KITA-YAMA

きたやま 

北山

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

Kita-yama is the perfect spot for a picnic amongst the Sakura that offers panoramic views over the rice fields and mountains of inland Yamagata Prefecture. 

KITA-YAMA

Mt. Kitayama, Mt. Kita

北山きたやま 

Kita-yama (北山きたやま) is a 188m (616. ft.) peak in the Murayama region of Yamagata prefecture best climbed from April to November. Kita-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 15 minutes for a climb.

Mountain Range

Kita-yama

Region

Murayama

Elevation

188m (616. ft.)

Technical Demand

A (requires little expertise)

Physical Demand

1 (easiest)

Trails

Two) 1) The ‘Casual Stroll’ Trail (40min return), and 2) The ‘A little bit of effort and you make it to the Gazebo’ trail (16 minutes return)

Best time to climb

April to June is the best season for the flowers, but the mountain is open until November

Day trip possible?

Yes

Minimum Time Required

16 minutes on foot

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

A stroll through the Sakura of Kita-yama in Murayama City, in inland Yamagata Prefecture. 

On the surface it may be hard to believe, but the tiny 188m-high (616. ft.) Kita-yama on the outskirts of Murayama City is indeed one of the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata. The five different kinds of Sakura, and Nikkokisuge flowers alone couldn’t possibly be enough to make the list, could it? Not only that, the shortest route to the summit takes a mere 8 minutes. 8 minutes! It’s so short I was able to film my whole stroll there for you.

How could Kita-yama make the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata list?

The view from Mt. Kitayama in Murayama City with Mt. Koshikidake and Mt. Okina in the background, and sakura in the foreground.
Expansive views of the surrounding mountains, such as Okina-san (far left between the cherry blossoms) and Koshiki-dake (tallest peak in the picture) await from the summit of Kita-yama.

So, how could such a small peak make it on a list of 100 Famous Mountains?The answer is, of course, that the criteria for the 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata is not what you’d typically expect. If you’d read my page about this project, you would know that the mountains were first chosen according to the following criteria:

  • 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

How did Kita-yama come to be?

A path lined with daffodils waves through the Sakura of Mt. Kitayama
The paths up Kita-yama are lined with daffodils that bloom in the spring with the cherry blossoms

The truth is, Kita-yama scores very high on all three of these points. In the past Kita-yama was known as a place for hanging out with mulberry trees and a ski field. However, these went out of fashion with the passing of time. 

Then in 2004, the whole local Okubo community got together to clear the 4ha of grass and plant one whole side with some 600 Prunus × yedoensis and weeping sakura cherry blossom trees. 

The small hut at the summit of Mt. Kitayama with its distinctive red roof stands out above the cherry blossoms
Carpark in foreground, summit in background. Yes, Kita-yama’s summit is that close. 

Ever since, it has been a very popular location for locals, and the locals have also invested a lot into the mountain too. The community has worked hard together to help maintain the mountain by cutting the grass, covering the trees in winter to protect them from heavy snow, and keeping the paths clear. In 2012 the mountain was renamed the Kitayama Sakura Park.

Kita-yama Climbing Season

The hut at the summit of Mt. Kitayama with its distinctive red roof, and view of inland Yamagata Prefecture.
The hut at the summit of Kita-yama with its distinctive red roof. The rope for the Happiness Bell is also visible.

Kita-yama is open year-round, but the panoramic views and gazebo at the summit, complete with ‘bell of happiness’, and the ‘couples’ pines’ are best accessed when there is no snow, any time from April to November.

The Kitayama Sakura Festival is usually held at the end of April. The orange-yellow day lily Nikko Kisuge flowers bloom in June. If you go during Sakura season (mid to late April), you will also be greeted with a line of daffodils to guide your path.

Getting to Kita-yama

A map of Mt. Kitayama showing the paths that weave up the mountain through the Sakura
The map of Kita-yama you can pick up from the bottom. Notice the winding routes through the Sakura.

Kita-yama has two main trails, the ‘Casual Stroll’ Trail (40min return), and the ‘A little bit of effort and you make it to the Gazebo’ trail (16 minutes return). 

The ‘Casual Stroll’ Trail (40min return)

A sign stopping cars from entering hangs across the entrance from the base of Mt. Kitayama, cars aren’t allowed past there, but people certainly are.
The entrance from the base of Kita-yama, cars aren’t allowed past there, but people certainly are.

