YUNOSAWA-DAKE

ゆのさわだけ 

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata

湯ノ沢岳

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

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.

YUNOSAWA-DAKE

Mt. Yunosawa, Mt. Yunosawadake, Yunosawadake

湯ノ沢岳ゆのさわだけ 

Yunosawa-dake (湯ノ沢岳ゆのさわだけ) is a 964m (3163 ft.) peak in the Shonai region of Yamagata prefecture. Yunosawa-dake is open from May to October. Yunosawa-dake is a level 3 in terms of physical demand, which means it is moderate to hike, has a B technical grade, which means it doesn’t require too much expertise, and you want to allow at least 6 hours for a climb.

Mountain Range

Maya-san

Region

Shonai

Elevation

964m (3163 ft.)

Technical Demand

B (doesn’t require too much expertise)

Physical Demand

3 (moderate hike)

Trails

Two, 1) Shimohongo Trail (6 hours return) 2) Otsukue Trail (7 hours return)

Best time to climb

May to October

Day trip possible?

Yes

Minimum Time Required

6 hours

Yunosawa-dake (Mt. Yunosawa)

Yunosawa-dake is the second tallest peak on the Maya-san mountain range, taller than Hokari-yama, Yoroga-mine, and Kinbo-zan, home to the Kinbo school of Shugendo. As territory for Kinbo Shugen, legend has it Yunosawa-dake was opened for ascetic practice by Kukai, AKA Kobo Daishi, before he went on to open up Yudono-san. Kukai is believed to have trained on Yunosawa-dake, and there are about a dozen specific locations of worship to visit. Along with the other four peaks on the Maya-san range, these five peaks are collectively known as the ‘Five Old Peaks’ (Goroho 五老峰).

In recent years, bears, serow, birds of prey, and other wild animals have been spotted, showing the variety of nature on Yunosawa-dake. Yunosawa-dake’s steep mountain ridges and beech forests come great views over the Shonai plains. Then from the summit Chokai-zan, Gassan, and the Asahi Alps are visible. If you have the time and energy, traversing from Yunosawa-dake to Kinbo-zan via Hokari-yama and Yoroga-mine is a great way to take in these ancient peaks. 

Trails up Yunosawa-dake

Shimohongo Trail (Six hours return)

Head towards the Shimohongo hamlet from the Sanchoku Asahi Gu along Route 112, and go along the Yunosawa River as follow the big signs up to the quarry. The trailhead is at the dam at the end of the road. The carpark is big enough for about 10 cars. 

Cross the river and the trek begins proper through a wooded path until the first station. There is a cedar forest that turns into a wilder forest full of snow camellia where the path gets increasingly steeper. Here there is a ridge with a great view over the surrounds, and there are also lookouts at the third station and at Gohozen (御宝前) from where you can see Gassan, Chokai-zan, and the summit of Yunosawa-dake. 

After that, there is a rocky area that requires chains to get past, but while taking in the view near the 8th station of the beautiful beech forest, you will see the intersection that leads to Hokari-yama and Kinbo-zan. Take a left here. The path evens out for a short while, and once you’re through the last beech forest you will arrive at the summit. If the weather’s good, you can see Gassan and the Asahi Mountain Range. 

There aren’t any watering holes past the start of the trailhead, and it is very steep and it is easy to slip so more care is necessary for the descent. Part of the road to the quarry isn’t sealed, but the road surface is fine. There are signs for the trailhead and further information. Be aware that there is no toilet at the trailhead. 

Otsukue Trail (7 hours return)

From Route 345, head into the Sakanoshita hamlet and follow the Otsukue river about 2km to the trailhead in the remains of the Otsukue hamlet. Locals from the Tagawa region work hard to keep the trail maintained, and at the end of the service road you will find the final watering hole on the trail called Iwashimizu

There is a small incline from the end of the service road, and once you climb that there is a forest of wide-leaved trees, primarily beech, and you will reach an intersection that splits between Yunosawa-dake and Mitsumata. Take a right and head through the native beech forest. This forest is great for the fresh green of summer and the autumn leaves. Before long the path meets with the Shimohongo trail (at a place called three-way mirror, 三方境), and heads up to the summit. 

Nearby locations worth checking out

  • Kinbo-zan: Former Shugendo peak great for a half-day hike
  • Hokari-yama: Longer hike up a mountain with amazing views and autumn leaves
  • Maya-san: Famous peak with an amazing backstory
  • Yudono-san: Dewa Sanzan mountain with awe-inspiring shrine
  • Chikeiken Farmer’s House serving homemade traditional meals (and overall general cool place to be)
  • Rokujurigoe Kaido (see the Yudono-san article for more)
  • Gassan Tsutaya Ryokan in Shizu Onsen

Resources

Yamagatayama Website: https://yamagatayama.com/hyakumeizan/no-060/

MOUNTAINS OF WISDOM

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SELECTED PEAKS

100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata
Kagikake-mori (Mt. Kagikakemori)
Exploring The Yamabushi Trails of Kinbo-zan (Mt. Kinbo)
Mt. Maya seen from the distance
Mythical Beasts, Buddha’s Mother, and buried Yamabushi treasure? Welcome to Maya-san (Mt. Maya).

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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