Mt. Ontake Hiking

Mount Ontake, of Nagano prefecture, is one of the highest mountains of Japan. Having a height of 3067 meters, Mt. Ontake is a famous pilgrimage destination and a hiking location. One among the most active volcanoes of Japan is located here. On a clear Saturday of 27 th  September 2014, this volcanic mountain erupted causing a death of many people. Those fumes of this eruption could still be seen from long distances away.

There is a shrine located at the top of this mountain. So many monks and worshippers are coming to this place every year. Ontake hiking is not only considered as a hiker’s activity but also, many pilgrims take part in this program. Yamabushi is the mountain priests who climb this mountain by foot. Sometimes we can meet Yamabushi who are the mountain priests dressed up in white Kimonos walking through the mountain paths.

Being an active volcano,Japanese always expects a danger hiding here. Hence, the mountain is worshiped as a god from ancient times. People pray to the mountain goddess to save the life of people. Many small shrines, statues, and monuments could be seen all the way to the mountain top. Lots of hiking trails are situated at various directions of the mountain. Some will be crowded with hikers while some others will create a lonely hiking experience. Based on the hiking experience we prefer, one can select the hiking path among these. It is easy and encouraging for those who select a crowded path. As all are moving to the top of the mountain, and some of them have good knowledge about these paths, it is easy to follow them as they choose the right and best path. Vehicles can be taken up to Tanohara Park from where one of the popular hiking paths begins. Once we start our climbing here, we could see Torii gate of a shrine in front of us. For those traveling by foot, there are ten different destination points on this mountain at different heights. Since worshippers include old people, it is difficult for everyone to reach up to this height.

There is ropeway facility up to the seventh destination. This service is available at the Kurosawa-guchi. There are resting stations at some destinations. One among them is at the sixth destination place, which can be accessed through the Otaki-guchi gateway. From the Tanohara hiking trail, the mountain peak can be accessed in around three and half hours. The main attraction along the way is the crater lakes situated on the mountain. Colour of the water in these five crater lakes is unique. They are named as Ichi-no- ike (first pond), Ni-no- ike (second pond), san-no- ike(third pond), Shi-no- ike (fourth pond), and go-no- ike (fifth pond). The second pond is the biggest among these five lakes while the third one is considered as the most sacred one.

There are rest stations at the second lake area. The entire mountain filled with greenery and various flowers of the season along with the lakes creates a wonderful sight from the top of the mountain. It gives refreshment for the tired hikers. The view of the fuming volcano could be seen just in front of us and the pungent smell of the volcanic fume could be experienced. (Even though it is not at all pleasing) Ken-ga- Mine is the topmost point of the mountain. Many Torii gates could be seen here as we approach the top. It is beyond these gates that the shrine of Mt. Ontake is situated. From the top, we can see visitors approaching through various hiking trails. Throughout our travel after crossing the volcano, we can feel the rotten egg-like smell of the volcanic fumes taken into our nose by the blowing breeze. Like any other tourists locations of Japan, there are shops and resting areas at the topmost point.

Mt.Ontake hiking is active during the late spring, summer and early autumn seasons. During the hottest summer time of September, more resting areas will be opened at some of the destinations. Along with a wonderful hiking, a trip to Mt. Ontake can fill your mind with the feeling of a great pilgrimage. Not only is the mountain hiking, but also there are so many other experiences and wonders of nature waiting for you in and around Mt. Ontake.