Mountain Day (Yama no hi) is Japan’s newest public holiday and falls on 8th August this year. It’s a day for people to celebrate the wonders of Mt. Fuji and Japan’s many other beautiful mountains. Yama no Hi only became an official holiday in 2014, after a successful campaign by the Japanese Alpine Club and other Mountain related organisations.
Falling in the middle of the hot and humid Japanese summer, Mountain Day gives workers a well-deserved break and a chance to enjoy some mountaintop views or cool off with a shady forest hike. Read on to discover some of Japan’s best mountain experiences!
Climb Mt. Fuji
Mountain Day is a fantastic excuse to climb Mt. Fuji (or Fuji San as it’s affectionately known in Japan). This is Japan’s highest and most iconic mountain, standing at 3776 metres tall and although climbing it can be a challenge, it’s definitely worth it for the amazing views! Many people start their climb in the early hours of the morning so that they reach the summit for sunrise. What could be more magical than basking in the early morning glow from the top of Japan’s most iconic mountain?!
When to Climb?
Although August is a popular time to make the ascent, and you’ll probably be sharing your experience with lots of other people, it’s still a great time to climb. There isn’t any snow during the summer, all the mountain facilities are open and public transport is running, which means scaling this enormous mountain is accessible to inexperienced climbers too.
There are a number of different trails you can take to the top of Mt. Fuji, and they start from varying altitudes, so you can choose one to suit your stamina levels. If you’re a climbing newbie you might want to start with the Fujinomiya 5th station, which at 2400 metres up the mountain is the closest to the summit. There are mountain huts dotted around too, so you can bed down for the night and separate your hike into stages. Book ahead though as these huts are popular during August.
If you can’t get to Mt. Fuji, then fear not, because over 70% of Japan is mountainous! Wherever you are in Japan, you’ll be sure to find a mountain to scale, even if it’s not quite as impressive as good old Fuji San. Japan is an extremely diverse country, from the lush greenery of Kyushu in the south, to the wild and rugged terrain of Hokkaido in the north, and its mountains are just as varied. You’ll find everything from active volcanoes like Mt. Aso to mountains like Mt. Haku that have freshwater lakes and hot springs (onsen). The great thing about Japan is that the famous bullet trains (shinkansen) make long journeys speedy and comfortable, transporting you to the nearest mountain in no time at all!
If you’re in Tokyo and fancy a less challenging climb just an hour or so from Shinjuku, then why not take a trip to Mt. Takao? At 599 metres in height it’s much easier to scale than some of the bigger mountains, but the views from the top are still magnificent.
If you’re not feeling energetic enough to go on a full-blown mountain climbing excursion, then fear not, because you can still enjoy some less strenuous activities at a slightly lower altitude.
Celebrate Mountain Day by packing a picnic, and going for a relaxing stroll in a shady forest, where the leafy canopies provide some much needed relief from the hot August sun. If you really want to live out the forest fairytale then you may want to jump on a ferry from Kagoshima and take a trip to Yakushima. With rolling mountains, lush green forests filled with cedar trees and sparkling waterfalls it will probably come as no surprise to you that this island is said to have inspired Studio Ghibli’s ‘Princess Mononoke’ anime.
Welcome to Hell
Many of Japan’s mountainous areas also have onsen to take a dip in. Ditch the swimwear, do as the Japanese do and take a dip in a steamy hot spring. Public baths and hotels with their own hot springs are dotted all over Japan and bathing is a relaxing way to end a long hike and soothe your aching muscles. If you want to experience one of Japan’s most unique onsen towns, then Beppu could be the place for you. Take a tour of the town’s seven ‘hell’ onsen, each with their own nasty surprise. Blood red waters, toxic gases and crocodiles await you. You can’t bathe in any of the eight hells, but if you survive the tour you can reward yourself with a dip in a much less treacherous onsen.
If you fancy celebrating Mountain Day with some cultural activities then why not visit a museum with a mountain theme? The Miho Museum in Shigaraki, filled with antiques from Miho Koyama’s private collection, is almost entirely underground and carved into the mountain itself. Then there’s the Mountain Museum in Omachi, where you can get an insight into the history of mountain climbing and take in the impressive panorama of the Japanese alps from the third floor.
Celebrate Mountain Day by preparing a delicious bento box (the Japanese equivalent of a packed lunch) and heading out for a hike. If you’re nowhere near a mountain then you could always head to a nice shady forest or park to enjoy your Japanese style lunch. If you close your eyes you might just be able to imagine you’re in Yakushima…
Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.
Have you visited one of Japan’s beautiful mountains? Let us know in the comments below!
Words by Emily Lovell
Mt. Fuji by Wall Boat via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/UVebF9
Climbing Mt. Fuji by skyseeker via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/39YNDz
Mt. Aso by wondereye via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/jm8vvS
Yakushima by watanabe tomy via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/d9JcGb
Beppu hell onsen by Einheit 00 via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/25McPsh