By Ginger Vaughn
It was the fourth day I had been traveling with Hiroshi Sakurai, who I had met while hitchhiking to Mt. Iide a few days before. It turned out we were both hiking hyakumeizan mountains in the same area. so he was kind enough to give me a lift.
After two full days of rain, my gear was disgusting and my spirits a little wrecked, but then the sun brightly greeted us as we set out for Mt. Asahi. On the trail, we were making good time in an attempt to turn the two-day hike into a day hike so we could climb a few more of the hyakumeizan while the weather was good.
The trail was alive with vegetation, overtaking the rocks and the path underneath our feet. It was a steep and steady ascent, but the views and the sunshine motivation to move quickly. Hiroshi, retired and nearly 70, was a super-fit, genki oji-san who didn’t talk much but was a speed racer on the trail. He walked effortlessly as I trailed behind him.
Upon reaching Asahi Shrine, I was famished so sat and began to devour my lunch. Hiroshi looked at me as to say, “Hungry again?” but decided a few minutes to eat and take a breather wasn’t such a bad idea.
I got to the summit a little after noon, satisfied with the hike, enjoying the sunshine and looking forward to the onsen waiting for me back at the trailhead. Hiroshi smiled a giant smile, one of few I had seen in four days. I laughed and told him I was happy he decided to pick up a gaijin hitchhiker. He just nodded shyly, and we began our descent.
From the trailhead the path is pretty steep and steady but overall nothing too difficult. As autumn is filled with hikers who have come to view the beautiful burnt color forests, lodges and huts become crowded, so make a reservation in advance if you plan to stay.
Also, the huts are not full service, so bring your own supplies such as water, food and sleeping bag. Also in autumn, bus service becomes less frequent, though taxi service is available. Be sure to confirm times and availability before you depart.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
Peak: 1,870 meters
Duration: Two-day hike
When to go: July-November
How to get there: Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Yamagata and transfer to a local train to Aterazawa. From there, take a bus to Asahi hot springs, a ten-minute walk to the trailhead.
Tokyo Station ⇒ Yamagata ⇒ Aterazawa ⇒ Asahi Hot Springs ⇒ Trailhead
(2 hrs. 50 mins. ¥11,030) ⇒ (41 mins. ¥480) ⇒ (1 hr. 20 mins ¥1,700) ⇒ (10 mins.)
Things to bring
Raingear, flashlight, map, camera, sunscreen, water, camera, gloves, sunglasses, warm hat, food supplies, sleeping bag,
Asahi Tourist Information: (0237) 67-2111
Onuma Taxi Service: (0237) 62-2248
Asahi Lodge: (0237) 62-2139
Things not to miss:
Hot springs near the entrance of the trailhead. Also in the area are two other hyakumeizan mountains: Mt. Gassan and Mt. Zao.
Recommended Hiking Schedule
Day 1: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Day 2: 9 hours