JAPAN’S BEST MOUNTAINS FROM FIRST TO WORST…er well 301st
Meizan-otaku and -ologist alike, I hereby present to you an ever evolving ranking of Japan’s 300 Famous Mountains. Yes sirees, 1 to 301, best to worst, based solely on terms of hiking worthiness gleaned from years of ongoing experience in the field, a bit of internet scouring, what side of the futon I rolled out of in the morning and any feedback you’re willing to offer up to sway a rash, ill-advised opinion.
As of January 2019 I have 113 of the 300 (and one) mountains consigned to the books. With every subsequent peak bagged I’ll stick up a new entry on the list – highlighted for your convenience. As I said, this list will evolve, nothing’s set in stone. A Rausu might oust a Chausu one day only to be reinstated with an Aino in between the next. Any changes of heart will be highlighted accordingly.
But first, let’s do a slow reveal of the Hyakumeizan(100) beginning with the nervous nineties!
#91: KAIMON-DAKE (100)
I don’t have a harsh word for Kaimon. It’s a gorgeous little peak poking out of the black sands of Ibusuki and standing guard over the entrance to Kagoshima Bay. There are splendid views from the summit. But it’s an up and down affair, albiet one that interestingly entwines itself around the little cone. If you’re already in the area let it lure you up but otherwise it’s a long row of daikon to hoe for the sole sake of doing that hike.
#92: ENA-SAN (100)
A big mountain, impressive to look at, which was part of Fukada-san’s Hundred Mountain criterium but up close, on the ground, whilst the woodlands are pleasant enough on the approach (from Misaka Pass), they turn dense and scrappy and ultimately smother the summit. Maybe there’s a more scenic or adventurous route up the mountain. I haven’t overly burdened myself with finding out. Apparently there’s a long 20 stage path somewhere but I think I’ll just recommend the fabulous, if a little more difficult to get to, Kohide-yama to hikers heading to that area until further notice.
#93: DAISEN (100)
Daisen is cool, scary cool, but only beyond the roped off section and I’m not encouraging anyone to tread that path. Apparently winter traverses to the real summit are much more feasable when snow widens the slither of crumbling ridgeline, but I’d rather be sucking down beers in Oz at that time of the year than freezing my balls off and thinking about dying on Daisen. So, as a hike, up to the safe highpoint, it’s a rather uninspiring slog. There are nice views out to the Japan Sea but you can get them sitting on your arse in a helicopter.
#94: NANTAI-SAN (100)
You have to pay to climb Nantai and lots of people do considering the state of the trail up from the shrine on the shoreline of Lake Chuzenji. Basically it’s a grind and doing it in the summer heat won’t help any. The views down to the lake are gorgeous though, once you’re on top…apparently; I was above the clouds. A bloke in Oze later told me I should have climbed from the other side of the peak as it’s much more beautiful that way. So Nantai holds on by its fingernails at #94 on account of his word with the potential to plummet if his promise doesn’t ultimately ring true.
#95: TATESHINA (100)
Tateshina’s unique boulder field of a summit notwithstanding, I’d say it’s probabably a one and done for me. Yeah, I wouldn’t go back and hike this mountain unless I was doing the whole Hundred again. It is worth climbing once though, to check out one of the Hyakumeizan’s most unique summits.
#96: AMAGI-YAMA (100)
Izu is charming, no doubt about it. The views across the bay to Fuji-san, the tiny fishing villages shoehorned into nooks in the rugged coastline and it’s hidden onsen in the hills make this a place to hold in one’s heart. And I suspect Fukada-san was so swayed by Izu’s tranquility he stuck Amagi-yama on his list despite it being a rather ho-hum kind of mountain. You wouldn’t think it going by the highpoint’s fantastic name though: Banzaburo-dake: coolest mountain name of the 100.
#97: DAIBOSATSU-DAKE (100)
I didn’t get the Fuji views, I didn’t even get the views across the famed Daibosatsu Pass such was the gloom I hiked through. Those two points might bump old Daibo up a notch or two. On one hand I’m developing a soft spot for Yamanashi’s mountains and Daibo beats out Gunma’s Hotaka to #97 only because, of the two, I’d rather go back there and check out what I missed in the mist. On the other hand the Chichibu Mountains (Daibosatsu’s home range) harbour better hikes.
#98: HOTAKA-YAMA (100)
If I’m ever back in the area with nothing better to do I might reassess Hotaka’s lowly ranking here. I suspect I climbed from the least dynamic side of the peak and was mired in forest virtually all the way to the top. Summit views were mostly lost in summer haze and anyway, you can nab better vistas off Shibutsu a hop skip and a jump away.
#99: IBUKI-YAMA (100)
A limestone quarry and ski-fields mar this mountain lording over Kansai’s north-eastern gateway. Some might think the conglomeration of (temporary?) souvenir stands and food vendors on the summit do too – especially when you drop off the back of Ibuki and discover a perfectly adequate visitor centre. Its fields of flowers and grasses do warrant repeat visits but then ultimately you’re heading out to a dullard of a mountain. You know what I’d do? Climb the relatively unhearalded Ryozen-zan a touch to the south instead.
Maybe there’s a better trail up the mountain, maybe there are better views than on the day I went. A climb through the forest from an uninspiring lakeside rimmed with pedal swans, an undulating ridge of no astounding consequence gets you to the top before a steep trail off deposits you unglamourously back at the lake. Yeah, nah, Gunma has better mountains.