Last fall my friends and I decided it was time to take on one of the three holy mountains in Japan. We climbed Tateyama. Tateyama is the easiest of the three holy mountains and is famous for its beautiful colors in the fall. Also, conveniently for us, it is located in Toyama Prefecture just a few hours north of Fukui in the Hokuriku area of Japan.
We got up super early in the morning and piled into the car feeling lethargic. As we started driving north the weather turned worse. While it wasn’t raining or particularly windy, it was EXTREMELY cloudy. I was so disappointed because the one thing I had heard repeatedly about Tateyama was how beautiful of a mountain it was.
Tateyama is a unique mountain because they make it very accessible and climbable for people of all ages and abilities. You can drive to the base of the mountain and park. Then you climb about 70% of the way up the mountain by a trolly car.
While we were on the trolly car my worst fears were realized. I looked out the windows and all I saw was white clouds. I could see nothing of the mountain. How disappointing! I had been looking forward to the famous views that I had heard so much about!
After getting off of the trolly car at the station, you can walk around on paved paths near the summit and take in the views. There are restaurants and even onsen within short easy hiking distance.
At the trolly station, the clouds did clear up a bit and we were able to partially see the mountain. As we climbed throughout the day, luckily it became clearer and clearer, however, the mountain was always partially covered by clouds. Even with the clouds, though, I still thought the mountain’s views were incredible and sometimes the cloudiness even added to the mystery of the mountain. Suddenly I was in the fellowship climbing over the misty mountains!
The summit is only about a 2-hour climb from the trolly station but isn’t as elderly friendly as the stone path area neat the station. This is the part where you do some proper climbing over rocks. It still isn’t too difficult and anyone in average shape should have no problems. Grandma might have to wait at the station, though. 😛
While we were climbing we encountered people of all ages and abilities and the views didn’t disappoint. It was beautiful. It was only September when we went and we even had to walk around some snow!
I really enjoyed the climb to the actual summit. There were lots of semi loose rocks that you could be creative with while you climbed. Way more fun than walking up a gradual slope. Niki and I did our best Sam and Frodo impressions and pretended to be climbing Mount Doom. Classic.
On the way down, those same loose rocks became my enemy. I had many near falls before the rocks finally managed to take me out and straight onto my backside. In a vision of grace and elegance, my footing slipped and I landed my left butt cheek straight on a sharp rock. The pain was like a punch to my stomach. I walked the rest of the way down more gingerly than necessary.
About a week later, I was at the onsen, Japanese public bath, with some friends when one of my friends shouted as I stood up. “Oh my god! What happened to you!” The whole left of my backside was completely black with bruises. I wish I had a cooler story… All I could say was that I fell over on my way down Tateyama. 🙁 Take this as a warning and watch out for the loose rocks if you ever climb Tateyama.
The other unfortunate thing to noe besides my fall and the weather was that we almost didn’t make it back to the main station before the last bus/trolly down the mountain. The last bus was at about 4:30pm and the last trolley was even earlier than that. We enjoyed the peak of the mountain a little too long and had to hurry back to the station area. If you decide to climb the mountain using the trolleys be aware of your time and find out when the last shuttle down the mountain is before you start climbing. Getting stranded on a mountain unprepared is not a good idea.
Overall I really enjoyed this climb because it was easy and beautiful. I would highly recommend it for anyone in the area that was looking for something semi-active to do. If you are looking for more of a challenge, I would definitely recommend Hakusan over Tateyama. Both mountains are nice and offer good views of the Hokuriku area, but Tateyama might be a little too easy for a real mountain enthusiast. That being said, I don’t think you can really go wrong with either one!
Below are some links that I found helpful when planning my trip to Tateyama. Hope you can get something out of them as well.