Beat the Heat: 5 Unmissable Mountain Destinations to Visit this Summer
“Seek on high bare trails
― Bashō Matsuo, Japanese Haiku
It is well known that Japanese summers are hot, humid and energy-sapping, particularly so in the hustle and bustle of the mega cities, surrounded by concrete. A visit to a water park or hitting up the inside attractions are both options for keeping cool, but there is also the other 70 or so percent of the country, the mountains, waiting to be explored and perfect for beating the summer heat. Here are five fantastic mountain destinations to explore on your summer Japan trip.
Best known for first class skiing and boarding in amazing powder snow, lucky Hokkaido misses out of the rainy season altogether. Temperatures sit in the pleasant mid twenties (Celsius) during the summer months and for this reason, it is a popular summer holiday destination. Furano is a small city towards the middle of Hokkaido which comes alive in the summer months with millions of blooms, think lavender, poppies, sunflowers and lillies. It is also a good jumping off point for hiking in the region. Plus if you visit in July to see the lavender you might also be lucky enough to catch the Furano Bellybutton Festival which looks intriguing to say the least!
Tateyama Alpine Route
Traversing the alps between Tateyama, Toyama and Ogisawa, Nagano this 37km sightseeing route uses 5 different modes of transportation and boasts a whopping 2400m elevation gain. Expect stunning alpine scenery, Japan's highest waterfall and early in the season, which runs from mid April to November, snow walls up to 20 metres high. At each of the stops along the route, there are hiking options of varying lengths and difficulty levels, including the option to summit Mt Tate (3015m, 9892ft), one of Japan's 100 famous mountains. I was heading here this last weekend but the arrival of the rainy season meant a change of plans so stay tuned for a full report when I get back there later this summer!
Kurobe Gorge is another Toyama highlight where you really do experience nature at its finest. Here, between April and November, the open carriage Torokko Electric Train runs from Unazuki station deep into the gorge, past stunning blue-green waters, towering rock faces, over bridges (look down if you dare) and through blissfully cool tunnels. There are stops along the way where the riverside, onsen and lush green mountains are yours to explore.
Hakuba, in Nagano, as host of the 1998 Winter Olympics is of course famous for it's winter time pursuits but in summer, it becomes an adventure sports Mecca. Mountain biking, white water rafting, paragliding, fishing, canyoning, rock climbing, hiking the Japanese Alps and more can be enjoyed here and the average temperature during summer is a pleasant 22 degrees. July tends to be the wettest month of the year in Hakuba though, so keep that in mind when planning! August on the other hand should be much drier.
Kamikochi is another of Nagano's gems with stunning mountain scenery and hiking trails. Kamikochi is accessible by bus from Takayama, Gifu or Matsumoto, Nagano. If you are driving, be aware that private vehicles can not enter the park. You will need to use one of the parking areas and take a bus for the last leg. Highlights here include the walks to Taisho and Myojin Pond. For a more adventurous routes there are spectacular views from the peak of Mt Yakedake which is also an active volcano. Japan's mountains are truly nature at its finest and as an added bonus chances are you will meet like minded hikers and walkers who are genuinely interested to know who you are, where you are from and share this magnificent part of their country with you. Get out and explore, it will be well worth the effort!
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Article by Daniel L. Jenwei
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