-take looking towards Gassan. Ubaga-take is a 30 minute hike from the top of the Gassan Ski Lift.

Gassan and Yudono-san are both accessible from Nishikawa and Oe; Gassan from the Gassan Ski Lift in Shizu Onsen, and Yudono-san can be directly accessed from the Gassan Road. Unfortunately, Haguro-san is on the completely opposite side of Gassan from where Tengu-yama lies, but is definitely worth a visit if you have the time.

Iwanesawa Trailhead up Gassan

The massive roof over the entrance to Dewa Sanzan’s auxiliary shrine at the Iwanesawa trailhead to Mt. Gassan.
I haven’t tried it yet, but you could also try the Iwanesawa Trailhead up Gassan that also starts in Nishikawa.

Daizumori-yama is known for:

Resources

Daizu Moriyama Nature Park

Okuoe Yanagawa Onsen

Jintsukyo Gorge

Asahi Kosen Naturalist House

DAIZUMORI-YAMA

大頭森山だいずもりやま 

Mt. Daizumori, Mt. Daizumoriyama, Mt. Daizumori-yama

Daizumori-yama (大頭森山だいずもりやま) is a 984m (3228 ft.) peak in the Murayama region of Yamagata prefecture. Daizumori-yama is best climbed from June to October. Daizumori-yama is a level 1 in terms of physical demand, which means it is easy to hike, has a A technical grade, which means it requires little expertise, and you want to allow at least 1 hour for a climb.

Mountain Range

Daizumori-yama

Region

Murayama

Elevation

984m (3228 ft.)

Technical Demand

A (requires little expertise)

Physical Demand

1 (easy to hike)

Trails

Daizumori-yama Trail (30 minutes one-way)

Best time to climb

June to October

Day trip possible?

Yes

Minimum Time Required

1 hour

Google Map with trailheads and summit.

PDF Maps by TheHokkaidoCartographer and JapanWilds.org. See all here.

FROM THE REGION

Mt. Chokai
North Japan’s Tallest Peak: Chokai-san
A Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) at Semi Onsen Hot Spring Resort
Turtles, Tigers, and a Legendary Japanese Character: Kamewari-yama (Mt. Kamewari)
Exploring The Yamabushi Trails of Kinbo-zan (Mt. Kinbo)

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Mythical Beasts, Buddha’s Mother, and buried Yamabushi treasure? Welcome to Maya-san (Mt. Maya).
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Why This Tiny Mountain MUST be on Your Japan Itinerary: Haguro-san

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