Hike. Onsen. Star gaze. Repeat.
Just two hours from Tokyo, stands the majestic mountain range called Yatsugatake. It is amazing how a few hours from the always-busy Tokyo, there are places with that unique Japanese countryside atmosphere for the ultimate sightseeing-and-relaxation combination. Even if you’re just up for a view, there’s still plenty to do and see in the area.
Located on the border of Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures, Yatsugatake has altitudes that can get 2,899 meters above sea level and spectacular views. On a clear day, you can get a view of the great Minami Alps mountain range, as well as catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji. The area is perfect for hiking and nature lovers. Many trails are available, for all levels of skills, and wildlife is abundant in the area, so don’t be surprised if you find a deer or fox on the way.
Hike until the summit and you may be lucky enough to find a hidden waterfall.
Hike until the summit and you may be lucky enough to find a hidden waterfall. Some spend the night in one of the many camping or rest areas. There are more than 30 mountain lodges on the mountain range.
According to the local legend, Yatsugatake was once only one mountain higher than Mount Fuji, but Konohanasakuyahime, the goddess of Mount Fuji, tore it down out of jealousy, leaving Yatsugatake the way it is today. Legends apart, it might not be far from the truth, some geologist say that Yatsugatake was once one mountain, millions years ago before it erupted and became the shape it is now.
What to do, see and eat
Hot springs are another great option as the area has many different spots located all over the area. You can relax and re-energize after a demanding hike. Another recommendation after a hike is to try “houtou,” which is a very thick local noodle, famous to this area. “Houtou,” often served in a hearty stew, will give you the carbohydrates recharge to keep exploring.
The Yatsugatake area also has plenty of museums and art galleries. From modern to classical art to famous artists to local craft. Many artist had moved here in search of the creative power that is believed Yatsugatake can give for those who live here. One to visit is Yatsugatake Museum of Art. The area is a good choice for family trips as well, filled with farms where kids can get close to cows, ships, goats and one particular farm that have even alpacas.
Each season brings its own charm to Yatsugatake. Summer is the busiest time, when people look for respite from the hot-and-humid Tokyo to find the cool breeze in the mountains. The sub-alpine weather makes Yatsugatake area a relief.
The fall and spring scenery is filled with cherry blossoms and fall foliage. When winter comes it’s time to look up, as the sky gets even clearer and you can see the milky way and even shooting stars, which are not a rare thing. Of course, winter sports spots are all over the place, too. Whatever season you choose, a visit to Yatsugatake is a guarantee of a beautiful and relaxing time.
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