A brisk day hike accessible from Matsumoto.
Hikers in search of a brisk day hike in the Northern Alps should consider Mount Jonen. This alpine peak overlooks the Azumino area near the popular Nagano transportation hub of Matsumoto City. Just a few hours west of Tokyo, Matsumoto is a fantastic base for sightseeing, even if you’re not an avid hiker. Its picturesque nature spots, rolling rivers and, of course, Matsumoto Castle are all part of the allure. So are the nearby mountain ranges, which offer hikers of all levels quite a few options.
With an altitude of 2,857 meters, Mount Jonen is one of the “100 Famous Japanese Mountains” and is a favorite day hike of travelers based in the Matsumoto area.
Hiking Mount Jonen
Mount Yarigatake might hog the limelight when it comes to iconic peaks in the Northern Japan Alps, but Jonen offers a kinder, gentler trek with a full day of hiking and equally spectacular views. The initial approach from the Ichinosawa trailhead has a pleasing riverside setting with manageable terrain and a minimal danger factor.
Once you’ve cleared the first stretch, the ascent suddenly gets steeper, but there aren’t really any exposed areas along this part of the climb. At length, you’ll come to the Jonen Goya, a large mountain hut occupying a broad, flat area in the saddle between peaks. Here you have a snack and refill your water for a small fee (¥200 per liter).
After taking a break, you can start your final ascent to the peak. The footing does get a bit tricky from here with lots of loose rocks, but proceeding with some care will see you through. The view from the peak on a clear day gets you the brilliant sights of Yarigatake and the Hotaka Mountain Range, as well a good look at the Kamikochi Valley and Azusa River.
In terms of difficulty, the summit is within the reach of a fit beginner. Mount Jonen can also be included in longer excursions, such as a hike to or from neighbouring Kamikochi area or a trek beginning or ending at the Nakabusa Onsen trailhead.
When budgeting your time, give yourself three to four hours from the Ichinosawa trailhead to the Jonen Goya hut. From there to the summit will take another hour. Expect to spend from two to three hours on the descent if you are returning to the original trailhead. All told, a day hike can take up to seven or eight hours, so it’s best to get an early morning start unless you’re planning to spend the night at the mountain hut.
As mentioned, Jonen can either be attempted as a day hike or worked into one of many longer hikes in the area. If you have the time, stamina and supplies, there is a dizzying variety of options to explore. You can even avoid the bus fare into Kamikochi by ridge walking all the way to the center of the park, passing the popular Mount Chougatake along the way. Hikers with a bit of extra scratch can book overnights in mountain huts or can opt for a heavier tent.
If you decide to head for the Nakabusa Onsen trailhead further north, you can stay at one of the popular huts along the way: Daitensou or the famous Enzansou. Though not the most efficient route, it’s also possible to access Yarigatake via Otenjo, bunking down at the halfway point.
Start your journey at Mount Jonen, to experience one of the most beautiful views of the Japanese Alps.