From the Murayama Ha-yama Police Station along Route 347, take a left at the Murayama City Kinro Seishonen Home. Right next to the field there is a car park from where the path starts Casual Stroll Trail starts and weaves through the Sakura. Since there’s basically only one path from here to the summit it’s very easy to follow.

The ‘A little bit of effort and you make it to the Gazebo’ trail (16 minutes return)

The Bell of Happiness at the summit of Mt. Kitayama.
The Bell of Happiness at the summit of Kita-yama.

Keep going past the car park for the other trail, and follow the path to the right at the farm. Head 50m up the road and there is some space to park your car. From here you can see the gazebo and its characteristic red roof. The path from here is steep, but not very long at all. 

Kita-yama: In conclusion

The view of Murayama City and inland Yamagata Prefecture from the Bell of Happiness at the summit of Mt. Kitayama.
The view of Murayama City and inland Yamagata Prefecture from the Bell of Happiness at the summit of Kita-yama. 

Although I feel a bit like a cheat for only spending about an hour on this tiny peak, but Kita-yama truly deserves its place on the list due to the sheer influence it has had on the lives of the locals. If you’re looking for a place to hike, this is not the peak for you, but if you just want a nice time amongst the flowers with a great view that isn’t very hard to get to, Kita-yama is the place for you. 

Nearby locations worth checking out

Green Wood Coffee

Green Wood Coffee has great coffee, coffee beans and a huge selection of local crafts and delicacies. Great spot to check out for sure!

新鮮な珈琲をお届けします。
green wood coffeeは、生豆をコーヒー豆専用低温庫で保管し、温度・湿度を管理。その新鮮な生豆を自家焙煎しております。 管理の行き届いた、焙煎したてのコーヒー豆をお届け致します。www.greenwoodcoffee.net

Hayashizaki Iai Shrine

An Iai Master wields a sword at the Hayashizaki Iai Shrine in Murayama City.
An Iai Master at Hayashizaki Iai Shrine in Murayama City. 

Murayama City is home to the Hayashizaki Iai shrine, where the sword-wielding art of Iaido originated. 居合道| 体験 | 村山市居合道体験
Reservations may be refused due to the status of new coronavirus infection (state of emergency). Please note. No posts…en.iaidoexperience.com

Hayama (Murayama)

Hayama (Murayama) is a former Dewa Sanzan peak that is home to the Buddha Yakushi Nyorai. (村山)葉山
寒河江市、村山市、大蔵村の境に位置する「葉山」は奈良時代から続く修験道の山でした。また、古くから農民の作神の宿る山として山岳崇拝の対象でもあり、人々は季節の折々に山に登り、五穀豊穣を祈ったそうです。江戸時代初期までは羽黒山・月山とともに出羽…yamagatayama.com

Taruishi-yama

Taruishi-yama is a part of Murayama Ha-yama connected to the Taruishi hamlet of Murayama City. 樽石山
樽石山は葉山の一部であり、樽石集落から連なる山です。…yamagatayama.com

References

Yamagatayama Page (Japanese)

MOUNTAINS OF WISDOM

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SELECTED PEAKS

The sun sets over the ninth station of Mt. Gassan
Gassan, the Dewa Sanzan’s “Mountain of Death” (Mt. Gassan)
100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Kamuro-san
Mt. Chokai seen from Mt. Yonetaihei in the winter
Homer Simpson’s Heaven in North Japan: The Donut-shaped Yonetaihei-san (Mt. Yonetaihei)

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

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.

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

KAMEWARI-YAMA

亀割山

かめわりやま

Turtles, Tigers, and a Legendary Japanese Character: Kamewari-yama

Legendary location next to a quaint Onsen (hot spring) resort along the Oguni River in Mogami Town

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.

YAKUSHI-SAN

薬師山

やくしさん

The Pyramids of… Japan? — Yakushi-san and The OG Japan content creator

Small pyramidal peak in the northern Yamagata town of Kaneyama

ZAO-SAN

蔵王山

ざおうさん

Zao-san and Why We Climb Mountains

Zao-san: Snow monsters, ski fields, mountain hags, multi-coloured crater lakes, hot springs, and more.

