The Best Season to Hike in North Japan

Mt. Ubagatake

Now, this might be true throughout Japan, but by far the best season to hike is Autumn. For starters, it’s not too hot. If you’ve ever been out hiking on a lower mountain during the Japanese summer, you would know exactly what I mean. Mt. Atsumi was a great peak to hike, but it was like hell out there. It definitely would have been better to hit it up in the middle of autumn. I also did Mt. Fujikura when it was still hot out, hiking in early September, but this meant that the trees were overgrown, and I couldn’t see very far. It’s better to wait until some of the autumn leaves are out, and even already falling off the trees for a mountain like Mt. Fujikura.

Which leads me to my next point. Autumn in Japan is by far one of the most picturesque seasons there is. The autumn leaves are just insanely beautiful, and you can spend hours on end trying to ‘hunt’ for them, as the Japanese pastime of Momijigari alludes to. However, to really drive this point home, think about hiking in the other seasons. For the majority of mountains up here, winter hiking is out, although the snowshoeing is indeed fun, you can’t cover the same distance as in autumn, and the landscape is nowhere near as varied. Then, spring is great with the cherry blossoms and everything, but that’s about it. Besides the cherry blossoms, you need to wait until the greenery is out for there to be any real attractive qualities. Spring here is very grey, with a lot of dust left over from the melted snow, and you really do have to wait until it gets a bit warmer for the mountains to really be enjoyable to look at. Summer is hot, that’s all you really need to know (which is why the taller mountains are where you should be headed in summer).

Also, some of the taller mountains, Mt. Gassan and Mt. Chokai for example, are only open from summer until autumn. This in itself is enough to put autumn in first place, is it not? What do you think?



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Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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