Region
Chugoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Tottori
Population
613,229

Mount Daisen

Lost and found on the highest mountain in western Japan.

Soaring straight out from the Sea of Japan at a height of 1729 meters, Mount Daisen is the highest, and holiest, mountain in the Chugoku region.

For centuries, yamabushi mountain ascetics have used Daisen as their spiritual training ground. Today, visitors wanting to explore this sacred source of spiritual energy can get away with a moderate three-hour hike to the summit for praise-be views of Tottori and the Sea of Japan. In the winter, you can take the gondola instead and feel like you’re skiing into the ocean.

The first weekend of June, Daisen becomes the stage for a stunning torchlight parade to mark the official opening of the summer climbing season.

A former thriving center for Shugendo mountain worship, Daisen’s cedar-lined slopes were once home to more than 3000 warrior monks taking part in extreme purification rituals on the uphill climb to enlightenment. Though the prosperity of Daisen as a temple town declined after the Meiji Era, four worship halls and 10 branch temples remain hidden away in shadowy forest clearings that can only be discovered by getting physically, and spiritually, lost.

Ogamiyama shrine

Ogamiyama shrine was once part of a flourishing network of Shugendo worship.

Orient yourself at central Daisen-ji temple, a 1300 year-old vermillion wonder at the top of the paved slope leading away from the Daisen Tourist Information Center in the main part of Daisen town. To the left is the longest natural stone pathway in Japan which takes you to the poetically beautiful Ogamiyama shrine; the site of the Natsuyama Summer Opening festival where a medieval-style torchlight parade at night marks the opening of the climbing season on Daisen.

Hiking routes are well-signposted though you should stop at the Information Center, located in a Swiss-style chalet, to get the lay of the holy land and check trail conditions. The main route leading to the top, called Misen, is divided into 10 stages with markers letting you track your progress. At the end, raised wooden boardwalks make the path narrow which can be an issue during busy periods.

Conditions are ideal before the rainy season and towards the end of summer until October. Daisen is also a popular place for viewing the changing of the leaves in Autumn – best seen from Kagikake Pass (accessible by car only).

Winter time sees Daisen transform into a picturesque ski resort known for its epic views. The season typically opens around Christmas time across four ski resorts; Gouenzan, Nakanohara, Uenohara, and Daisen Kokusai. There’s snowshoeing too, and the mountain is still open to hikers aiming to channel the hardcore ways of the yamabushi.

Throughout the year, cozy minshuku or guesthouses offer family-style lodging in the main town and at various points along the hiking trails if you don’t want to stay in one of the big hotels. Campgrounds run by the National Park Service are another cheap and cheerful option for the warmer months.

View from the Shoji Ueda museum

Peek into the life and works of renowned photographer, Shoji Ueda at this contemporary museum.

There are some great non mountain-related things to do in the towns around Daisen. The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography is a fascinating concrete anomaly among the endless emerald rice paddies, exhibiting photographic works from Tottori-native Shoji Ueda. If you’ve got kids in tow, head to Miruku-No-Sato, a dairy farm famous for its ice cream, or the Hanakairo Flower Park, one of Japan’s largest, which has some gorgeous views of Daisen in the distance.

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Trivia

Kitaro airport Tottori

Did you know?

Mount Daisen is nicknamed Houki-Fuji thanks to its resemblance to the iconic Japanese mountain when viewed from Yonago. See it from the other side, though, and it looks like a folded emerald screen.

Things To Know

Getting Around

The Daisen area is best explored by car so try to rent one if you can. An alternative is to hitchhike; Daisen locals are usually more than happy to pick up visitors and drop them off wherever they need to go.

Accommodation

You can glimpse life as a monk with a traditional temple stay at Sanraku-so, located just before the entrance to Daisen-ji.

Local Guides

Tottori prefecture has recently launched a program to increase the number of local multilingual guides. Visit http://ygg.go-to-japan.jp/ for more information.

How To Get There

Address

689-3318, Japan

By train

Daisen is best accessed via Yonago station in Yonago city. From JR Tokyo station it’s about 5 hours by Tokaido bullet train to JR Okayama, where you change to the Yakumo Limited Express for Yonago. The same route can also be taken from JR Shin-Osaka station (3 hours). From Hiroshima, take the Sanyo bullet train to Okayama and get on the Yakumo Limited Express for Yonago.

Around 8 buses per day run from Yonago station to Daisen town, stopping outside the Daisen Tourist Information Center.

By bus

Express buses run from major cities to the bus terminal outside of Yonago station, from where you can take a local bus to the Daisen Tourist Information Center.

By plane

Yonago has its own airport, served by ANA (flights to and from Tokyo) and Asiana Airlines (flights to and from Seoul, Korea). From the airport, you can hire a car, take the train or bus, or rent a cheap taxi to Daisen (36 kilometers, 50 minutes).

Where To Stay

Shukubo Kansho-in Temple Sanrakuso
  • Daisen 14 Saihaku-Gun Daisen-Cho, Tottori 689-3318
  • 8.5/10
  • 1.8 km
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Daisen White Palace
  • Daisen 144-2 Saihaku-Gun Daisen-Cho, Tottori 689-3318
  • 8/10
  • 2.0 km
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Hotel Daisen Shirogane
  • Daisen 1362-2 Saihaku-Gun Daisen-Cho, Tottori 689-3318
  • 8.7/10
  • 2.0 km
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Daisen View Heights
  • Daisen 145-7 Saihaku-Gun Daisen-Cho, Tottori 689-3318
  • 7.7/10
  • 2.0 km
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