Summitting Akadake in Yatsugatake Nagano Japan

October 16, 2008 · Print This Article

I have a new favorite prefecture in Japan.  It’s Nagano.  My favorite prefecture used to be Yamanashi, but the nature in Nagano feels deeper.  The forests feel older in Nagano, the air seems clearer, and the peace is more established.  The mountains are larger, and the sky spans wide over all—deep blue during the day, pink tinged at dusk, and deep black spotted with stars at night.  This is the setting in which Aya and I undertook a 9-hour hike up to the 2899m summit of Akadake.

Yatsugatake is actually a quick 2-hour drive from Shinjuku, if you hit no traffic.  We of course did, both ways.  But never mind that.  Once off the Chuo highway we were thrust into the countryside.  We were to spend two nights and three days in the Yatsugatake area, the first camping near town.  Here I first got a feel for how friendly people are out there in Nagano.  The campsite owners were extremely friendly and welcoming.

The next morning we began a harrowing drive up a narrow, dirt road full of pot holes to the base of the trail to Akadake.  Aya didn’t like it, but to me, it was of course great fun driving with a bit of danger.  We parked at the hut we’d later be spending the night at.  We knew the hiking would be hard, but we had no idea that we’d only next see the hut 9-hours later in pitch dark.

It was a beautiful hike though, first through a rich forest along a stream.  Then up an extremely steep alpine slope, which at the very end snaked through a rocky path that led to the peak of Akadake.  It was challenging hiking with some serious scrambling near the summit.  

We summitted a smaller peak before making our descent back to the hut, along a trail that was recommended to us by a knowledgeable ojisan (see photo below of man holding up a pole).  The descent was not much faster than the ascent as the trail was very technical.  Daylight soon ran out on us, but of course Aya and I both had our headlights with us.  

Not everyone was so prepared though.  We came across a group of three hikers (all Japanese, only saw one other foreigner on the whole mountain), only one of which had a headlight, and none of them knew the way back to the hut.  So I took the lead and through Aya’s interpreting I put the two people without lights between the people with lights.  I was in the lead finding the trail in the darkness from memory and instinct.  Everyone got down safely, but not without challenges as we had two tricky stream crossings to manage.  I told the two people they must get lights before they go hiking again!

I can highly recommend summitting Akadake.  You’ll be treated to amazing views of the Minami Alps, as well as Mt. Fuji.  It’s the best hiking I’ve ever done in Japan.

The 2899m peak of Akadake The very beginning of the trail to Akadake was colorful Foliage in the Natsugatake area of Nagano, Japan
Jason attempts a tree climb in Yatsugatake No doubt a true mountain man, feeling a bit of the Duke in this one Once past Gyoja Hut, the trail got STEEP
Aya finishing the first 200m of the ascent from Gyoja Hut A group of rock climbers went to the summit the hardest way Akadake mountain, elevation 2899 meters
Aya and Jason upon the summit of Akadake Mt. Fuji as seen from the summit of Akadake in October The peaks of the Japanese Alps
Jason taking a break on the summit of Akadake This is the shot seen everywhere that symbolizes the Akadake and Yatsugatake range The only fauna seen the whole 9 hours, this bird upon the summit of Akadake
Mountains roll hither and thither in Yatsugatake These people gave us great advice on which trail to take safely back down, holla! Berries in evergreen
Foliage in the alpine region of Akadake Aya takes in the view Jason takes a breather on an alpine ledge
The very comfortable hut we stayed at after 9 hours of hiking (upper left was our room) The view from our room in the hut Birch has been my favorite tree since childhood
A tall forest of red pines Darkness falls in Nagano Pink dusk sky in Yatsugatake Nagano Japan
Orange fire dusk sky in Nagano A strange forest growing fruit Leaves fall in the forest, so I heard
Yatsugatake Forest Road in Nagano, Japan    




13 Responses to “Summitting Akadake in Yatsugatake Nagano Japan”

  1. on October 16th, 2008 11:29 PM

    Summiting Akadake in Yatsugatake, Nagano…

    Akadake is a 2899m peak in the Yatsugatake area of Nagano, Japan. It’s a challenging, but great mountain to summit offering amazing panoramic views of the Minami Alps and Mt. Fuji. Photo gallery and brief HD video included….

  2. aya
    on October 17th, 2008 8:28 AM

    Nice photos, Jason.
    I didn’t know that you took video at the top of Akadake.
    I was concetrating on eating a power bar?!

    It was hard but my best hiking too!!
    I wanna really try to go hiking Kitadake someday!!!!!!!!


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks Aya!

    I forgot to mention how impressed I was with your hiking power at Akadake! No one passed us while hiking, but we passed many people!

    Alright, Kitadake next time!


  3. Jon
    on October 18th, 2008 5:45 AM

    Some nice pictures in there, Jason. It looks like a beautiful place to walk through, but It looks a bit crowded. Probably why you didn’t see any animals. I miss going to the mountains.


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Hey Jon…good to hear from you.

    That place was definitely not a walk-through of any kind, it was serious hiking, and some scrambling and climbing. It was only crowded in a few tricky parts of the trail. The summit itself wasn’t that crowded.

    But yeah, everyone must have long scared off the animals. I was however hopeful on the last 30 minutes of the hike back to the hut in complete darkness to at least be able to catch the shining eyes of a deer!

    After having lived a majority of my life, and all my adult life, away from mountains before coming abroad, I would definitely not want to live far from them ever again.

    Iowa is pretty flat, right? Same as Florida, that’s why I’m thinking California for when I return next year.


  4. on October 18th, 2008 12:13 PM

    Awesome pictures. I haven’t gotten the chance to get to Nagano yet, but it looks like it would be one of my favorite prefectures as well.


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks Tom.

    I’ve heard from students that I think a majority of Japanese call Nagano their favorite prefecture. You should definitely give it a visit if you have the chance.


  5. on October 21st, 2008 12:12 AM

    Great pictures! I’ve been to Yarigatake, but not Yatsugatake. Yet. Looks like a nice place to hike. Awesome photo of Mount Fuji.


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks…yes, hiking up Akadake (the main mountain in the Yatsugatake range) is a great, somewhat challenging hike. A good portion of it is above the tree-line so you have constant great views while hiking.

    People hike up it in winter, with the right gear of course. I saw photos of the mountain covered in snow in the hut we stayed in and it looked maybe even more beautiful then.


  6. on October 24th, 2008 12:36 PM

    […] a hard day of hiking up Akadake, Aya and I spent a very beautiful day at a public/university run farm in Yamanashi Prefecture.  It […]

  7. Dirk
    on April 19th, 2010 6:09 AM

    Hey Jason,

    Great coverage of your Akadake hike. I’d like to ask if you have any idea if it is safe to hike alone (for now..I might meet up with other hikers..who knows) beginning of the Golden Week. I am prepared for snow but don’t have an ice axe (maybe not necessary). And one more thing …are there emergency mountain huts available…?
    Thanks in advance,



    Jason Collin Reply:

    Yes, it’s totally safe to hike alone, no special challenges really. It’s not that kind of huge mountain really, just a 2,899m summit. We stayed at a lodge at the foot of the beginning of the trail, so you could stay there, or the lodge about an hour further up even. You could also camp there.

    About there being snow, I’m not sure, we hiked it in September and of course no snow then. There are a lot of stairs and the top is very rocky, so there may be no snow.

    Try asking Chris at this site:

    He is a real Japan climbing expert.


    Dirk Reply:

    Thanks Jason..much appreciated….I can’t seem to get hold of Chris through is website though…any other way to get in touch with him.



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