Japan hiking (guidebook and advice)

Speaking of books, does someone here have the latest (2009) Lonely Planet Hiking in Japan guidebook? It’s out of print. I have a 2001 edition and want to cross-check the routes I’m planning with the later edition. If I could borrow it and photocopy my pages I’d be happy to pay postage either way.

Also, has anyone here done much trekking in Japan? I’m in Japan for the last 2 weeks of October and I’m considering two separate trips but can’t find much information for what I want to do:

The first trip is the Daisetsu-zan grand traverse in Hokkaido. Anyone been there?

I’m assuming that in late October in the Hokkaido mountains there will be a good chance of snow cover? The 2001 Lonely Planet guide says walking is ok until the end of October, but I can only find information on the internet about summer season conditions. I guess I’ll just carry full winter kit — snow shoes, crampons etc — and see what happens.

The second trip is the Tate-yama to Kamikochi walk in the Northern Alps. Anyone been there?

For this one I’m thinking I’ll do it as a two-day trail run, 35km per day. It’s supposed to be a 5 or 6 day walk, but it looks like easy route-finding, lots of bail options, and huts. I’m assuming it’s going to be a lot like the Overland track, which I’d happily trail run over two days. This is further south too, so less deep snow risk.

Oh, also - maps. Can I order good topo maps online, say 1:25,000?

I’ve been to both those places but not to hike. Daisetsuzan is a lovely place. We were there at the end of September about 10yrs ago and the leaves were changing colour at elevation (koyo). Seasons always vary though.

We stayed at my mate’s Hotel in Goryu just out of Hakuba and explored from there. There’s glorious trails up the mountain there. The leaves hadn’t really started to change colour down there, certainly not as much anyway.

I love the idea of the huts. I think you need to book and/or pay and it might be a fair bit, but you get bedding (I think) for that and meals. Sounds delightful. Apparently the Japanese method is to get up before the sun though and you might miss out on breakfast if you don’t do this. This is from distant memory.

I had the hiking book, pretty sure the 2009 version, but I gave it away before we moved over to Tassie. I think I might’ve dropped it at Commuter Cycles along with a bunch of other books so they might have it. Touring Mapples, designed for motorbike touring, are really great for cycling. They have campsites and rider houses and onsens etc marked. Probably not great for hiking though.

Link to my old journal from our trip there. Boy have we changed since then:

Thanks Pete.

That’s 2 weeks before I will be there, so it’s a good indication. I suppose it’s a lot like Tassie – I’ve been around the Overland in late June and there’s not a suggestion of snow, and then in mid-July and there’s 2 feet everywhere. I’ll just have to be prepared either way.

The huts in the alps sound good – less of the wilderness experience, but it works well for the plan to trail run and go light. I’ll be doing big days, so I’m ok for early breakfasts before dawn, but the Japanese also get in early afternoon, so I’ll probably miss dinner :(.

Not a book per se but would recommend Mt Kumotori near Tokyo - did an overnight hike staying in the hut at the top, amazing views of Fuji from there.

100% chance there will be snow in the mountains in Hokkaido by late October. And also a good chance the trails will be closed by then. They get snow down in Sapporo around mid to late October somewhat frequently, so the mountains should be blanketed before then.
For this one, best to check before you go.

RE the maps, Ill see if I can dig up a link to some local topo maps. Do you want paper or digital? I know there are a few sources out there. I got a buddy who’s a pretty serious hiker here and would know a lot of resources.

EDIT: Looks like the GSI here has both paper and digital maps available.
You can choose region and then choose an area you want. Scale of any on this page is 1:25,000 and available in PDF/jpg format with various print sizes, starting at 175 yen per map.

Thanks that’s helpful. I’ll check out those maps – I’ll need paper as I’ll be going backcountry and won’t be relying on electronic devices. I’ve ordered a bunch of 1:50,000 hiking maps by Shobunsha, but 1:25,000 would be nice.

I understand that the season will have officially ended by then and the huts will be closed, but I’ve read about people ski-touring across the region in full winter. I’m prepared to do the traverse in blanketed snow – I’ve got the gear and experience. But yeah I’ll see what I can find out about access issues.

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Kamikochi is absolutely sensational mate, best campground I’ve ever been to. I was there in 2003 and again in 2015 or so.
Not sure about the trail you’re thinking of running, but i found the trails there steep, sometimes quite exposed on the ridges and any quite scary when crossing snow slopes (i remember kicking steps with running shoes and shitting myself thoroughly). The classic traverse that ends there apparently has some exposed sections that i didnt see.

Updating my post for anyone interested in the future.

I completed the Daisetsuzan traverse in Hokkaido solo in 7 days with 2 bad-weather hut days in late October. There was snow/ice but conditions were generally quite good. Crampons were essential (ice on the steeper sections of the peaks) and snow shoes were helpful (very deep snow in some sections, particularly in the lower flatter areas). Route-finding was generally fine even with the track covered in snow, but I had good visibility apart from the 2 enforced rest days and the maps I had were very good and accurate.

In good visibility I found the going fairly straightforward. The most difficult walking is between Mt Tomuraushi and Tokachidake where there is some thick vegetation made more difficult with snow on top, and some steep narrow ridgelines where mountaineering/climbing experience was helpful (steep exposed ice with bad fall potential).

Because of the season and conditions I had the entire park to myself – I saw nobody between the Asahidake ropeway (day 1) and the Tokachidake onsen (day 7). I did come across fresh bear tracks in the snow but luckily I did not meet any bears (but I made a lot of noise singing to myself as I walked).

I certainly would not recommend the walk to someone without winter experience, but for an experienced winter walker or climber it is a fantastic time to enjoy the region.


Epic. Whats the distance on that?


Similar distance to the Overland, but a different sort of walk and terrain - it links each peak of the mountain range across a mostly unbroken main divide, so bulk of the walk is 1800-2300m on ridgelines without descending into the valleys.

very, very nice :slight_smile: Photos are also super crisp, conveying the chill.