A little village with big things happening: Lantern festies and a hike the height of Tokyo SkyTree.
? This location is in Niigata Prefecture — GaijinPot Travel’s No. 1 place to visit in 2018! ?
Mt. Yahiko is a mighty volcano near the shore of the Sea of Japan. With Yahiko Shrine, the most famous shrine in Niigata Prefecture, as the entrance to the hike, it’s undeniably scenic.
Hiking Mt. Yahiko
The hike is divided into 10 sections within a dense forest. It is not a difficult climb, and hikers typically can reach the top in about 1-and-a-half to two hours. In the beginning of the hike, there is a small snack shop in a hut. You will see people chit-chatting on rocky seats as they enjoy the oden soup and free coffee.
At the peak of the mountain, there is another small shrine. Take a moment to soak in the panoramic views of the Echigo Plains and Sado Island, too. Hiking is not the only way to enjoy the views of the Niigata Plain and the Sea of Japan. Visitors can also take the ropeway to the top of Mt. Yahiko or drive up it on the Mt. Yahiko Skyline.
Yahiko Shrine and festivals
The spirituality of this shrine traces back to the 8th Century, when Ameno-Kagoyama-no-Mikoto, a great-grandson of a Shinto deity, is believed to have landed on Mt. Yahiko and taught local people the skills required for salt production, fishing, rice cultivation and other agricultural activities.
To commemorate Ameno Kagoyama, many festivals are still performed at the shrine today.
For example, the Yahiko Toro Matsuri, or Yahiko Lantern Festival, dating back 1000 years, showcases a folk song dance, a big lantern parade and fireworks at night. It is usually held in July 24-26, but you can check local listings for the official yearly date. The Yukake Festival shows participants pray with tubs containing sacred spring water on their shoulders. And every year in November, the big Yahiko Shrine Chrysanthemum Festival features a flowerbed in which 30,000 chrysanthemums create a large-scale Japanese landscape.
The hike is just one reason to visit, but there’s a lot more to do and see in this beautiful area of Niigata.