Written by Don Glen
Climbing Japan’s Famous 100 Mountains - Mount Adatara, Fukushima
Mount Adatara in Fukushima prefecture is one of "Japan's Famous 100 Mountains". This article introduces one of the hiking trails to the summit of Mt. Adatara and panoramic views of the Bandai-Asahi National Park and Nihonmatsu city.
Some foreign visitors to Japan take on the challenge of climbing Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji during the few summer months the mountain is open. However, travelers should consider hiking one of Japan’s "100 famous mountains" (Hyakumeizan) and avoid crowds on Fuji; enjoy more of the local countryside and culture along with remarkable scenery. The Japanese love nature, trekking the less well-known mountains and the opportunity to meet follow hikers to learn more about the local region and customs. The Japanese even have a word for this - “fureai”, derived from the verb fureau 'to come in contact with each other' or 'to touch together', a highly positive meaning of exchange and interaction among people.
The Hyakumeizan are a set of mountains differing in height, level of difficulty, history, shape and charm. They run the length of Japan from Mt. Miyanoura on Yakushima, an island off southern Kyushu, to Rishiri Dake (where there’s an area of snow year around) on Rishiri Island off the northern tip of Hokkaido.
Rishiri Dake - The northern most of the Japan's 100 Famous Mountains
Even though most foreign visitors have limited time and budgets there are several Hyakumeizan that require little climbing skills and can be easily reached from Tokyo, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, and other metropolitan areas. A climb on these mountains can be done in a day trip or with an overnight stay.
Mount Adatara, One of Japan's Famous Mountains in Fukushima
Mount Tsukuba, a Hyakumeizan at 876 meters in Ibaraki prefecture, is a day trip from Tokyo and an extremely easy hike, which makes very popular with tourists. However, Mount Adatara, located in southern Bandai-Asahi National Park in Fukushima Prefecture, is far away enough from major cities that one can enjoy trekking to its 1,700 meter summit that offers extraordinary panoramic views of the prefectures of Fukushima, Tochigi and Ibaraki. Adatara is actually made up of several volcanoes and the last eruption was in 1996. A 1900 eruption killed 72 sulfur mine workers near the summit crater. Incidentally, Mt. Adatara is not highest peak, but Mt. Tetsuzan at 1709 meters. However, due to a September 1997 incident that killed four tourists who inhaled lethal quantities of hydrogen sulfide near the Numanodaira crater, the area is now closed.
Legend claims the Mt. Adatara’s name is derived from the Ainu (*1) word “atata” meaning a "women’s breast".
1*... The Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan who presently live in Hokkaido, but formerly lived also in northeastern Honshu, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.
This legend would appear true since the last 20 meters of the climb is up a conical rock mass that with a healthy imagination resembles a women’s breast from a distance. In the past the mountain was also called “Chikubiyama” ("Breast Mountain"). Mt. Adatara is also mentioned in one of Japan’s oldest extant collections of poems, the "Man'yoshu", literally "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves", compiled between 600 and 759 AD.
The mountain was immortalized by the Japanese poet Takamura Kotaro (1883-1956) in his poems relating to his wife Chieko who was born in Nihonmatsu, the city at the foot of Mount Adatara, to a family that operated a sake brewery. A warehouse that once belonged to her family’s sake brewery has been preserved and serves as the “The Chieko Memorial Hall and Museum” located in Nihonmatsu city. Takakura’s “Selections of Chieko” poems echo his wife’s love of the countryside of her birth and the areas surrounding Mt. Adatara.
The best location to stay for climbing Mt. Adatara is the Dake Onsen, a hot spring area located about 5 kilometers northeast of the trail head at the Adatara Kogen Ski Resort.
Main street in Dake Onsen decked out for Halloween
There are a number of model courses for the ascent up the mountain. By far the most popular (and the one described here) and easiest course starts at Adatara Kogen Ski Resort where you can ride the Adatara Ropeway. The Adatara Rest House serves inexpensive meals, sells beverages, beer and also some hiking gear and of course a variety of souvenirs. The Adatara Kogen Ski Resort operates from mid-December to mid-March depending on weather conditions. There are three slopes: beginner, intermediate and advanced, and eight courses, with the longest being 2,100 meters. Elevation levels go from 1350 to 950 meters. The resort runs a shuttle bus between Dake Onsen and the resort.
