Written by Murphrey
A Walk in the Clouds - Hiking Mt. Kurumayama In The Japan Alps
Hike Mt. Kurumayama in the middle of the Japan Alps for a spectacular view of the mountain range and even Mt. Fuji. Read to learn how to get to this mountain and what to expect along the way. Come encounter different ecosystems and explore the great outdoors in Nagano!
Hiking the Japan Alps - Mt. Kurumayama and Kirigamine Kogen
The Japan Alps offer some of the country's best hiking opportunities. Mt. Kurumayama and the Kirigamine Kogen in Yatsugatake Chushin Kogen Quasi-National Park are located centrally in these tall mountain ranges. Hikers can travel for kilometers while taking in the grandiose scenery. Mt. Kurumayama is 1,925 meters (nearly 6,000 feet) above sea level, offering quite the mountain high.
What better way to spend a day than walking in the clouds and above the timberline? Read to learn more about trekking along this famous nature-filled area.
A Spectacular View in Kirigamine
The Kanji characters for Kirigamine mean “foggy peak”. There are definitely times when the clouds roll in for a bit and make it possible to hike in the clouds.
However, the scenery also makes this spot very special. Along the hike and at the top of Mt. Kuramayama, one can see many major mountains: Mt. Fuji, Mt. Yatsugatake, the Northern Alps, the Southern Alps and the Central Alps. Because it is above timberline, there are no trees obstructing views. From every direction, scenes of rolling mountains surround you.
Things to See: Wetlands, the Alps, and Mt. Fuji!
The area has lots to offer. The park has protected marshlands that are both low level and high-level marshlands. I took a side trip down to the Kurumayama Wetland. I hoped to do some bird watching, where I saw several species of warblers, thrushes, and a pheasant. The whole region teems with life, like deer, weasels, foxes, and all kinds of insects, but I just saw birds and butterflies during my hike.
Photo by Pixta
The flora is amazing too. People come from all over Japan to see the Day lily here (pictured above). This is a tiny yellow flower, and in June, there are endless fields of them. Other flowers during the summer months include an orange Kourika, a white Amadokoro, and a pink Yanagiran. In the fall, during my visit, I walked past marsh grasses and high altitude shrubs.
All along the way, I see impressive views of mountains from all directions. Of course, as mentioned, Mt. Fuji (above) and Mt. Yastugatake are easy to see, as well as the Northern Alps, the Central Alps, and the Southern Alps. At the top of Kurumayama is a sign that points out the different mountains and their heights. I enjoyed the scenery more than any other aspect of the hike.
Near where I started is a glider landing and take-off zone. Therefore, I often stopped to watch the gliders circling above. They were silent, but yet impressive as they soared around in clear skies.
The hiking itself is not very strenuous. The steepest climbs and descents were when I went down to Kurumayama Wetlands and to the ski resort. The other paths were pretty gentle inclines. When I started from Kirigamine Kogen Interchange there were two possible paths to take. One travels along the road that is part of the famous Venus Line, a scenic driving route. Another goes through the flora, which is what I chose to enjoy nature views.
Refreshments along the Trails and a Shrine
After some four kilometers, I came to a rest area. There are some restrooms, ice cream stalls, a restaurant, and a gift shop. It is from there that I took the trail to the wetlands. I returned to that same path and had my homemade lunch at the rest area.
After lunch, I continue along the winding path up to the summit of Mt. Kurumayama where I spend some time looking around.
At the summit, there is a black building with a white dome on top (a weather radar station).
There is also a little shrine on the summit. Finally, I continue on down the path that follows the ski lift. In the summer, it is possible to take the ski lift, but because I am hiking in the fall it is not an option.
Finally, I make it down to the ski resort where I catch the bus to go back to the train station. The trail is dirt and full of rocks, so be sure to have proper hiking shoes or durable sneakers.
Access to Mt. Kurumayama from Tokyo
The journey to Mt. Kurumayama starts at either Kamisuwa or Chino stations in Nagano Prefecture, which are along the Chuo Train line that connects to JR Shinjuku Station. From Shinjuku, the express train Azusa takes about two hours to this area. Chino is the station before Kamisuwa.
From both of those train stations, there is a bus to the Mt. Kurumayama hiking trail from the ski resort area. The bus takes about forty-five minutes to a little more than an hour, depending on where you get off. There are buses that run once an hour from morning until late afternoon. There are few exceptions to these times, like during holidays and peak travel times. The buses also only run from the end of April to the start of November. The bus fare cost between 900 yen to 1.500 yen depending on where you start and get off.
I got off at Kirigamine Interchange bus stop as I had the goal of hiking all day. I wanted to end at Kurumayama Kogen (Plateau) and the ski resort. In between, I completed several small trails.
See the official website for more information on directions.
Spend the Day Hiking in Kiragamine and Kurumayama!
I spent a full day hiking in Kirigamine and Kurumayama. The trails seemed to go on forever. I imagine if one had several days, they could hike to Yatsugatake, Shirakaba Lake, or who knows where else.
Throughout the hike, I enjoyed grandiose mountain scenery and the local flora and fauna. I could even walk among the clouds when the fog rolled in. That made it worthwhile hiking to the top of Mt. Kurumayama.