Yatsugatake is definitely doable as a winter hike, but only for those with the right experience and equipment. So, get your boots, crampons and ice axe ready, and have a great adventure right next to Tokyo!
Budget: JPY7,820 (~USD73)
JPY3,410. Train, Shinjuku Station (新宿駅) to Chino Station(茅野駅).
JPY1,000. Bus. Chino Station to Minotoguchi (美濃戸口).
JPY1,000. Camping fee. Per person.
JPY1,000. Bus. Minotoguchi to Chino Station.
JPY3,410. Train, Chino Station to Tokyo Station.
Hike Date / Difficulty (Elevation: 2,899m/9511ft)
April 11-12, 2020, where we looped around Mt. Yoko and Mt. Io via Minotoguchi.
We did a failed attempt at January 2019 via Honzawa Onsen.
Difficulty: A FULL 5 out of 5. I honestly thought I was going to die a couple of times.
How bad? Like I-had-to-sit-down-to-have-a-semi-panic-attack bad as we did the entire loop. Changing the route might be a lot safer, but frankly, I would not attempt do this mountain again. It might be due to the fact that we were there til 8pm, with snow constantly falling and the wind erasing trails.
Route below is around 15km, with an elevation elevation change of ▲1967m/ ▽1223m
Honzawa Onsen (本沢温泉入口). Google maps pin. No public transport. There are a couple of closer parking lots (here's the closest one), but when we went in winter (January), we opted to park closest to the road to be on the safe side.
Minotoguchi. Access as follows:
Train, Tokyo to Chino Station.
Trains can be the fast and expensive one (limited express), or the slower yet cheaper one. Make sure to select the local train. I use Hyperdia to un-tick the expensive trains (limited express/bullet trains).
Bus, Chino Station to Minotoguchi.
No need to take the earliest train, as the bus may leave at 9:30am, so time it for that. Check the website for the schedule ahead of time. (It’s all in Japanese, so if you can’t figure it out just leave a comment and I’ll check the updated info for you.)
Bus Schedule, Chino Station (茅野駅) < > Minotoguchi (美濃戸口)
Since the start time can be a bit late, please make sure you time yourself correctly plus consider the weather. On our winter hike, we ended up hiking until 9pm and it was terrifying.
Paid. There are huts at the top and at the ridges, which are around JPY5,000 to JPY7500 I think for an overnight stay (add about JPY1,500 per meal). The camping spots are a lot lower, and will cost JPY1,000 per person.
Free. None that I can see.
Camping. None at the ridge, but spots are available before the assault to the top, which is still a couple of hours away.
5:16am. Take train from Shinjuku Station to Chino Station.
8:48am. Arrival at Chino Station. Cross to the other side, and you’ll see the bus stop. First, go to the ticketing office (google map pin) and buy the ticket for JPY1000. Then upon exiting the ticket office, the bus stop is around 10 meters to your right. Look for the sign that says Minotoguchi (美濃戸口).
9:25am. Take bus to Minotoguchi.
10:03am. Arrive at trail head, fill up the hiking form, and head out!
Start hike.*adjust time depending on the bus schedule that you want to board. Last bus at 4:20pm*
It's about 140 minutes to go back down from the camp point in the map above. In our case, we wanted to take the 11:20am bus, so we left around 8am, and just waited in the hut at the trailhead for the bus.
11:20am. Take bus from Minotoguchi to Chino.
The start of the hike was a nice warm spring.
Then we had to walk a trail made of ICE. Not snow, ICE. We generally tried to walk on the side here.
Soon enough there's no getting around it. The path is fully covered by snow.
See that trail? This is why I'm scared of hiking alone in snow - I can just imagine myself losing the trail every five minutes.
Our view of Akadake. This time, we decided to skip it and do the other side of Yatsugatake.
Our trek up. That was really steep, and crampons were definitely needed.
While at the ridge, it started snowing. Uh oh.
So much snow. This is really bad news, as this will soon erase the trails.
Rather sketchy sections.
Our first summit. it was getting dark, winds were getting stronger, and snow piling up nonstop.
Made it to Iodake - at night! This was pure darkness, and the area had a couple of turns. We made a wrong turn, had to go back up, and spend a couple of minutes trying to figure out the right way down. That was not a fun night.
But! We made it down safely (to see all our food eaten by animals, thankfully the hut was still open so we bought food from them). This is the view the next day on our way back.
Sakura! Or not. I was told these are apples. This view we enjoyed a good portion of the way back to Tokyo.
Below are the pictures from the failed attempt via Honzawa Onsen
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