It’s a common misconception that the mountain to climb in Japan is Mount Fuji. While it is both the most striking and tallest mountain in the Japanese archipelago, I would argue it’s infinitely better to climb a nearby mountain to marvel at the snow-capped beauty, rather than to climb Fuji itself. Luckily, there are several nearby peaks that provide a spectacular vista with Mount Fuji center stage.
In 2020, Mount Fuji will remain closed to hikers, so you can’t climb it anyway. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all trails, huts and other facilities will be inaccessible.
Usually, though, every summer in Japan (July to September), the promise of climbing Mount Fuji to see the sunrise attracts bus load after bus load of visitors. The usual format is to hike up during the evening, optionally staying for a few hours in a cramped hut for around ¥6,500 per person, and doing the final leg in the early hours just in time to catch the iconic first rays of the sun rising over the eastern edge of Japan.
Of course, if the weather conditions are less than ideal, you may simply be stuck inside a cloud with no view at all—and hiking up a busy trail comprised of volcanic scree in darkness is not quite the idyllic experience that the postcard-perfect snow-capped images of Mount Fuji suggest. Moreover, Fuji is not the only mountain in Japan for which the sun rises! Here, I offer you some rewarding alternative hikes in the same general region as Mount Fuji and within easy reach from Tokyo.
Mitsutoge is perhaps the best mountain to catch a good view of Mount Fuji, and on a clear day has a spectacular 360-degree vista spanning from Tokyo to Mount Fuji and over to Japan’s Southern Alps. It’s easily doable as a day trip most of the year, and with the summit being 1,786 m it’s not too strenuous a climb.
There are multiple routes to choose from—here’s a map (in Japanese) detailing them all. The easiest option would be option A (see below), taking the same route up and down. Whichever route you decide on, allow at least four and half hours for the hike.
You’ll find a few possible eateries (including Tenkachaya pictured below) along the way, but do bring some provisions with you in case they’re closed. There should at least be a vending machine or two on the way for liquid sustenance, but better be safe than sorry.
The peak at just over 1,700 m will be a little cooler than at ground level, so depending on the season bring an extra layer or two.
Pro tip: During winter, the path may be tricky due to snow and ice, so it is not recommended for inexperienced climbers.
Altitude: 1,786 m (5860 ft)
Difficulty: Easy – medium
Season: Spring – autumn, and winter for more experienced climbers
Time to get there: Day trip from Tokyo
How to get to Mitsutoge
Traveling from Tokyo, there’s a regular JR limited express train (the Azusa/Kaiji) running from Shinjuku towards Kawaguchiko, which requires a transfer to the Fujikyu Railway at Otsuki.
Otherwise, you can take the JR Chuo Rapid Service to Takao, change to the regular Chuo Line and take it to Otsuki, then hop onto the Fujikyu Railway. This route is a little cheaper, but adds 30-40 minutes to your travel time.
To get to the mountain itself, you can either:
A. Start From Mitsutoge Station
Get off at Mitsutoge Station, head north to the Mitsutoge Green Centre and follow the trail sign posted to Mitsutoge (三つ峠) up to the summit from there.
B. Take the bus from Kawaguchiko Station to Mitsutogetosanguchi
If you like, you can stay on the train from Shinjuku until you reach the Kawaguchiko terminus, then take the Fuji Kyuko “hiking” bus (which only runs between 09:00 and 10:00) to the other side of the mountain and get off at the Mitsutogetozanguchi stop.
From there, follow the signs to Mitsutoge (三つ峠), or stay on the bus to the final stop Tenkachaya (天下茶屋) and get some of their very popular hoto (ほうとう) noodles before hiking up.
Note: If you go for Route B, you can take the snazzy, direct Fuji Excursion train from Shinjuku Station. It only runs in the mornings.
What does it cost to climb Mitsutoge, and how long does it take to get there?
