Japan appeals itself as a country with a rich unique culture, delicious cuisine, awe-dropping technology, the animation and manga fad, and even weird or seemingly strange entertainment. These attractions are mostly in big cities, and tourists usually don’t go to rural areas or smaller cities unless it is to observe some cultural activity, visit historical sites, or to look at the scenery.
These attractions are fun and appealing, but at times we miss what’s right in front of us. Japan is also a country rich with nature. Geographically, 70 percent of the country is covered by forest and mountains. So basically nature is a pretty big part of Japan.
Mount Fuji at a distance.
Due to this reason, the Japanese government are aware of the need to take care and preserve nature. According to Japan’s official website for national parks, there are 33 national parks across the country. One of the most well-known natural landmarks is probably Mount Fuji (3,776.24m), the tallest in the country and most popular among tourists.
In this article, I will introduce the Minami Alps National Park 南アルプス国立公園 located in Yamanashi prefecture, which is on the west of Tokyo and Kanagawa prefecture. Minami Alps National Park is one of the major parks in Japan. It is very mountainous, massive and wide. Although the park is located in Yamanashi, the size of the park actually stretches across from Yamanashi to Nagano and Shizuoka prefecture.
Image source: www.env.go.jp
As you can see, Minami Alps National Park is pretty huge. There are many mountains that you can choose to climb but do find out more as each mountain varies from one to another. You can find more details below.
Alternatively, you can obtain information on-site at:
- Norogawa-Hirogawara Information Centre
Address: Norogawairi 1685, Ashiyasu-Ashikura, Minami Alps City, Yamanashi Prefecture
Contact: (+81) 090-2673-2406
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM (varies according to season)
Closed: Mid-November – early June
- Minami Alps Shizen Fureai Centre (Southern Alps Nature Experience Centre)
Address: Tashiro 1301-2, Aoi Ward, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Contact: (+81) 054-294-8806
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Closed: December 1 – April 30
- Ashiyasu Mountain Museum
Address: Ashiyasu-Ashikura 1370, Minami Alps City, Yamanashi Prefecture
Contact: (+81) 055-288-2155
Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Closed: Wednesdays, end and beginning of year (only open during Summer)
Minami Alps National Park is a recommended location for hiking due to the mountainous feature that makes it more challenging. If you are an enthusiast hiker, this is an irresistible offer. So here in this article, I will briefly introduce about Mount Kitadake and Minami Alps Koma Natural Park.
Mount Kitadake 北岳
This is the second tallest mountain in Japan, standing at 3,193 metres above sea level. It is also known as “the Leader of the Southern Alps”. This mountain is a recommended location to hike if you want to stay away from the crowd.
If you hike this mountain, you might find an alpine plant here called Callianthemum hondoense. It is a flower from the Ice Age that remained to this day. However, it only blooms in June and July, but flowers early in the year, after the ice melted in spring.
Access point to this mountain is at Hirogawara 広河原on the east.
To get to this access point, you need to take a bus from Kofu JR Station, or book a night tour bus (only available on Fridays, 10 pm) from Shinjuku. However, the bus service is only available in certain seasons.
Bus Schedule Website| http://www.minamialps-net.jp/ACCESS/bustime_3.htm
After 20 minutes from Hirogawa trailhead, you will have to choose between two trails that lead to Mount Kitadake. It is recommended to take the one to the right towards Shiraneoike Hut 白根御池小屋. There is a campground, and water source here and this is where you should take a break because the real climb is about to start.
Go past the campground and you will begin to steep climb to the ridge line. It is advisable to allocate three hours for his stretch of the journey, but you can do it in a shorter period of time if you are travelling light or in good shape.
When you reach the ridge, move on to the Kitadake Katanokoya 北岳肩ノ小屋 by turning left. This will take 30 minutes. This hut is just below the summit and this is the place you can stay for the night. Facilities here include campground and water source. Do take note that that temperature at night drops to freezing mark here even during summer. Take a good night’s rest and wake up early the next morning to reach the top and watch the mesmerising sunrise. Getting to the top should take about 45 minutes.
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org
Do be assured that there are plenty of built-in-ladders, chains, ropes, and stairs to assist you to climb along the way. So there is not much to worry about even if you are not a regular hiker.
Besides hiking being the main attraction here, there is also a beautiful natural park that is worth a visit, which is the Minami Alps Koma Natural Park 県立南アルプス巨摩自然公園.
This park is situated at the front of the Minami Alps National Park. Here, you can view Shojigataki (waterfall), natural clear stream water in Ojirigawa ravine, and also Mount Amari – the best place to catch a view of the Minami Alps
You can also enjoy the plants that you can find in this park. The sight of azaleas and irises are beautiful. When azaleas bloom from mid-June to early July, it is a favourite location, especially for hikers. Whereas for irises, they grow naturally on top of Mount Kushigata and is the largest field of irises in Asia.
The white birch forest in this park is actually quite large, and in fact is the largest in Asia. Inside the forest, there are many hot springs, which offers a great relaxation after hiking.
In a nutshell, this a place for nature lovers and for those who want to take a break from city life. You might get to start a conversation with Japanese people here as they love hiking and natural habitats. Enjoy a lovely holiday here!