OKINA-SAN

翁山

おきなさん

Venerable Old Man Mountain — The Mist and Mystery of Okina-san

 Legends and landscapes on an epic hike along the Ou Mountains

MOUNTAIN PREVIEWS

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KAMURO-SAN

神室山

かむろさん

Kamuro-san in the Mogami Region of Yamagata Prefecture

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

YUNOSAWA-DAKE

湯ノ沢岳

ゆのさわだけ

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

Chokai-zan

CHOKAI-ZAN

鳥海山

ちょうかいざん

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

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

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KAGIKAKE-MORI

鉤掛森

かぎかけもり

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

Mountain that marks the entrance to the Kamuro Alps

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

HACHIMORI-YAMA

八森山

はちもりやま

Peak along the Kamuro Alps home to legendary Tengu

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

RYUBA-SAN

竜馬山

りゅうばさん

Mountain in Kaneyama Town with a distinctive precarious cliff face.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

HIUCHI-DAKE

火打岳

ひうちだけ

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

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

FUTATSU-MORI

二ツ森

ふたつもり

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

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KOMATA-YAMA

小又山

こまたやま

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

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KASHIWAGI-YAMA

柏木山

かしわぎやま

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

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

JIZOMORI-YAMA

地蔵盛山

じぞうもりやま

Mountain near Hijiori Onsen with an amazing shrine on a precarious cliff-face overlooking Gassan.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

SABANE-YAMA

猿羽根山

さばねやま

Mountain on the borders of Funagata Town and Obanazawa City in the Mogami and Murayama regions in Yamagata respectfully that was historically a difficult mountain pass.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

OASAHI-DAKE

大朝日岳

おおあさひだけ

One of the 100 Famous Mountains of Japan along the borders of the Okitama, Murayama, and Shonai regions of Yamagata.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

SHOJIGA-TAKE

障子ヶ岳

しょうじがたけ

Mountain along the Asahi Renpo famous for its rockface reminiscent of Japanese paper screens (Shoji).

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KABU-YAMA

加無山

かぶやま

Twin-peaked mountain within a forest park that is home to many ancient trees and bird of prey nests.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KAMURO-DAKE

禿岳

かむろだけ

Mountain on the edge of a caldera on the borders of Mogami Town and the Onikobe part of Naruko Onsen, Miyagi Prefecture.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

KOSHIKI-YAMA

甑山

こしきやま

Twin-peaked mountain entirely in the Kabu-yama Prefectural Nature Park in Mamurogawa Town near the border of Akita Prefecture.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

ITO-DAKE

以東岳

いとうだけ

One of the main peaks famous as a starting and ending point for traverses along the Asahi Renpo, fields of alpine flowers, and the legendary Takitaro, a giant fish inhabiting the Otori-ike (lake).

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

TENGUSUMOTORI-YAMA

天狗角力取山

てんぐすもうとりやま

Peak on the borders of Tsuruoka City and Nishikawa Town at the edge of the Asahi Renpo known for sumo-wrestling Tengu.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

OTAKANE-YAMA

大高根山

おおたかねやま

Mountain straddling the borders of Oishida Town and Murayama City that is a great place for taking in the mountain cherry blossoms in Spring, and for a general bush walk.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

TARUISHI-YAMA

樽石山

たるいしやま

Mountain off Murayama Hayama famous for white snake falls, Itaya water springs, and more.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

(MURAYAMA) TENGU-YAMA

村山 天狗山

むらやま てんぐやま

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

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

DAIZUMORI-YAMA

大頭森山

だいずもりやま

Daizumori-yama is a mountain in Oe Town on the edge of the Asahi Renpo (Mountain Range) famous for its flora and fauna.

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

MURAYAMA HAYAMA

村山葉山

むらやま はやま

Former Dewa Sanzan peak in inland Yamagata Prefecture with an extensive Shugendo and Mountain Worship history.

About the author

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

TIM BUNTING – KIWI YAMABUSHI

OFFICIAL DEWA SANZAN YAMABUSHI NAME:

RYOSEN – SPREADER OF TRUTH

Hi, I'm Tim Bunting AKA the Kiwi Yamabushi, a New Zealander who became a Yamabushi Ascetic in the Dewa Sanzan mountains of north Japan. I'm part of the Yamabushido team, and we host life-altering Yamabushi training on the Dewa Sanzan (website I made). People come to us for the ultimate mindfulness experience, to reach the next level, or simply connect with nature and themselves.

I'm on a mission to summit all 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Prefecture to spread the splendour of this fabulous location, and in dedication to all those who lost their lives out in nature, including my father.

Sign up for the Mountains of Wisdom mailer for updates, follow me on social (IG, FB, YT, Twitter, TikTok, CR, all @kiwiyamabushi), or send me an email to get in touch.

Tim.

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