The trailhead for the Adatara climb starts at the Adatara Kogen Ski Resort
The ropeway operates between 8:30 and 1630. The ride costs 1700 Yen round trip and takes 10 minutes from the resort at 950 meters to Yakushidake station at 1350 meters. Riding the ropeway reduces the climb by about 1 hour and makes the round trip climb under 3 hours. Maintaining a gradual pace, the ascent to the peak will take approximately 90 minutes.
Boarding the Ropeway at Oku-Dake Station
The Adatara Ropeway from the trailhead to Mt. Yakushi
From the summit, enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the entire Bandai-Asahi area from Mt. Bandai (another Hyakumeizan) to Mt. Azuma to the northeast. Descend the peak and have a pleasant lunch while taking in surrounding vistas.
While the mountain is open year round for hiking, the ropeway only operates from late April to mid-November. If you attempt the climb between late November and early April, bring along cold weather gear and possibly snowshoes. Late September to late October is the most crowded period, when the fall colors are at their peak.
At the Yakushidake Ropeway station, 1350 meters, there are bathrooms, a rest area and restaurant. For those not planning to climb to the summit, you still can enjoy the panoramic views from the restaurant area or walk about 10 minutes to the Yakushidate Observation Platform.
Make sure you dress appropriately. Depending on the season temperatures will vary and do not forget that higher elevations mean lower temperatures. Footwear for hikers range from simple tennis shoes to expensive Alpine hiking boots. Pack a light lunch or obento (Japanese box lunch) and bring along a bottle of water. Lastly, don’t forget your camera!
The Adatara Resort website (Japanese only) provides excellent information on the Adatara area along with various other hiking courses.
Trails are well marked and maintained. However, be prepared for muddy trails if rainfall has occurred in the previous days
Enjoy outstanding panoramic views and nature. This view is looking northeast towards the city of Nihonmatsu
Alpine foliage covered in a beautiful coating of early morning frost.
Just 20 meters more to climb to the summit of Adatara. This is also an excellent area to have lunch and enjoy the vistas of other peaks of the Bandai-Asahi mountain range.
A small shrine marking the peak of Adatara
Descent from Mt. Adatara and hiking around Numanodaira Crater
Numanodaira Crater with one of the Five Lakes of Bandai in the background
If you have time, hike around the outer rim of the Numanodaira crater that erupted in 1996 and you will be amazed by the striking range of colors and spectacular views.
Information on Climbing Mount Adatara
From Tokyo Station one can take either the Yamagata or Tohoku Shinkansen and transfer at Koriyama Station to a local JR train bound for Nihonmatsu Station (five stops from Koriyama Station). Depending on the shinkansen, you could arrive at Nihonmatsu Station in 1 hour 42 minutes.
In front of Nihonmatsu Station take the bus bound for the JICA-NTC (Japan International Cooperation Agency National Training Center) and Dake Onsen (岳温泉). The ride takes 25 minutes to Dake Onsen. Be careful not to take the bus to its last stop, the JICA Training facility. The bus fare is 580 Yen. The bus schedule as of October 2016 is listed below. At Dake Onsen bus stop you will need to take a short taxi ride to the Adatara Resort parking lot. Shuttle buses from Dake Onsen to Adatara Resort only run during the skiing season.
For overnight lodging, check the Dake Onsen Tourist Association website. There are numerous choices from high-priced ryokan (traditional inns) to hotels and minshuku (guesthouses or staying at a local's house). For the budget mindful, check out the Adatara Fureai Center or a minshuku.
The best time is from early September to early November since the autumn colors are at their peak. Between mid-November and early March the mountain will be covered in snow. From mid-April to late May you can enjoy the new spring growth of a variety of Alpine plant species. However, late May to mid-June may make the trails muddy and difficult due to the rainy season.