- JR Limited Express Azusa + Fukijyu Railway: ¥3,090 one way, about 108 minutes
- JR Chuo Line Special Rapid Service + Fujikyu Railway: ¥2,070 one way, 135-150 minutes
- JR Limited Express Azusa + Fukijyu Railway: ¥3,530 one way, about 130 minutes
- Limited Express Fuji Excursion (direct train): ¥4,130 one way, about 110 minutes
- Bus: ¥740, 25 minutes
- Return train from Mitsutoge Station: JR Limited Express Azusa/Kaiji ¥3,090 | JR Chuo Line ¥2,070, 120-150 minutes
Akadake (赤岳) literally “red peak” at just under 3,000 m is one of the Yatsugatake (八ヶ岳) range of peaks, and makes for a spectacular view at sunrise. You hike up, stay in one of the mountain huts (山小屋) and then summit to catch the first rays of sun and a spectacular view stretching over Kanto, Mount Fuji and the Japanese Southern alps.
If you start very early, you could do the hike in a day—it’s about 18 km (11 mi) and 1,700 m (5577 ft) elevation. In 2020, a day hike is likely your only option, as overnight accommodation in the area may be completely unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note that if you don’t have your own transport, like a rental car, you’ll need to check the timetables of public transport carefully, as the mountain trail is a long bus journey from the station.
Do check weather conditions before departing and be sure to bring warm clothing, waterproofs plus plenty of food and water.
Altitude: 2,899 m (9,511 ft)
Difficulty: Medium – hard
Season: Summer, other seasons for experienced climbers with appropriate ice gear etc.
Time to get there: A good two-day trip from Tokyo
Getting to Akadake
Take the JR Limited Express Azusa/Kaiji from Shinjuku to Chino (茅野駅) (heading to Matsumoto 松本), which takes about two hours. Then you take the bus to Minotoguchi (美濃戸口). The current bus time table can be found on this page. Note that buses may run on altered schedules, or not run at all, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check before departing Tokyo.
Once you arrive at the final bus stop, hike through the forest on the trail for about an hour until you reach Minoto-sanso (美濃戸山荘).
Then take the right trail to Gyoja Goya or “Gyoja Hut” (行者小屋), which depending on your speed will take another hour or two. If you’re staying the night then check in, otherwise follow the trail marked to 赤岳 from behind the hut.
It’s fairly steep climb from there and a scramble up some rocks until you get to the top of the ridge. Take a right along the ridge, enjoying the spectacular views on either side.
You’ll ascend past a couple more mountain huts (which you could stay the night at instead of Gyoja Goya) and finally arrive at the Akadake summit. To return either loop back the way you came, or continue over the summit and take the right path to Amidadake (阿弥陀岳). The trail continues to Nakadake (中岳), and then drops again to another junction, where you can either hike up to Amidadake or continue down to the right back to Gyoja Goya.
Note there are a few alternative accommodation options on the mountain, in particular Akadakekosen (which has its own hot spring), an easy 40-minute hike from Gyoja Goya.
May 2020 update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gyoja Goya accommodation will not be available this year.
Staying at Gyoja Goya
You can stay a reasonably comfortable night with dinner and breakfast meals at Gyoja Goya for ¥9,000. They have an all but unusable website, but the essential information is all here:
Note, on the reservation form there’s Akadakekosen (赤岳鉱泉) or Gyoja Goya (行者小屋), so be sure to check the right one! They say to call if you’re booking with less than one week’s notice.
Other useful contacts in the area
Minotokogen Lodge: (0266) 74-2102
Akadake Sanso Lodge: (0266) 74-2274
Chino Tourist Information: (0266) 72-2101
Further reading: Hiking in Japan (blog)
How much does it cost to get to Akadake?
Limited Express Azusa/Kaiji train: ¥5,650 one-way (don’t bother with local trains, as they take too long and time can be tight on this hike)
Bus: ¥1,000 one-way
Video on alternatives to Mount Fuji
Other Tokyo area hikes
We’ve covered a few other easy hikes and day trips in the Tokyo area on Tokyo Cheapo. While nowhere near as epic as Fuji-san or the two above, they are both pleasant days out:
Altitude: 929 m (3,048 ft)
Season: All year
Time: Day trip from Tokyo
Further info: Read the article on Tokyo Cheapo
Altitude: 500 m (1640 ft)
Season: All year
Time: Day trip from Tokyo
Further info: Read the article on Tokyo Cheapo
This post was originally published in November, 2016, and was last updated in May, 2020. While we make every effort to ensure our information is accurate, details may vary. This includes prices, which may differ according to the date of travel. Always plan your routes carefully and ensure you are well prepared for your hike.